From the Lab to the Marketplace (1995)

Accelerating the Market for Efficient Lighting

$38 Billion

Lighting costs U.S. businesses and consumers nearly $40 billion each year. The strategic use of research dollars can trim billions from this annual bill. LBNL's early work on the electronic ballast illustrates the potential payoff from lighting research and working with industry. Virtually unknown in the mid 1970s when the $3-million LBNL research effort began, the electronic ballast today has captured a nearly 25% market share, with annual U.S. sales of about 24 million units ($200 million incremental retail value). It has already saved $400 million in consumer energy bills. Net savings will grow to $13 billion by the year 2015. In current research efforts, LBNL has transferred new light fixture design strategies to all major U.S. manufacturers and is fostering the development and commercialization of the world's most efficient white light sources. Other work on the effect of various types of light sources on humans may revolutionize the way efficiency and lighting are measured and thereby improve productivity in the workplace.

Top: Line drawing of a standard magnetic ballast. Two lamps plus ballast consume ~90 watts. Power in: 60 Hz, Power to lamps: 60 Hz. Bottom: Line drawing of an electronic ballast. Two lamps plus ballast consume ~60 watts. Power in: 60 Hz, Power to lamps: 20-40 Hz.

The Electronic Ballast—An Early Success

Fluorescent lights require ballasts, which help start and then control the current flowing through the lamp. An annoying flicker, hum, and energy loss are infamous hallmarks of the magnetic ballast, the industry standard for decades. More than ten years ago, LBNL played a catalytic role in developing the high-frequency electronic ballast and in encouraging its market growth. Electronic ballasts not only eliminate flicker and hum, they also save energy by reducing electrical losses in both the ballast and the lamps. Electronic ballasts can also be designed for dimming, and can be made smaller and lighter than standard ballasts.

When our research on the electronic ballast was just beginning in the late 1970s, LBNL contracted with three small companies to produce commercial models of high-frequency electronic ballasts for conventional fluorescent lamps. (At that time, no electronic ballasts were commercially available—even though the high-frequency operation of fluorescent lamps was known to improve energy efficiency.) The intent of this early effort was to accelerate the availability of electronic ballasts by demonstrating the energy efficiency and reliability of these new, energy-saving products in typical building environments. After the ballasts were tested by LBNL to assure compliance with specifications, they were installed at a demonstration site in a utility office (PG&E) in San Francisco. The results of these early demonstrations were widely publicized at technical and trade conferences and showed that electronic ballasts could operate satisfactorily in a typical building environment and reduce lighting energy use by up to 30%.

As a result of research efforts and continued quality improvements, the electronic ballast has developed from a laboratory curiosity to a proven and successful energy-efficient lighting technology. By 1993 electronic ballasts represented 23% of total ballast sales, and the electronic ballast is now an accepted mainstream product. They will likely replace magnetic ballasts in more than 75% of applications by 2015 as a consequence of utility and other incentive programs, and federal programs and standards.

The federal investment in electronic ballast R&D is about $3 million, leveraging a cumulative energy savings attributable to electronic ballasts from 1988 to 1993 of $400 million. Based on energy savings "in the pipeline," i.e., for technologies installed as of 1993, businesses and consumers will ultimately save $700 million (net of their extra capital investment), which will grow to $13 billion for technologies installed through the year 2015. In 2015, environmental emissions of approximately 73 million tons of CO2, 157,000 tons of SO2, and 144,000 tons of NOx will be avoided through the use of electronic ballasts.

Line drawings of: a standard recessed fixture without venting (left); and a vented fixture with tilted lamp compartment (right)

Allowing for passive ventilation and tilting the lamp to keep excess mercury away from hot lamp electronics increase fixture light output up to 25%.

Beyond Ballasts

Current research focuses on LBNL-industry collaborations to improve other lighting systems through advanced lamps, luminaires, controls, and daylighting strategies. One major area of emphasis is the search for near-term improvements to the traditional incandescent lamp. Although incandescent lamps are the most inefficient light source currently available, nearly two billion such lamps are manufactured annually in the U.S. LBNL is working to optimize the performance of one alternative—compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which are four times as efficient as today's incandescent light sources. Lamp manufacturers have shown keen interest in the LBNL design concepts. Osram, one of the world's largest lighting manufacturers, included the LBNL work in its widely used Compact Fluorescent Handbook.

LBNL researcher examines prototype sulfur lamp.

LBNL researcher examines prototype sulfur lamp.

In 1989, lighting researchers began work with major manufacturers of compact fluorescent lamp fixtures. Early on, LBNL researchers specifically targeted the recessed "can" fixture industry, which has annual sales of about 20 million units in the U.S. and has the fastest sales growth of any type of fixture. LBNL pioneered a series of optimized low-cost fixture improvements that use conductive cooling or convective venting designs to eliminate excess heat buildup, thereby allowing up to 25% greater light output. Manufacturers such as Cooper Lighting, Delray, Edison Price, Indy Lighting, Kurt Versen, Lightolier, Lithonia, Microflect, Mitor, Prescolite, Reggiani, Staff, and Zumtobel have already incorporated LBNL's efficiency-enhancing strategies into their product lines. Manufacturers see these improvements as enhancing their position in markets where many consumers are dissatisfied with the amount of light produced by conventional compact fluorescent fixtures. From the standpoint of national energy use, these improvements widen the market niche for CFLs and appreciably increase potential savings.

In another effort, LBNL researchers are working with Fusion Lighting to create a novel light source that is about 50% more efficient (~130 lumens/watt) than the best-available fluorescent systems and yet provides a far superior spectrum, similar to that of true sunlight. The so-called "sulfur lamp" contains no environmentally troublesome mercury, offers an extremely long service life, and has "tunable" color properties. It is dimmable and delivers efficiency unmatched by any currently available white light source.

LBNL researcher inspects a centralized light guide system consisting of a 250-watt metal halide lamp, a high-efficiency beam splitter, and four hollow light guides. This results in a lighting load of only 60 watts per work station with light levels even higher than those provided by typical fluorescent systems—and superior light quality. Eventually, sulfur lamps will be used with this type of system.

LBNL researcher inspects a centralized light guide system consisting of a 250-watt metal halide lamp, a high-efficiency beam splitter, and four hollow light guides. This results in a lighting load of only 60 watts per work station with light levels even higher than those provided by typical fluorescent systems—and superior light quality. Eventually, sulfur lamps will be used with this type of system.

LBNL expertise in coupling radio-frequency power to electrodeless lamps has enabled Fusion Lighting to downsize a pre-existing product that was unlikely to ever reach the commercial marketplace. The large original lamp produces as much light as 175 full-sized fluorescent lamps and requires a microwave power supply and its own miniature air conditioner. Two new versions are downsized to the size of a coin and require no active cooling. One generates as much light as fifty fluorescent tubes, the other as much as two tubes. However, several technical and economic challenges must be overcome before the sulfur lamp will be commercially viable. Such intense light sources require a fundamental rethinking of the light fixture, which has spurred a program of R&D on "light guides"— long reflective tubes that can conduct and distribute this bright light over a large indoor area. Integrating these guides with architectural daylighting offers the prospect of buildings lit by daylight deep in their interiors. LBNL helped demonstrate sulfur lamp and light guide systems at DOE's headquarters and at the Air and Space Museum, both in Washington, DC.

The Future

Complementing LBNL efforts in technology development are research activities investigating lighting design and applications, and the human response to lighting. Interdisciplinary research performed in collaboration with medical experts has demonstrated that the fundamental measure of light—the "lumen"—is a poor measure of how people actually perceive light. This research suggests that by "tuning" the spectrum of light sources to optimize the responses of rods and cones in the eye, we will be able to see better and with less energy needed for illumination.

"Market transformation" is another development frontier. LBNL researchers are providing technical support to groups that design innovative deployment strategies for efficient lighting. LBNL has assisted DOE in developing national standards aimed at improving lighting efficiency and is supporting DOE and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) efforts to improve the market penetration of efficient residential lighting technologies.