IES Disagrees With AMA on Night Time Outdoor Lighting

Last year the AMA issued Policy H-135.927 Human and Environmental Effects of Light Emitting Diode (LED) Community Lighting, which recommended, among other things, that LED outdoor lighting should have a CCT of 3000 K or below.  The AMA made this recommendation thinking that lower correlated color temperatures contain less blue light, which can disrupt circadian rhythms.

Today the IES issued a Position Statement disputing that recommendation, noting that CCT

is inadequate for the purpose of evaluating possible health outcomes; and that the recommendations target only one component of light exposure (spectral composition) of what are well known and established multi-variable inputs to light dosing that affect sleep disruption, including the quantity of light at the retina of the eye and the duration of exposure to that light. A more widely accepted input to the circadian system associated with higher risk for sleep disruption and associated health concerns is increased melanopic content, which is significantly different than CCT. LED light sources can vary widely in their melanopic content for any given CCT; 3000 K LED light sources could have higher relative melanopic content than 2800 K incandescent lighting or 4000 K LED light sources, for example.

Follow the link to read the entire Position Statement.  Blue light hazard, light’s impact on circadian rhythms and overall health, and related topics are a hot area of research.  We’re learning more all the time, but we don’t yet know enough to apply circadian lighting to every situation.  Outdoor and street lighting are among the areas where research is not yet conclusive.

How Bright Are Colored LEDs?

Measuring and describing the brightness of colored LEDs is an increasingly important part of a lighting designer’s practice. They are used more often, and in more types of projects, than ever before. Yet, we don’t have an accurate method for understanding exactly how much light is being produced and how bright it will appear. It’s a problem that the lighting industry needs to solve, and soon.

The human eye does not respond to all wavelengths of light equally. We have the greatest response to the yellow-green light of 555 nm. Our response falls off considerably in both directions.  That is, wavelengths of light do not contribute equally to our perception of brightness. The sensitivity curve of the human eye is called V(λ) (pronounced vee lambda) and is shown below.

The definition of a lumen, the measurement of brightness of a light source, is weighted using V(λ) and essentially assumes that the light source emits light across the visible spectrum – in other words, it produces a version of white light.

Light meters are calibrated to measure white light using V(λ) so that their measurement of brightness corresponds with our perception. Individual colored LEDs emit only a fraction of the visible spectrum, as shown below in the graph of V(λ) and the SPD of a red LED, and that’s the problem.

Light meters measure the light that the colored LEDs provide, of course, and this information is included on an LED fixture manufacturer’s cut sheets, but it often makes no sense. For example, an RGBW fixture I’ve arbitrarily selected reports the following output in lumens: Red 388, Green 1,039, Blue 85, White 1,498. Since brightness is additive, the output when all LEDs are at full should be 3,010 lumens. However the Full RGBW output is given as 2,805 lumens! That’s 7% lower than what we expect.

The essential problem is that the colored LEDs give the light meter only a fraction of the spectrum it’s designed to measure. The meter provides a result based on its programming and calibration, but the results are often nonsensical or at odds with our perception. This problem doesn’t affect only architectural lighting designers. Film and TV directors of photography and lighting directors also rely on a light meter’s accurate measurement of brightness in their work, and when using colored LED fixtures the light meter is likely to be wrong. In fact, even white light LEDs can be difficult to measure accurately because of the blue spike in their SPD.

For now, the only way to accurately assess the brightness of colored LEDs is to see them in use. Lighting professionals need to let manufacturers and others know that the current situation is not acceptable, and that an accurate method of measuring and reporting the brightness of colored LEDs is a high priority. Talk to fixture and lamp sales reps, fixture and lamp manufacturers, and decision makers at IES, CIE, NIST and other research and standards setting organizations. There’s a solution out there. We need to urge those with the skills and resources to find it to get going!

LED Stage Light Reviews

We recently examined several LED stage lighting units for a high school black box theatre with a 20’ high grid. The school is determined to have an all LED system, but doesn’t have the budget for top-of-the-line equipment. Our goal was to find a set of lower priced units with reasonable performance. It turned out to be harder than we thought. Here are our reviews:

Altman Pegasus LED Fresnel. This 140W white light LED Fresnel is a winner. The optics are very good, the intensity is great, and the dimming (when controlled via DMX) is very smooth all the way out. This unit uses standard 7.5” accessories, so the school’s existing accessories will fit it. This is one of the more expensive unit we examined, but the performance makes this fixture worth it.

Chauvet Ovation E-910FC. This 270W profile has very high color rendering (due to the Red, Green, Blue, Amber, Lime color mixing) and great intensity.   The down side is that Chauvet’s optics are very poor. Whenever a shutter is used to shape the beam the multiple LEDs produce multiple shadows. This problem was evident for most of the second and third tier manufacturers. Although we didn’t test a template, we have to assume the same problem would occur, making this unit useless as a profile.

Elation Arena PAR Zoom. This 190W PAR has a motorized zoom, which simplifies making slight adjustments to the beam angle. The intensity was good, as was the dimming. The optics, however, were not. Each of the 19 LEDs has very good primary optics, but there is no secondary optic to homogenize the beam. This results in beam irregularities and produces multiple, clear shadows that would be unacceptable to an audience as close to the stage as they are in a black box theatre.

elektraLite 1018 PAR. This 216W PAR suffers from the same problem as the Elation PAR. There is no secondary optic, resulting in an unacceptable multiplicity of shadows.

ETC Source 4WRD Profile. This 155W white light LED profile is also a winner. The optics, intensity, and DMX dimming are all very good. This unit is $200-300 more than the other profiles we reviewed, but like the Altman Pegasus, its performance means that it can be used in the close quarters of black box theatres.

Osram Kreios Fresnel. This 80W white light LED unit has nice optics and an impressive zoom. The dim speed fading down to zero and up from zero is a little fast, but we think that can be managed by adjusting the dimming profile. Unfortunately, at only 80W this unit is too dim to be useful from a hanging height of 20’.

Osram Kreios Profile. Like the Osram Fresnel, this 100W white light LED unit also has nice optics and an impressive zoom. However, as with the Fresnel, it is better suited to smaller venues with lower hanging heights.

We plan on looking at other units, but our current thinking is that the school should have a base inventory of white light LED profiles (Source 4WRD) and Fresnels (Pegasus) that is supplemented with a small number of color changing profiles (ETC ColorSource).

LEDs In Stage Lighting

In a project meeting yesterday a team member said that LED stage lights would save the owner money.  While there are many reasons to include LED lights in a theatre’s equipment inventory, cost savings is not one of them.  We’ve written a white paper, LEDs In Stage Lighting, that includes an economic analysis and simple rate of return.  Get a copy here.

DOE Predicts LED Use and Energy Savings

The DOE has just issued, Energy Savings Forecast of Solid-State Lighting in General Illumination Applications (PDF, 116 pages), the latest edition of a biannual report which models the adoption of LEDs in the U.S. general-lighting market, along with associated energy savings, based on the full potential DOE has determined to be technically feasible over time. The new report projects that energy savings from LED lighting will top 5 quadrillion Btus (quads) annually by 2035. Among the key findings:

  • By 2035, LED lamps and luminaires are anticipated to occupy the majority of lighting installations for each of the niches examined, comprising 86% of installed stock across all categories (compared to only 6% in 2015).
  • Annual savings from LED lighting will be 5.1 quads in 2035, nearly equivalent to the total annual energy consumed by 45 million U.S. homes today, and representing a 75% reduction in energy consumption versus a no-LED scenario.
  • Most of the 5.1 quads of projected energy savings by 2035 will be attributable to two commercial lighting applications (linear and low/high-bay), one residential application (A-type), and one that crosses ­both residential and commercial (direc­tional). Connected lighting and other control technologies will be essential in achieving these savings, accounting for almost 2.3 quads of the total.
  • From 2015 to 2035, a total cumulative energy savings of 62 quads – equivalent to nearly $630 billion in avoided energy costs – is possible if the DOE SSL Program goals for LED efficacy and connected lighting are achieved.

Don’t have time for the full report?  Download the report summary.

Measuring and Reporting LED Life

We’re putting the finishing touches on a lighting design and as we look at cut sheets we continue to be disappointed that many fixture manufacturers still don’t seem to understand the proper methods of measuring and reporting LED life. For example, an Edison Price cut sheet says that lamp life is “rated 50,000 hours based on L70/B50 criteria.  LM80 report by the LED manufacturer furnished upon request,” a USAI cut sheet says that life is “Based on IESNA LM80-2008 50,000 hours at 70% lumen maintenance (L70),” and a Lighting Services Inc. cut sheet just says “Tested to LM79 and LM80 Protocols” and then gives a life of 50,000 hours. Unfortunately, these statements don’t mean what the manufacturers suggest they mean. Let’s take a look.

Back in the early days of LEDs of lighting (say around 2005!) it was the wild west in terms of manufacturers reporting product life. The rated life of traditional lamps is the amount of time that passes until one-half of a sample set has burned out. LEDs don’t burn out, they just get dimmer and dimmer over time, so many LED manufacturers estimated the amount of time until an LED’s output had fallen to one-half and called that the LED’s life. This led to reported lifetimes of over 100,000 hours, which sounds great until you realize that at 100,000 hours the space you’re lighting is only half as bright as it was at the first hour. How many of our designs provide twice as much light on day one so that we can lose 50% of the light and still provide an acceptable light level? None! Clearly the industry needed another method of calculating life.

Eventually, the industry settled on a loss of 30% of output as the lifetime of an LED. This is in line with the Lamp Lumen Depreciation (LLD) factor applied to many CFL and HID lamps in illuminance calculations. The lifetime to 70% of initial light output is often abbreviated as L70. Many lighting designers have pointed out that a 30% loss of light is pretty poor performance and some manufacturers have responded by providing L80, and even L90, data (that is, the life until the LED has lost 10% of its initial brightness). All of this was a step in the right direction, but there was no standard method for taking the measurements to determine L70.

In 2008 the Illuminating Engineering Society stepped up to clarify things with LM-80-08 Approved Method: Measuring Lumen Maintenance of LED Light Sources. LM-80 (LM stands for Lumen Maintenance) specifies the test conditions and methods to be used to measure and report the lumen maintenance of an LED package. Data is collected every 1,000 hours for a minimum of 6,000 hours. Even accurately collected LM-80 data isn’t ideal, though. LM-80 is used to evaluate LED packages, not entire fixtures, so the conditions of the test (temperature, electrical characteristics of the driver, etc.) may, or may not, be similar to those in the assembled and installed fixture.

Importantly, LM-80 does not provide a method of extrapolating the 6,000 hours of data to predict future performance. As a result, any cut sheet saying that a 50,000 hour life is calculated according to LM-80 is misstating things unless the manufacturer has actually had the same LED packages under test. 50,000 hours translates to nearly six years, to that’s unlikely. LM-80 was revised in 2015 and is now the ANSI standard ANSI/IES LM-80-15 IES Approved Method: Measuring Luminous Flux and Color Maintenance of LED Packages, Arrays and Modules.

How do manufacturers calculate an LED’s life? They (should) use IES TM-21-11 Projecting Long Term Lumen Maintenance of LED Light Sources. TM-21 (TM stands for Technical Memorandum) describes a method for projecting the lumen maintenance of LEDs using the data collected during LM-80 testing. So, a cut sheet should say something like, “L70 life of 50,000 hours based on LM-80 testing data according to TM-21 protocol.”

The statements I quoted at the beginning leave wiggle room for the manufacturers to provide lifetimes that may, or may not, be calculated according to TM-21. TM-21 is the only standard we have that allows us to compare apples to apples, so omitting a statement about using TM-21 as the basis of lifetime calculation should make you suspicious about the reported life. It’s also important to understand that LM-80 is a testing procedure, and TM-21 is a calculation procedure. They are not tests. There’s no such thing as an LED that “passes” LM-80 or TM-21 (as some reps have tried to tell me). LM-80 and TM-21 produce information about the life of an LED that the designer uses to assess the appropriateness of a fixture.

Specifiers need to tell reps and manufacturers that LED life must be calculated according to TM-21. It’s the only way to be sure that the lifetimes of various fixtures are all calculated the same way so that we can make reasonable comparisons. They should also urge the IES to develop a procedure that tests a complete fixture: housing, power supply, and LEDs. That’s going to be the best estimate of the true life of an LED fixture. Yes it will take time, but we need accurate information that is calculated the same way across all manufacturers.

Edison Price “Light In Action”

A former student of mine who works for Edison Price Lighting is organizing a group of seminars they’re calling “Light In Action.”   It takes place here in NYC at EPL’s showroom and factory, and includes demonstrations of lighting techniques, discussions on the future of LEDs (led by a representative from Xicato) and dimming LEDs (led by a representative from eldoLED), as well as a factory tour.   Sounds fun, right?  There are six dates between now and the end of the year.  Visit EPL’s web site for more information.