Downlight Performance Lags Behind Other Luminaire Types, Latest DOE CALiPER Snapshot Reveals

The U.S. DOE’s previous CALiPER Snapshot of downlights was published in April 2016. Over the past 15 months, LED technology has continued to advance and mature.  This technological progress is reflected in the data available through the DOE’s LED Lighting Facts database. According to the database, which is not a statistically representative sample, the number of available LED downlights products increased. The mean efficacy of the downlights also increased, but just slightly.

The CALiPER snapshot report indicates that based on photometric performance alone, the market seems to offer a downlight to fulfill virtually every need. The report says that this breadth of options and high efficacy, make it is reasonable to suggest that the downlight category has attained maturity.

The downlight market segment was among the first market segments in which viable LED products distinctly beat the competition from other source types. The snapshot revealed a current mean efficacy of 69 lumens per watt (LPW) and products reaching as high as 144 LPW. At these efficacy LED downlights are considerably more energy efficient than halogen or CFL downlights.

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LED Downlight Performance Lags Other Luminaire Types, According to CALiPER Snapshot

LED downlight performance reportedly still lags behind other LED luminaire categories. Linear, troffer, wallwash, directional, and industrial luminaires feature higher mean (and maximum) efficacies. In the past 15 months the gap has increase and the gap between these types of luminaires and LED downlights has increased.

The minimum efficacy criteria for ENERGY STAR qualification of downlights of 55 LPW for luminaires, 60 LPW for retrofit kits are significantly lower than the efficacy thresholds for other categories within the the DesignLights Consortium™ Qualified Products List, not ENERGY STAR.

According to the snapshot report, a large percentage of LED downlights also offer high color fidelity (color rendering) and good light quality in general, unlike most CFL downlights.

Unfortunately, the only slight increase in the mean efficacy for downlight luminaires over the past 15 months is just 1 LPW. It lags behind the efficacy improvements for troffers of (7 LPW), industrial luminaires (13 lm/W), linear luminaires (10 lm/W), directional luminaires (10 lm/W), wallwashers (13 lm/W), and decorative luminaires (5 lm/w).

The DOE targets efficacy for LED downlights of 203 LPW by 2025, nearly triple the current mean efficacy. So, despite the expanded product options, the efficacy of the downlights leaves much room for improvement.