The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 and its subsequent amendments established minimum efficiency standards for lighting products. While the DOE’s mandatory energy efficiency standards and recently-heightened surveillance efforts are designed to ensure manufacturers’ compliance with minimum U.S. energy efficiency requirements, they do not account for all of the “green” lighting certification programs and initiatives active in the U.S. and Canadian markets today.

Figure 1. Growing Requirements on LED Lighting Products.

A number of other voluntary initiatives – including the EPA’s ENERGY STAR® lighting certification program, the Lighting Facts labeling and packaging standard, and energy-efficient lighting initiatives by such organizations as DesignLights Consortium (DLC), the California Energy Commission (CEC), National Resources Canada (NRCan), and the Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium (MSSL) – are enabling energy-saving lighting products to meet additional sets of efficiency standards.

Energy-Efficient Lighting Certification Programs

The U.S. energy crisis of the 1970s was a key event that drew national attention to our country’s escalating consumption of energy. That led to the growth of initiatives designed to improve energy efficiency and curb demand. As examples, the emergence of utility incentives on more energy-saving lighting technologies in the 1980s and 1990s helped shift market demand to higher-efficiency products, while legislative efforts such as the federal Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 helped to force a shift in the manufacture and use of more energy-efficient lighting technologies such as T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps, electronic ballasts, compact fluorescent lamps, electronic HID, induction lighting, and LEDs.

Figure 2. Type C goniophotometer for distribution testing.

Such economic, legislative, and societal forces helped spur additional investments in R&D and advances in lighting technology, which led to recent improvements in fluorescent, halogen, and HID technology. From this also came the growth and rapid evolution of solid-state lighting and LED technology. As part of its evolution, LEDs and their many component parts have amassed a growing list of considerations and requirements from a variety of vested stakeholders (Figure 1). These considerations range from performance standards related to distribution, color, and longevity, to operating requirements in unique locales such as roadways and hazardous locations, as well as compatibility with specific lighting controls and adherence to FCC electronic noise standards.

Performance Testing for Lighting Products

While reputable manufacturers typically participate in mandatory safety testing to enable their products’ retail sale in recognized establishments, performance testing is not mandatory for installation. Instead, it addresses how a product will perform when used by a consumer. Throughout the lighting industry, comprehensive performance testing typically consists of assessments in three different, universally-accepted areas: distribution, color, and stress/longevity.

Distribution Testing – this type of performance testing measures the light pattern out of a fixture or its total light output at all different angles. For all light sources, the most accurate means of measuring a light’s distribution is through the use of a Type-C Goniometer (Figure 2), a piece of equipment used to test most residential and commercial lighting products while enabling fixtures to rotate in a horizontal plane to measure their entire light distribution. IES standard LM-63 specifies how the results of a distribution test should be formatted and will typically require a text file showing all lighting values at each angle.

Figure 3. 3-meter integrating sphere testing for large fixtures or tube lamps.

Color Testing – this type of performance testing measures the energy of light at each wavelength and is used to calculate color temperature. The most accurate means of measuring a light’s color is through the use of an Integrating Sphere-Spectrometer system (Figure 3), a specially-coated apparatus most commonly available in 1, 2, and 3-meter sizes that collects a light’s energy and measures it at all wavelengths. Measurements with such systems typically include lumen or brightness level, correlated color temperature (CCT) in Kelvins ranging from 2700-6500 for consumers, color rendering index (CRI), which measures how “true” a color looks under the subject lighting, and such other performance measures as chromaticity, which is a coordinate mapping of the light’s color.

Stress and Longevity Testing – one key means of measuring a light’s lifespan is by testing it on a specially-designed and controlled piece of equipment known as a Life Test Rack (Figure 4). These long racks can provide up to thousands of sockets that measure the longevity and durability of the market’s broad range of lamp types in different orientations (base up, down, or horizontal) and in different ambient conditions. For LEDs, the use of IES standard LM-80 measures the individual chips that make up the lamps or fixtures; they are typically burned for 6,000 hours to determine how much their light output degrades at different levels (an LED would fail a stress/longevity test if its light output at 6,000 hours fell below 70% of its initial output). In contrast, a Surge Generator is a key piece of equipment used to stress test compact fluorescent and LED lamps as well as ballasts used in linear fluorescent lamps. This equipment tests to ensure that lamp samples can withstand a ringwave or combination surge waveform without sparking or failing.

Standards vs. Specifications

As shown in Appendix 1, “standards” identify recommended ways to perform a test and are measured by a passing or failing score, while “specifications” identify specific minimum criteria and include minimum levels.

The Illuminating Engineering Society issues Light Measurement guides (LMs), Technical Memorandums (TMs), and Recommended Practices (RPs). New standards governing the performance of LEDs, as well as guidelines on how to test them, include:

  • LM-79 – electrical and photometric measurements
  • LM-80 – lumen maintenance
  • LM-82 – quantification of the performance of LED light engines and integrated lamps over time
  • TM-21 – a method for projecting lumen maintenance.

For more information on these tests, see Appendix 2.

Current Programs and Performance Initiatives

Figure 4. Ambient and elevated temperature life testing for lamps.

Separate from the DOE’s mandated minimum energy efficiency standards, the growth of the energy-efficient lighting market has triggered the development of a number of voluntary energy-efficient lighting certification programs, performance initiatives, and labeling standards. Following is an overview of some of the industry’s most popular voluntary certification programs, performance initiatives, and labeling/ packaging standards in the U.S. and Canada.

Energy-Efficient Lighting

ENERGY STAR – This EPA-sponsored certification program covers a variety of residential and light-commercial luminaires, lamps, light kits, and retrofit kits - particularly in the fluorescent and LED arena - and aims to distinguish higher-efficiency products from standard or lower-performing ones. ENERGY STAR certification requires minimum performance standards in the three critical areas of Distribution, Color, and Longevity/Stress and all test data must be submitted through an EPA-Recognized Certification Body. Further details are available at .

Energy-Efficient Lighting Performance Initiatives

Figure 5. DOE-sponsored Lighting Facts Label.

DesignLights Consortium (DLC) – This voluntary initiative applies only to LED technology and typically covers products not commonly encompassed by ENERGY STAR, such as high bays, wall packs, cobra and pulse-style lighting for roadway fixtures, decorative LEDs, and LED panels for use in heavier commercial, industrial, or outdoor applications such as warehouses, manufacturing, and roadways. In addition, DLC is a utility-based initiative in that it currently feeds some 40 utilities nationwide, which base rebate programs around DLC standards.

Like ENERGY STAR, DLC certification requires minimum performance standards in the three critical areas of distribution, color, and longevity/stress, but, unlike ENERGY STAR, manufacturers must take responsibility for having their products tested by an accredited body and then must submit testing reports directly to the DLC. More information on DLC can be found at .

California Energy Commission (CEC) – Established in 1974 and headquartered in Sacramento, the California Energy Commission is responsible for planning California’s energy policy and promoting energy efficiency through the development of building and product standards. CEC standards for lamps, controls, luminaires, and other lighting products address efficiency only, not distribution, color, or longevity/stress. CEC certification is based on the meeting of stringent product standards which can render some products eligible for utility rebates in California and other states, and which also support California-specific Title 20 and Title 24 building code standards. Like the DLC, manufacturers must take responsibility for having their products tested by an accredited body and then submit testing reports directly to the CEC. The CEC website is located at .

Figure 6. FTC-sponsored Lighting Facts Label.

National Resources Canada (NRCan) – Addressing lighting product standards throughout Canada, NRCan is largely focused on performance measures related to efficiency. Energy- using devices imported into Canada or shipped between provinces must bear an energy efficiency verification mark. Minimum standards are laid out in CSA Energy Efficiency Standards and the mark must be from an SCC (Standards Council of Canada) approved certification body. Lighting products covered under NRCan include ceiling fan lighting, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), exit signs, fluorescent lamp ballasts, general service fluorescent and incandescent lamps, torchieres, and traffic signals and pedestrian modules. ENERGY STAR is recognized in Canada, however, and ENERGY STAR testing (if applicable) can replace NRCan testing. For more information on NRCan specifications, visit 

Municipal Solid-State Street Lighting Consortium (MSSL) This specialized DOE-sponsored organization offers “technical information and experiences related to LED street and area lighting demonstrations and serves as an objective resource for evaluating new products on the market intended for street and area lighting applications.” MSSL testing is largely focused on measures of distribution, color, transient, vibration, corrosion protection, and longevity. For more information visit .

Energy-Efficient Lighting Labeling and Packaging Standards

Lighting Facts Label – Neither a certification program nor a standards-setting initiative, the DOE-sponsored Lighting Facts Label represents a new labeling standard for all solid state fixtures and lamps (bulbs). This label is mandatory for integrated SSL lamps in the ENERGY STAR program but voluntary for other product types. The Lighting Facts Label provides information on a light’s brightness, appearance (warm or cool), efficacy, color accuracy, and wattage. Additional optional metrics were added in November 2012 to cover lumen maintenance and warranty details (Figure 5). More information can be found at .

FTC Label – The FTC label is mandatory for all SSL, fluorescent, incandescent, and halogen medium screw base light bulbs only. The new FTC-sponsored Lighting Facts Label has subsequently been designed to help simplify and standardize the information shared on lighting product packaging and includes easy-to-understand metrics such as “Estimated Yearly Energy Cost,” “Lumens,” “Lifetime,” “Light Appearance (Temperature),” and “Energy Used.”

Third-Party Testing Laboratories

Along with mandatory energy efficiency requirements established by the DOE, new voluntary energy-efficient lighting certification programs and performance initiatives run by such organizations as EPA, DLC, DOE, FTC, CEC, NRCan, and MSSL involve specific standards and submission procedures which can be very tedious and precise to administer, but which are highly critical to a company’s growth and sales objectives.

In today’s fast-moving lighting industry, a number of issues can delay or derail a manufacturer’s efforts to achieve compliance with any or all of these programs or initiatives if undertaking their own “first-party” testing procedures. For example, the inability to structure appropriate and consistent, repeatable testing conditions could alter results, while the submission of an incorrect number of samples could render the submission invalid. In addition, technology, particularly in the LED arena, is changing quickly and manufacturers might find themselves challenged to keep up with the latest products and program requirements.

For all of these reasons and more, accredited third-party (external) safety and performance testing organizations can help take the guess-work out of the process. Their investment in the highest-tech and most precise testing equipment ensures consistent testing procedures and accurate results, while their demonstrated expertise in the unique details and current requirements of all industry certification programs and initiatives assures manufacturers of the utmost in quality coverage and representation.

For more information, Click Here 

Lighting Technology Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2013 issue of Lighting Technology Magazine.

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