Drawing more than 16,000 visitors to the Las Vegas Convention Center from May 29 to June 1, the 12th Annual Lightfair International Conference offered a parade of products designed to squeeze the most light out of every energy dollar in any type of facility without sacrificing looks.

What's new in lamp technology?

Power shortage woes are boosting business for those designers and consultants who can apply the new technologies emerging in the lighting industry. Electronic circuitry now allows the “soft start” of incandescent, fluorescent, and HID lamps, extending the life of the filament or cathode. New dopants and material processing (quartz-pinching technology) enhance incandescent performance. And improved infrared reflection coatings that turn heat into light offer the potential for nearly 40 LPW efficacy for a halogen incandescent lamp.

Osram Sylvania, Danvers, Mass., introduced the G9 CAPSYLITE 2-in.× 0.5-in., 120V halogen incandescent lamp that features a snap-in base and is suitable for unshielded fixtures. The lamp uses quartz pinching to open a wide variety of new fixture possibilities that could replace the MR-16 source.

GE Lighting, Cleveland, presented the Integral Electrical MR-16 lamp. Using a built-in transformer to convert line voltage to 12V, the lamp combines the beam control advantages of a low-voltage MR-16 source and the convenience of a screw base.

Upgrades in fluorescent lamps like barrier coatings, improvements in electrode design and depletion, and better management of mercury consumption reap a higher color rendering index (CRI) and reduce the wattage of the popular 32W T8 linear lamp to 30W. At the same time, new ballast designs work as a system with specific lamps for optimum efficiencies.

At 3 hr per start, the T-8 linear lamp life now stretches from 20,000 hr to as high as 30,000-hr in some cases. Philips Lighting's Alto Universal T-8 lamp offers full-rated life on all T-8 ballast systems and 33% longer life on instant-start ballasts than standard T-8 lamps. Another version, the Universal Advantage, includes a special phosphor for 95% lumen maintenance and 86 CRI.

The T5 linear fluorescent lamps, are ideal for sleek, pendant-mounted fixtures, but are fairly new in the United States. The T5 lamps only operate with electronic ballasts and feature end-of-life sensing and other characteristics previously unavailable in the U.S. market. Now the same ballast can run a 54W or a 28W T-5 lamp a task not possible with any previous linear fluorescent lamp.

Similarly, higher quality parts, better management of ripple currents and control of preheating, and improved layout and lead forming allow compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to come in a high-lumen package, like GE's 57W (4300 lm) and 70W (5100 lm) triple-tube CFLs that can be applied in high-bay industrial areas, retail ceilings, and outdoor general lighting areas.

Metal halide (M-H) manufacturers also boast design improvements. Ceramic arc tubes and new arc tube shapes provide better control of metallic salts and can boost life and improve color. GE's Hi-Watt Ceramic M-H lamp has a CRI of up to 94 in 250W and 400W ratings and is designed for use in higher ceiling applications. Sylvania's True-Color Metalarc Ceramic pulse-start M-H lamp features a “bulgy” ceramic arc tube design for improved reliability and performance. Philips' Master Color HPS-RetroWhite M-H lamp, in 250W and 400W ratings, operates on a high-pressure sodium ballast, so a lamp replacement improves color rendition.

Venture Lighting, Solon, Ohio, offers the 125W Uni-Form pulse start, M-H lamp ballast system, which offers 12,000 initial lumens, a rated life of 15,000 hr, and a color temperature of 4000K. Also available in a coated version, the system is designed for new and retrofit applications where energy consumption and lumen output are important. Venture also introduced a “tipless” manufacturing process for the M-H lamp that injects the halides and gases through the end of the arc tube, thus eliminating the need for an exhaust tip on the side of the small arc tube. During operation, the halides distribute evenly along the arc tube wall, resulting in color uniformity equal to that of lower wattage ceramic M-H lamps. Currently available with the 300W and 320W lamps, the process will soon be used by every Uni-Form lamp.

LEDs continue to make inroads

Lamp makers are also working hard to find the best way to produce high-output white light. LED systems have made large advances in the last few years, and the pace of innovation is increasing. While LED technology is impressive, it still must first provide adequate total flux (lumen output) efficacy (LPW), lamp life, cost, color temperature, and color rendering for a given application to compete with other light sources. Keep in mind the lighting industry measures lamp life based on the point at which 50% of a large group of lamps is still burning, while the opto-electronic industry uses the point in time at which LEDs emit 50% of their light output. Nevertheless, the products on display indicated that signage and contour lighting is perhaps the first market in which LEDs can economically replace neon or other light sources.

Ballast and control technology

Ballasts are also keeping pace in terms of adding performance features especially the concept of addressability, or individually addressing and controlling each fluorescent ballast through a communications network or circuit. The ThinLine T5 and T5/HO electronic ballasts from MagneTek, New Berlin, Wis., serve single- or two-lamp operation, in ratings from 14W to 55W. The ballasts feature an end-of-life shutdown circuit with auto reset when replacing lamps, less than 10% THD, and programmed rapid-start technology for maximum lamp life. Advance Transformer, Rosemont, Ill., unveiled SmartMate, a family of electronic ballasts for popular 4-pin CFLs. Advance also exhibited a lightweight, constant DC current driver for operating LEDs that features a 50,000-hr life.

Lighting control strategies such as occupancy-based, time-scheduled, light-level control, and load-shedding received a lot of attention on the show floor, now that facilities are slashing unneeded lighting usage. Osram Sylvania is spearheading a new control language in the United States called digital addressable lighting interface (DALI) first developed by lighting equipment manufacturers in Europe. The open digital protocol allows simplified control wiring that offers greater flexibility than traditional 0V to 10V analog dimming control systems. Two-way communications over a pair of low-voltage wires provide opportunities for monitoring lighting systems with direct input from ballasts and lamps.

The LCD-based Viseo display lighting control unit from Lutron, Coopersburg, Pa., can program a firm's lighting control systems without computers or other plug-in devices. It's suitable for multiroom lighting control applications, like ballrooms or conference centers. The company also introduced the Digital microWATT system, which provides automated on/off light switching, full-range dimming capabilities, precise real-time monitoring of a building's entire lighting system, and load shedding for peak demand reduction.

Improvements in luminaires

For the outdoor environment, LSI Industries, Cincinnati, and Greenlee Textron, Rockford, Ill., introduced an outdoor area luminaire that combines a vertical M-H lamp for maximum light output and excellent cutoff using a flat lens. GE Lighting Systems, Hendersonville, N.C., introduced the Criterion series of outdoor architectural luminaires that uses Snap Drive interchangeable components along with high-efficiency optics and photometrics. A simple, microprocessor-based plug-in diagnostic tool is also available for lighting maintenance/service contractor use.

The Agili-T from Lightolier, Fall River, Mass., is a T5 direct/indirect pendant-mounted luminaire (nominally 4-ft long) that can be mounted directly to a T-bar ceiling to provide even ambient lighting. Integral mechanical and electrical connections at the ends of the lightweight housing permit the fixtures to be easily interconnected. This system allows you to change the fixture layout without extensive rewiring. Because each fluorescent ballast incorporates a network communications chip, it can be individually controlled from a central building location. Columbia Lighting, Spokane, Wash., showed the Brio, a T-5 recessed luminaire that uses narrow-profile parabolic louvers and perforated panels to gain low-glare, high-efficiency performance in offices.

Efficiency was the chief concern at Lightfair 2001 in Las Vegas this year. Industrial plant owners looking to reduce lighting costs but retain performance found an increased selection of energy-efficient choices at the show.