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3 Tips to Make Better LED Lighting Decisions

Posted on 3/27/2015 8:41 AM by Jeffrey Goldstein

With so much information about LED lighting and rapid changes in the technology, it can be challenging to determine the best options for your building. Following are three notable tips to help building owners and managers navigate the current LED environment. 

Consider part replacement capability

Today, building managers looking to switch to LED lighting have two general options: luminaires with LED boards and luminaires with tubular shaped modular LED light engines.

Modular LED light engines use similar LED components to typical board-based versions and package them in a self-contained form similar in size and shape to T8 fluorescent lamps. They offer significant energy savings and can provide comparable performance to many board-based systems. If dimming is required, many board-based LED luminaires are available with dimming capable drivers. Line voltage powered modular light engines are currently unable to dim, but many external driver and ballast compatible types offer dimming capabilities.  

However, units with removable modular LED light engines have one significant advantage in the current state of the market where there is little standardization of components and replacement parts among LED manufacturers. When luminaires with modular LED light engines fail, building managers can replace the LED light component just as easily as a fluorescent lamp, and external driver or ballast if so equipped. Most LED board-based fixtures will need to be completely replaced at the end of their life or in case of component failure because the LED components used will likely be obsolete by then and the lack of uniformity among manufacturers makes finding direct replacement parts difficult. These are all factors to consider when making the decision about the type of LED luminaire to purchase. 

Take care when things get hot

Heat is the enemy of all things electronic, including LEDs. If they get too hot, they will fail or change colors. Many inexpensive imported LED products are poorly designed and do not properly get rid of the excess heat. Building owners and managers need to consider the environment when choosing LED luminaires and select fixtures from reputable manufacturers with properly designed thermal management. The practice of identifying a solution that will perform best for the longest time and with the least maintenance in a specific environment remains key, both with LED and traditional lighting sources.

Look for the right LED fixture certifications

Most LED fixtures that will be submitted for a utility rebate will likely need to be certified by the DesignLights Consortium® (DLC). Many of the country’s utilities use the DLC qualified product list for their rebate programs. Not every project needs a rebate, though, and many building owners see the potential energy-saving benefits and satisfactory payback for upgrading their lighting to LED. 

All DLC listed luminaires are also required to be tested to LM79 specifications, which evaluates several product functions, including energy use, light output and color spectrum. This is a supplementary, voluntary certification done by the manufacturer, unlike the mandatory UL or equivalent mark indicating the fixture has been tested for all applicable safety requirements. 

Jeffrey Goldstein is CEO at LaMar Lighting

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4 Things You Need To Know About the NFPA 720 Code for Sleeping Rooms

Posted on 3/24/2015 8:48 AM by Ted Milburn

What does it take to reliably wake someone from a sound sleep when there is the threat of a fire or detection of carbon monoxide in the building?  

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has generated new requirements in the NFPA 720 Standard for Installation Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection and Warning Equipment, all aimed at maximizing those precious seconds between the initial sound of an alarm and when individuals are able to get to safety.  

Studies conducted by the Fire Protection and Research Foundation (FPRF) on high risk groups, including children, hearing-impaired individuals, and those under the influence, have driven the changes in the new codes.  The research revealed that a square wave sound with a lower-range frequency is the most effective signal to awaken people versus the current high-pitched fire alarm signal.

In 2009, the NFPA 720 code expanded to mandate Carbon Monoxide (CO) detection with a low frequency alarm (listed as a T4 signal) in areas with sleeping occupants. Shortly thereafter, the 2010 edition of the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code required sleeping rooms to be fitted with T3 pattern low frequency alarms for fire detection. These updated codes took effect on January 1, 2015.

For building owners and facility managers, understanding the new code and how it applies to a particular structure is critical.  

What does the code state?

The new NFPA 720 code mandates that audible alarms in sleeping rooms need to be able to produce a low frequency T4 pattern along with a T3 pattern to effectively wake individuals if CO or fire is detected. NFPA 720 and NFPA 72, which went into effect last January, include similar low frequency requirements for sleeping areas.  However, the T4 (NFPA 720) and T3 (NFPA 72) signals are two completely different sound patterns based upon the detected condition so those occupying the building can distinguish the type of emergency.

What types of facilities are required to comply with the updated code requirements?

The updated code is aimed primarily at commercial locations where people sleep, including:

  • Hotel/motel guest rooms
  • College/university dorm rooms
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Apartment buildings
  • Any areas that might be used for sleeping, i.e. living room of an apartment or condominium as it may have sleeping occupants 

What frequency of tone must be used to be compliant?

Section, in both the 2009 and 2012 NFPA 720 editions, mandates that the alarm signal must be a square wave with a frequency of 520 Hz + 10%.

How effective are these alarms?

Three NFPA-petitioned research projects in 2006 led to the new requirements for tones used to wake people. The findings from these studies showed that a low frequency 520 Hz square wave signal was more effective at waking people who were impaired by alcohol or had hearing loss. In fact, the low frequency 520 woke 92 percent of the participants in the study that had hearing difficulties.

The new requirements mean building owners and facility managers need to be even more vigilant about the current alarm systems in their buildings.  Reviewing those systems, conducting an audit of the options in the marketplace to update those systems and then making the necessary updates will ensure compliance with the law.  It will also go a long way toward keeping occupants safer, especially when an emergency situation arises.

Ted Milburn is vice president of marketing for Eaton's notification business, reach him at tedmilburn@eaton.com.

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