As of Sept. 1, 2016 lighting manufacturers are required to submit all applicable products under a new set of DLC requirement updates which will go into effect for consumers on Jan. 1, 2017. Now, I don’t pretend to think that all of you reading this article know what DLC stands for and why it exists, but it will have an impact on the lighting you purchase. Let’s break that down before we dive into how these changes may impact your lighting.
What is DLC?
“DLC” stands for “Design Lights Consortium” (oh you knew that did you?) and, according to their website, the designation “is dedicated to accelerating the widespread adoption of high-performing, energy efficient commercial lighting solutions. In collaboration with industry stakeholders, DLC defines high performance through technical requirements, facilitates thought leadership, and provides tools, resources, and technical expertise to members and industry.”
In layman’s terms, that means that DLC is a rating system that identifies through testing and manufacturer data which lighting products are generally regarded as being acceptable for their intended use.
Essentially, DLC is like having a “CarFax” report. That used car may look like it will perform well, but the CarFax shows what it has been through and what to expect. DLC does something similar (they don’t rate cars yet, unfortunately) in regards to lighting.
Here are a few of the categories that DLC looks at:
- Manufacturer and brand
- Model number
- Luminaire efficacy
- Light output
- Power factor
- Correlated Color Temperature (CCT)
- Color Rendering Index (CRI)
- Dimming information
- Integral controls information
You would naturally assume that most lighting manufacturers would want their products on the DLC Qualified Product List (QPL) for the sake of the distributor and end user, and that assumption would be correct. This has led to the QPL being flooded with many different brands and many different products.
Conversations began taking place toward the beginning of 2016 by DLC stakeholders about establishing a “DLC Premium” category and a “DLC Standard” category that would differentiate products that were qualified for DLC. The reason behind this was to show those products that rose above and beyond the technical requirements and could be viewed as “premium” choice lighting products.
So, what is DLC 4.0?
Manufacturers were required, as of Sept. 1, to submit all products for a new, more stringent set of efficacy standards, otherwise known as DLC 4.0. With this new standard, the gap between those standard and premium products will be even greater as DLC calls manufacturers to higher lumen-per-watt, or light output per energy consumption, standards. Just as important, products that no longer meet the DLC 4.0 standards will be de-listed on Apr. 1, 2017.
Here is an outline of the changes and how they may affect your lighting:
1. The primary update to DLC was in regards to the efficacy of all DLC-qualified LED products
LED lighting technology has improved immensely over the last five years, and the attention of the manufacturers has turned toward the efficiency of their drivers and their products’ performance. Efficacy, usually expressed in lumens per watt (LPW), is now a leading parameter for what type of rating will be given to a product, whether Standard or Premium. The more efficient the product, the more lumens (measured light output) you will get out of your wattage.
Let’s take a linear LED troffer as an example. Currently for that product to be DLC Premium, it must achieve 110+ LPW. With the revisions in June 2016 and the new products hitting the QPL in January 2017, the new requirement is 125+ LPW. The reasoning behind this change is to differentiate between the mass amount of product that currently qualifies as DLC.
2. Utility companies are going to follow this revision with their incentive programs
One of the reasons these DLC changes should be paid close attention to is that it will affect the amount of utility rebates you will receive. Utilities need to find unique ways to take energy off the grid, and offer rebate programs to commercial businesses for lowering their electrical load.
We are already seeing certain utility companies offer “tiered” rebate approaches for lighting products involving DLC Standard vs. DLC Premium. Once the QPL is published in January 2017, delineating between DLC Standard and Premium under 4.0, the rebate levels can then be applied accordingly to drive ROI for your building projects. Similarly, the non-DLC 4.0 compliant products removed from the QPL on Apr. 1, 2017 will likely no longer qualify for many rebates.
Final thought: Be “choosy” on your lighting project and lighting product choice
You can probably tell that the lighting industry and its certification groups want you to be informed and careful when choosing lamps or fixtures. What type of product are you installing? What is its proper rating and intended application? Where is it being used? What is the warranty and expected life?
These are all questions that DLC wants you to ask as you look at your lighting project. Through proper research and partnership, your project could offer a beneficial return for years to come.
If you're interested in learning more about how these DLC updates will affect you, please contact one of our lighting specialists.