“Green” Gripes

The latest “Green” building idea is to wire ceilings with 277V electricity. This causes Decorative Lighting Manufacturers, like us, to wonder – hey – what’s up? This isn’t a gripe about wiring ceilings with 277V – which compared to our current economic troubles, is a pretty minor issue. It’s about individuals that make decisions without considering how their great ideas will impact other people and existing products. Hopefully, this decision will force manufacturers to produce more energy efficient products, but until this happens, we must use light sources currently available – which is a problem.
How will this affect you? You may experience a big sticker shock and future frustrations. New fixture designs, with LED or Halogen bulbs, must be tested by UL or ETL representatives. Testing expenses range from $5,000.00 to $8,000.00 for each new design. If you purchase an incandescent pendant or chandelier from a local store and install it – chances are – it won’t work.
We recently experienced an issue like this. We donated the glass lighting fixture shown above for an event at a new upscale condominium tower in Seattle. We delivered the fixture and were told – surprise – it needed to be wired for 277V instead of 120V. We brought it back to the factory, rewired it, and called around town to locate a 100W 277V incandescent light bulb – no luck. We searched the Internet, and discovered only one company carried them. We ordered one and received the wrong bulb. We ordered two replacements, and sent one to the site. It exploded in the fixture! The second worked – hooray. As a homeowner, if you didn’t know who made the fixture and didn’t know you needed a special light bulb, how would you resolve this? I know I wouldn’t be very happy.
Four types of light bulbs (we call them “lamps”) work with 277V power:
· Highly touted LED’s emit tiny bright spots of light that don’t produce much ambient illumination. They are hard-wired into fixtures to comply with energy codes, so you can’t replace them yourself. They are expensive, and their technology is changing so rapidly, we are concerned replacements won’t be available. Most LEDs are made in China and it takes a long time to receive them. We are still waiting for bulbs ordered four months ago!
· Halogen is a beautiful light source but new fixture designs with halogen lamps must be UL tested.
· Incandescent lamps produce a nice warm light but there aren’t many lamp types available in 277V and they aren’t available in stores. They don’t require expensive UL testing – which is a good thing.
· Fluorescent lamps are okay for some fixtures, but don’t look good in transparent glass fixtures. They are also toxic and not truly “Green”. Fluorescent fixtures do not require UL testing.
· LED and Halogen lamps require transformers that accept 277V. Fluorescent lamps require ballasts that accept 277V.
So what’s the solution? Light bulb manufactures need to develop energy efficient 277V incandescent lamps. Can this be that difficult? UL and ETL should develop Halogen and LED testing standards for manufacturers to follow so they don’t incur the steadily increasing expenses that make our products less competitive with foreign lighting fixtures.
Wouldn’t it would be wonderful if Architects, Contractors, Planners, and Manufacturers developed Building Standards & Products to prevent problems from occurring? I realize this won’t happen, but one can always hope.