I haven’t missed too many LightFairs since it started up in 1989, and from everything I can remember this was the biggest and busiest yet. The booths were bigger and the largest ones, including Acuity, Cree, Osram Sylvania, GE, Philips, Cooper Lighting, Lutron, and Juno Lighting/Schneider, consistently had big crowds. The Juno/Schneider booth a got a lift from the oxygen bar (see photo at left) they offered attendees. I can vouch for the peppermint-scented oxygen in that it did indeed increase energy, as promoted.
Electrical Wholesaling will be covering LightFair in more depth over the next few weeks, but here are our picks for the key trends we noticed on the show floor.
Communication systems that remotely connect individual lighting fixtures are spreading throughout the lighting world. These fixtures are basically just a node on a computer system with their own IP address and GPS coordinates. The systems operate via WIFI and other standard lighting communications systems LightFair exhibitors marketing fixtures with these capabilities at the show include, GE, Osram, Hubbell Lighting, EYE Lighting, Sensity and Cooper Lighting/Eaton.
The quality of light emitted by LEDs continues to improve dramatically. It’s nothing short of remarkable how fast LEDs have become a viable alternative to traditional lighting sources. In the best-quality LEDs the light quality is as good as and in many cases better than what you get out of incandescents, HIDs, and fluorescents. As long as the low-cost, bad quality LEDs from offshore manufacturers don’t pollute the market, the big players have a huge market for these products down the road.
Three challenges to watch with LEDs. For distributors, the big challenge will be adapting to the fact that once they retrofit a lighting socket with an LED they might not get the chance to sell another light for that socket for 10 years, because that’s how long LEDs can last. This will require them to develop a different business model, because so many of them relied on the stock business of replacement lamps that could provide an acceptable ROI every two or three years.
The second big challenge discussed at the show is that while the LED chip that provides the light can last 10 years or even more, the lighting driver that powers it doesn’t always have the same lamp life. This has an impact on LED fixture warranties and forces all lighting pros to consider the source of the LED driver.
The third issue I heard at the show was about the general control of LEDs. Technically speaking, LEDs and lighting controls like dimmers don’t always play nice together and if they are a bad match, electrical contractors and other installers will get call-backs. Lutron is investing a ton in its LED Institute to test various LEDs and make sure they can talk to Lutron controls.