Given current adoption of commercial building energy codes, conventional wisdom indicates that LED lighting is frequently specified with automatic lighting controls. However, there is little public data available concerning market penetration of LED lighting, how often it is specified as controllable and with lighting controls, owner preferences, and how satisfied specifiers and installers are with these technologies.
To develop useful information, in October and November 2014, three surveys were conducted among target subscriber segments of LightNOW, a bi-weekly newsletter published by the author’s company, and lightingCONTROL, a monthly newsletter published by the Lighting Controls Association. The results suggest robust market penetration for LED sources in new luminaire sales and a fairly high degree of preference and confidence related to LED lighting paired with automatic lighting controls.
It’s important to note the results are projectable to the parent lists—e.g., manufacturers subscribing to the LightNOW newsletter—not the industry as a whole. Nonetheless, the results are suggestive of trends in the industry.
The LightNOW Survey
The first survey targeted 1,679 individuals working for lighting manufacturers and subscribing to LightNOW, and sought to answer two questions. What is the current market penetration of LED lighting in new luminaire sales, and how many of these luminaires are controllable?
Among the 80 respondents (4.8 percent response rate), 45 were identified as representing companies that sold luminaires for the U.S. nonresidential building market that included a mix of LED and traditional light sources. By focusing on these respondents and excluding respondents among the many new companies that exclusively sell LED luminaires, an interesting picture emerges:
• The large majority of these respondents report growth in their solid-state product sales revenue in 2014 over 2013. About six out of 10 (62 percent) and one out of four (26 percent) said they experienced significant or modest growth, respectively.
• Thirty-five respondents were identified as manufacturers of luminaires for indoor applications. The average respondent reported that 46 percent of their known 2014 U.S. indoor luminaire sales (in terms of units) were sold with LED light sources.
• Among these 35 respondents, the average respondent reported that 75 percent of their indoor luminaire product line is sold with dimming being standard or as a standard option, while 25 percent is non-dimmable.
Respondents were also asked about outdoor lighting sales, but the response was disqualified due to the total number of respondents being fewer than 30, the minimum threshold required for statistical validity.
The above results indicate significant growth in the penetration of LED lighting among the target population. They also suggest that many LED indoor luminaires sold into the nonresidential U.S. market by this population are controllable as a standard or standard option.
This information sets the stage for the research conducted by the Lighting Controls Association.
Lighting Controls Association Surveys
The Lighting Controls Association conducted two surveys of 1,756 electrical engineer (59 qualifying respondents, an effective response rate of 3.4 percent) and 3,508 electrical contractor (83 qualifying respondents, an effective response rate of 2.3 percent) subscribers to its monthly newsletter. Respondents qualified by indicating they specify, recommend and/or approve luminaires and lighting controls for commercial projects in the United States. The goal was to create a snapshot of behavior and satisfaction regarding LED lighting and lighting controls.
The electrical engineer respondents are frequent specifiers of LED lighting and controls. Ninety-six percent reported that they specified LED luminaires intended for operation with automatic lighting controls in one or more commercial building new construction projects over the past 12 months. The average respondent specified LED lighting with automatic lighting controls in roughly 75 percent of their projects completed in the previous year. The average respondent specified LED lighting as more than 50 percent of the lighting load in roughly 55 percent of their projects.
The electrical contractor respondents also indicated an appreciable level of experience with LED lighting and lighting controls. Thirty-five percent of respondents indicated they’d completed 10+ projects over the previous 12 months in which LED lighting was installed, and 24 percent indicated they’d completed 10+ projects in which LED lighting was greater than 50 percent of the installed lighting load. Twenty-eight percent completed 10+ projects in which LED lighting was installed with automatic lighting controls. Eighty-six percent said their firm installed LED lighting and automatic lighting controls over the previous year; these respondents were permitted to continue taking the survey (69 respondents).
Further, as a side note that is nonetheless of value, the average electrical contractor respondent reported that in roughly 45 percent of the commercial building projects they completed over the previous year, the lighting control system was commissioned—that is, proper installation was verified and performance tested prior to delivery to the owner.
Satisfaction with LED and controls
Responding on a 1-7 scale, with 1 being “not very valuable,” 4 being “somewhat valuable,” and 7 being “very valuable,” the average electrical engineer respondent reports that based on their experience, commercial building owners typically consider dimmable lighting to be more than “somewhat valuable” (5.2). The average electrical contractor respondent produced the same score (5.2). This suggests that many owners place a fairly high value on flexible lighting for energy management purposes as well as to satisfy visual needs.
A majority of electrical engineer respondents generally prefer to work with LED when specifying lighting controls that manually dim the lights for visual needs (74 percent), automatically dim to save energy (84 percent), or automatically switch to (58 percent) compared to fluorescent, HID and incandescent sources. The average electrical engineer respondent reports that the LED lighting they specify is dimmable and designed with dimming controls “often” (5.0 on a 1-7 scale, with 1 being “never,” 2 being “very rarely,” 3 being “rarely,” 4 being “sometimes,” 5 being “often,” 6 being “very often,” and 7 being “always”). This suggests that the LED source is a popular pairing with lighting controls for both energy management and visual needs among respondents.
Given the above, it is not surprising that the average electrical engineer respondent is fairly confident about these technologies. Responding on a 1-7 scale, with 1 being “not satisfied,” 4 being “somewhat satisfied,” and 7 being “very satisfied,” the average respondent is more than “somewhat satisfied” with the performance of LED lighting (5.7), performance of LED lighting when operated by automatic lighting controls (5.6), and technical support provided by LED lighting (5.2) and lighting control (5.2) manufacturers. The average respondent is “somewhat satisfied” with the ease of commissioning lighting controls for LED lighting (4.1), suggesting greater potential for improvement than the other areas studied.
Satisfaction ratings among electrical contractor respondents also indicated a high degree of confidence in the technology. The average electrical contractor respondent reported being more than “somewhat satisfied” with ease of installation of LED lighting (5.3), ease of installation of lighting controls for LED lighting (5.0), performance of LED lighting (5.9), and performance of LED lighting when operated by lighting controls (5.6). The average respondent is “somewhat satisfied” with the ease of commissioning lighting controls for LED lighting (4.6).
The average electrical contractor respondent further reported (on a 1-7 scale, with 1 being “never” and 7 being “always”) that they are called back to service a problem with the control system within three months of installation “rarely” (3.2), and that when a problem occurs, it’s easy to identify the non-functional component “sometimes” (4.6). Installation of lighting controls results in success without overcoming physical and/or programming challenges “sometimes” (4.4). The average respondent requests manufacturer pre-training on the control products “rarely” (3.6), and reaches out to the manufacturer for commissioning support “sometimes” (4.0).
Despite these values leaning toward the positive, there appears to be potential for improvement. Overall, the results indicate these respondents are generally satisfied with installation, commissioning and performance of lighting controls, but that installation and commissioning can sometimes prove challenging.
A majority of electrical engineer respondents generally prefer to specify hardwired (80 percent) over wireless (11 percent, with 9 percent having no preference) technology for connecting automatic lighting controls used to control LED lighting. For spaces where installing low-voltage control wiring would be costly or difficult, however, preference for wireless jumps to 24 percent.
Electrical contractor respondents showed a stronger preference for wireless, with 30 percent preferring to install it in challenging applications and 23 percent preferring to install it generally in commercial spaces.
This suggests that wireless lighting control has gained in popularity for applications where installing control wiring is difficult or cost-prohibitive, and has even achieved a fair degree of acceptance for other applications. It also suggests wireless control is more preferable to installers.
A majority of electrical engineer respondents (67 percent) generally prefer to work with 0-10V as a control communication method compared to digital (13 percent), with the remainder having no preference. Nonetheless, the average electrical contractor says typical owners consider the ability to zone luminaires individually more than “somewhat valuable” (5.1), a popular feature of intelligent lighting systems. This suggests that digital lighting control, despite its many benefits and strong compatibility with the LED light source, has not yet achieved major market share against the traditionally popular option, at least among these respondents.
The average electrical engineer respondent specifies LED luminaires with controllers and sensors integrated into the luminaire “sometimes” (4.0). Nearly one in four electrical contractor respondents (24 percent) generally prefer to install LED luminaires with the lighting controller and any sensors integrated into the luminaire, while 40 percent prefer to install them as separate components and 36 percent had no preference one way or the other.
The average electrical engineer respondent selects a lighting control system that is intended to be configured for central operation at a single workstation “sometimes” (3.8). The average respondent also stated that owners typically consider lighting control systems that produce energy consumption and performance monitoring data to be “somewhat valuable” (4.4). The average electrical contractor respondent agreed in their own evaluation of value perceived by typical owners (4.4). One interpretation is that this capability is not generally preferable but may be preferred for some applications such as larger buildings.
The average electrical engineer respondent reported that owners typically consider lighting control systems that are easily integrated into other building systems to be “somewhat valuable” (4.9). The average electrical contractor respondent again agreed (4.9), but added that automatic lighting controls they install are integrated with a building automation system “rarely” (3.9), again suggesting stronger preference for certain applications but not others.
The average electrical engineer respondent reported that owners typically consider lighting control systems that are scalable to accommodate future expansion to be more than “somewhat valuable” (5.2). Again, the average electrical contractor respondent agreed (5.2).
The ability to control the color shade of white light is not as popular as the ability to control intensity, with the average electrical engineer respondent reporting owners typically consider white light color tuning to be less than “somewhat valuable” (3.1). Again, the average electrical contractor respondent agreed, though these respondents perceive somewhat higher interest among owners (3.9). This may be because it is a relatively new capability that is now gaining awareness.