ALA Engineering Committee Meeting Covers Key Association Work

ENERGY STAR Program Changes, CSA Group Testing Requirements

This November, during the ALA Engineering Committee’s virtual monthly meeting, attendees received updates on two important, far-reaching actions that ALA directly influenced to the benefit of the decorative lighting industry. These include the continuation of a portion of the ENERGY STAR program for lighting products, and a fundamental change to the wording of a proposed standard that would have negatively affected the manufacturers of landscape lighting products.

ENERGY STAR was initially going to cancel the ENERGY STAR Lighting Program for all lighting products, including fixtures and light bulbs, but modified the direction in which they were headed after ALA, NEMA, and others got involved and made suggestions that included the continued certification of downlight products.

The ALA Engineering Committee also raised concerns regarding the wording of a proposed CSA Group standard the called for photobiological testing of LED luminaires – which would have included landscape lighting products. In ALA’s comments, the association noted this would incur significant and unnecessary expense to manufacturers of landscape lighting products to now undergo additional and unnecessary testing. The CSA Group committee involved then responded to the ALA’s concerns by revising the wording of the requirement in a way that excluded landscape lighting. 

Since May of 2021, the ALA Engineering Committee has met monthly for virtual meetings. These meetings replaced the in-person meetings that had been held annually. All ALA members are welcome to attend these informative sessions, held the third Monday of each month at 2 p.m., CST. For one hour, attendees exchange valuable technical information on a range of topics involving light sources, fixtures, controls, and lighting applications that apply to residential and hospitality lighting.

Members interested in joining the next scheduled meeting, may contact ALA Director of Engineering Terry McGowan at lighting@ieee.org, or email ALA Director of Special Projects Liz Ware at liz@alalighting.com, to receive an invite. 

Detailed Meeting Recap

At this month’s Engineering Committee meeting, Carl Bloomfield, VP/Industry Affairs, for global product testing and certification company Intertek, distilled the latest ENERGY STAR® program requirements for Downlights into easy-to-understand highlights that specifically affect the residential side of the industry. ENERGY STAR Downlights V1.0 was published Nov. 16, 2023, and takes full effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

“I want to highlight a few things in regard to these new requirements,” Bloomfield said. “It does require that testing be done by an EPA-recognized laboratory and be certified by an EPA-recognized certification body. However, products in scope of Downlights V1.0 that were previously certified to latest Luminaire specification will not automatically rollover. That said, test data from currently certified luminaires can be leveraged toward getting certified to the new Downlights specifications.

“What that means,” Bloomfield explained, “is that if you had a luminaire that was a downlight certified under the Luminaires specification, even though your luminaire hasn’t changed, that luminaire specification has expired and therefore your product or product family will not be automatically on the ENERGY STAR Downlights list.” You must go through the certification process again under the Downlights V1.0 specification, although relevant or applicable tests do not have to be duplicated.

“The idea of ‘downlights’ has evolved beyond the typical recessed product; it’s a lot broader now,” he stated. It covers built-in or integral light modules with apertures less than 10 inches and includes luminaires that are fully or partially recessed into the ceiling or surface-mounted to the ceiling or mounted to the wall and illuminating downward (or has a cord or chain that allows it to be suspended from the ceiling or wall). “So, it has evolved from what we would have traditionally perceived to be a downlight or recessed-like product to anywhere light is intentionally directed downward. It also covers recessed retrofit kits.” Bloomfield noted that there is a long list of what is excluded from the scope. Click the slide show at the bottom of the page to view product exclusions.

Another change in the Downlights scope is that it is now mandatory that the product be dimmable; however, connected functionality is optional. “Also, what’s slightly different from previous requirements is that the highest wattage of the version of a family in any trim configuration is considered to be the worst case,” he said. To learn more about the Downlights scope, consider attending the free webinar hosted by ENERGY STAR on December 5 at 2pm EST. To register, click here.

To view the full ENERGY STAR Downlights V1.0 document, click here.

While not a certification change, per se, Bloomfield also noted that Battery-Powered Luminaires (UL 153) scope has become more relevant to the decorative lighting industry as portable rechargeable accent table lamps are gaining popularity in restaurants, hospitality, and some residential applications. 

This category used to be more of a niche application, but with the move toward energy conservation and more battery-operated products being sold, it is becoming more prevalent. “Some of these products are solar-powered and some are battery-powered (with rechargeable battery), but what I want to highlight is that this UL 153 standard for portable luminaires, while not new, has a supplement SA that covers these battery-powered, low-voltage luminaires,” Bloomfield shared. “What we’re seeing is that these products can be more costly and challenging to certify than your typical high-voltage products — if you’re not properly prepared. The key thing to be aware of is that the batteries must be certified to the applicable NRTL standard.” The challenge lies in the fact that one battery consists of individual cells, and that there’s a standard for the cells themselves. Companies may get these batteries via an OEM or they may have partnered with a manufacturer on a battery pack, but there’s a standard for the cell, there’s a standard for the battery, and there’s a standard for the pack — and each has their own requirements. When you are trying to get these products to market, make sure your OEM partner or internal team fully understand that the battery certification process is very critical and become challenging from both a time and a cost perspective if it’s not addressed upfront.”

Bloomfield added that the standard for the battery-operated products also requires a photobiological  test. “As we saw with the landscape lighting products, the photobiological test is an additional cost, so just be aware of that with these battery-operated products. These rechargeable devices fall under other regulatory requirements as battery chargers.  You need to make sure your supply base is fully aware that these requirements need to be met otherwise this can become a very costly endeavor.”

Other topics in the November online meeting covered upcoming Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) labels affecting commercial lighting, which could eventually reach the residential side of the industry over time, and the potential for the U.S. to enact a trade ban on high-tech semi-conductor packaging. Confusion at the consumer level over which light sources are banned and which are exempt was also discussed.
 

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