Lighting Research Center Begins Study on Fluorescent Dimming Systems

Aug. 2, 2005

What impact does dimming have on a lamp’s life? The LRC intends to find out.

Two months ago, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) in Troy, NY, embarked on one of the largest independent studies of fluorescent dimming systems to date. Spanning over the next 3 to 5 years, the life test will investigate the performance of linear fluorescent lamps on dimming ballasts - totaling more than 850 dimming systems in all. The hope is to glean information and provide insight into design criteria for the compatibility and reliability of fluorescent dimming systems, which can be used by manufacturers to develop improved products for controlling lighting and electrical loads.

According to Conan O’Rourke, principal investigator for the life test, the impetus for such a large-scale study is the growing interest in using advanced lighting control strategies. The strategies O’Rourke is referring to include integrating electrical lighting systems in daylight applications and addressing peak demand by reducing the electricity needed by artificial lighting systems.

As he explains, fluorescent lamps originally were designed to work in a steady state - either fully on or fully off - not dimmed. While fluorescent dimming systems have been a mainstay in commercial buildings since the ’70s, the impact on lamp life is not completely understood and dimming standards have yet to be developed.

The LRC consulted with the U.S. Department of Energy, National Electrical Manufacturers Association, and the lighting industry to determine the best design for this experiment. Systems will be monitored and failures investigated. At the conclusion of the life test, the LRC will work with the DOE, NEMA, and the lighting industry to draft standards.

For more information on this study, visit the LRC website at (

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