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What’s New in HID Lamps and Ballasts

Installed base of high-intensity discharge lamps in the United States, 2001 versus 2010. The HID lighting market has seen a significant technology shift in the past decade or so from mercury vapor to metal halide as a more-efficient, higher-performing white light source. Low-pressure sodium has also declined in popularity. Images based on Department of Energy data.

Similar trends as fluorescent are driving innovation in high-intensity lighting, which is dominated by HID lighting. Within this segment, there has been a major technology shift from mercury vapor to metal halide over the past 10 years, and the market is trending in favor of white light.

Innovation has focused on energy efficiency, longer life and controllability among higher-wattage lamps, and miniaturization and improved color performance among lower-wattage lamps that compete with halogen.

Product energy egulations
Most designers are familiar with legislation banning mercury vapor ballasts (except specialty ballasts) and regulating ballasts sold as part of 150-500W metal halide luminaires. The latter basically required pulse-start ballasts in new luminaires in these wattages; California later strengthened these rules, essentially requiring either an electronic ballast or either occupancy or photosensor control.

DOE is now working on new regulations, including a rulemaking for metal halide lamps that appears aimed at eliminating probe-start lamps (expected to become effective 2016), and a rulemaking for ballasts sold in metal halide luminaires, which may expand wattages beyond 150-500W while nudging current efficiency levels even higher (expected to become effective 2015). As ballasts below 150W are already pulse start, if DOE covers these wattages, it is possible it will establish standards at a level where only electronic ballasts comply.

Congress is also considering regulating outdoor lighting with the Outdoor Lighting Efficiency Act and similar bills. This legislation would cover outdoor luminaires such as area, roadway, high mast, dusk to dawn and decorative post top, requiring they achieve certain levels of application efficiency, provide bilevel control capability (except for roadway luminaires) and satisfy certain ratings for backlight, uplight and glare. The Act would also establish efficacy standards for high-output double-ended halogen lamps, and outright ban the manufacture of mercury vapor lamps starting in 2016. (If Congress fails to put this bill on President Obama’s desk before 2013, DOE may achieve a ban on mercury vapor lamp production via a rulemaking.)

Building energy regulations
Meanwhile, energy codes have had as meaningful if not greater impact on HID lighting, particularly California’s Title 24, which requires bilevel outdoor lighting; ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2010 has a similar requirement. Today, owners are seeking high-intensity lighting solutions that can provide good performance at a low operating cost, while being flexible enough to enhance energy savings and comply with energy codes.

What is the future of HID? Shown here is demand for new lighting equipment expressed in new lumen-hour sales through 2030 in two key HID markets–commercial and outdoor. On the left, we see demand with LED removed from the market, as if it never existed. The Department of Energy predicts metal halide would surpass high-pressure sodium in terms of lumen-hour sales by the end of the decade, an indicator of the market current shift to white light. Based on the assumption that LED general lighting will continue to improve in efficacy, service life and price, LED will become the dominant light source in as early as 2016-2017 in the outdoor sector and before 2025 in the commercial sector. In fact, in the outdoor sector, conventional HID technologies are already approaching their decline phase. Images courtesy of the Department of Energy.

Product innovation
The greatest innovations in this category are occurring in metal halide technology, including pulse-start lamps ceramic arc-tube lamps, and HID electronic ballasts.

Pulse-start lamps offer several benefits, notably longer lamp life, faster lamp starting and restrike, and improved lumen maintenance. Traditional probe-start lamps can be replaced on a one-for-one basis for about 20 percent energy savings, or the higher light output of pulse-start can be leveraged to provision light levels using fewer luminaires in a new design. Pulse-start lamps require a compatible pulse-start ballast, but one ceramic metal halide product, the Philips Energy Advantage with All-Start technology, allows 175-1000W probe-start lamps to be replaced by pulse-start for 18 percent energy savings—while keeping the existing ballast.

Service life is improving along with efficiency, with options available to increase high-pressure sodium rated life up to 40,000 hours and pulse-start metal halide up to 26,000 hours. This is satisfying owners interested in reducing maintenance costs, while enabling HID to compete with long-life sources such as LED and T5HO. Venture Lighting’s Super Long Life pulse-start metal halide lamp is an interesting example; it uses two arc tubes, only one of which is working at any given time, and is randomly selected to ignite. The tubes are placed very close together, with minimal impact on luminaire photometrics, according to Venture.

Within the ceramic pulse-start lamp category, there are two additional major trends, which are miniaturization and improved rendering of red. In recent years, ceramic metal halide systems have begun to be offered in wattages as low as 15W, which might replace a 12V 50W MR16 for savings of up to 32W per lamp. They are also increasing in their ability to render saturate reds (R9>40) commonly found in retail applications.

HID rebates offered by utilities and energy efficiency organizations are going strong. Most rebate dollars available covering HID component retrofit (including dimmable electronic ballasts) and complete luminaire replacement focus on ceramic and pulse-start metal halide. While rebates for HPS are experiencing a modest decline, MH rebates are increasing. Data courtesy of BriteSwitch, LLC.

On the ballast side, electronic ballasts are becoming more popular and most ballast innovation is occurring in this segment. Besides generating some energy savings, these ballasts offer potential benefits including lighter weight, smaller size, improved lumen maintenance and life, and better power regulation resulting in better color consistency. They are available for operation of 15-750W lamps, both metal halide and high-pressure sodium systems, and with ability to join 0-10VDC, DALI-based and proprietary control networks.

A number of interesting innovations have been occurring in this growing segment. Some ballasts feature digital construction, increasing their capabilities. The majority of products offer dimming to satisfy energy codes such as Title 24, usually down to about 50 percent of lamp power. Some products connect to 0-10VDC or DALI-based controls. A significant breakthrough in this segment is the low frequency square wave shape, popular in lower-wattage ceramic systems, into higher wattages. This produces less wear and tear on the lamps and improves performance.

Some HID electronic ballast products to check out include:

Empower: 0-10VDC/digital dimming ballast
GE UltraMax: 250-400W quartz or CMH
Metrolight SmartHID Plus: 0-10VDC/digital dimming for 175-575W MH and 100-600W HPS
Philips Advance Dynavision: 0-10VDC dimming for PSMH
Philips CosmoPolis digital ballast: DALI CMH dimming
Sylvania Quicktronic: 0-10VDC continuous dimming or standalone step dimming for HPS and MH lamps
Universal Lighting Technologies: electronic HID ballasts

Alternate technologies
Besides LED, other significant high-intensity light sources include induction and plasma lamps.

Induction systems are electrodeless fluorescent systems that offer the benefits of service life up to 60,000 hours at L70, instant-ON operation and, with amalgam technology, reliable starting at low temperatures. Sylvania, one of the two primary manufacturers with its Icetron system, recently expanded the line with new 40W and 200W models and, starting in July 2012, a 100W system capable of dimming to 40 percent of lamp power. The other main manufacturer—QL Company, which bought the QL induction line from Philips last June—offers 55W, 85W (dimmable) and 165W systems.

Another type of electrodeless lamp is the plasma lamp, which uses a magnetron that produces an electromagnetic field around a material in a glass capsule, converting it into a light-emitting plasma state. In recent years, Luxim developed a plasma lamp that uses halides as the material and a solid-state driver instead of a magnetron, with promising results. At LIGHTFAIR, Topanga debuted a similar product line. Both of these manufacturers’ offerings are extremely compact, emitting up to 20,000+ lumens in a source the size of a Tic Tac (with very small luminaire designs), and can be dimmed to 50 percent of lamp power (20 percent of light output).

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