Technology Corner: Past, Present and Future

color lighting lampsLighting technology, and how trade allies use and understand it, has come a long way since NWTAN was founded in 2007. The first issue of Light Source was published in 2008 to engage trade allies in learning more about energy efficient lighting technologies. In our first year, we touted our workshops, and featured stories about refrigerated case lighting, the merits of T5 versus T8 lamps, and lighting controls. Today our workshop programs are more robust than ever, LEDs are the hot technology, and we remain wowed by the power of lighting controls to save energy.

Here are some of our key takeaways from the past decade:

  • Energy efficiency solutions make an impact. For end-user businesses, the availability of incentive programs and the push to become more energy-efficient was eye-opening. Most facilities had T12 or metal halide lighting in their facilities or a combination of the two. Facility owners complained to contractors about noise, and poor color and light quality. The flicker of T12s caused headaches and gave fluorescent lighting a bad name. New energy-efficient solutions made the fix easy and provided both cost- and energy-savings for property owners. Trade allies reaped the benefits of incentive programs and technical services too. The added support helped them win more projects and demonstrate to facility owners how energy-efficient technology can help control energy costs and address other lighting-related problems.
  • LED is here to stay. Early LEDs were used primarily in Exit signage, but price and product availability limited other facility uses. Today, of course, LEDs represent one of the biggest technology changes we’ve seen in the past decade. Prices have come down, products are better and with more available options, they are the technology of choice for most projects.

What’s ahead for the future?

  • Plenty of retrofits left to do. NWTAN’s lighting specialists are still amazed at how many T12 and metal halide lamps remain in facilities throughout the Northwest, giving trade allies access to plenty of potential projects. Lighting Specialist Jeff Anderson is hoping to see his first LED-to-LED retrofit. With early LEDs surpassed by newer technologies, there is an opportunity to improve upon savings for customers.
  • Controls are the future of lighting. LED technology has made a huge impact on the market, but the wave of the future is networked lighting controls, and even more specifically, luminaire level lighting controls (LLLC). For years, trade allies avoided controls because they were complicated and hard to install. Today’s LLLC systems are nothing like the controls of old, and NWTAN has made educating trade allies on the technology a priority. The 2018 slate of workshops features a 90-minute session on networked lighting controls to help trade allies understand that today’s controls are easy to install, more reliable and can extend energy savings for customers.
  • NXT Level training is a must. Trade allies have embraced the free workshops hosted by NWTAN and other utilities to educate themselves on trends, technologies and best practices. NWTAN’s lighting specialists see a notable difference among contractors who think more about design and light levels by using kits and new fixtures rather than simply put new lightbulbs into fixtures. NXT Level training helps trade allies look forward and better understand technologies and systems, and how to best serve their customers. Many Northwest industry leaders believe that trade allies who don’t earn the designation could get left behind as their competitors learn how to do better projects and win more future business.

For 10 years, NWTAN’s team of lighting specialists has been here to support local utilities and help trade allies think through design and technical issues to make new projects successful. Contact your regional Lighting Specialist to learn how we can help you today and in the future.