Lighting industry standards

Article By : Yoelit Hiebert

Making sense of the complicated world of lighting industry standards.

For those uninitiated into the world of lighting industry standards development and how the various standards bodies interact with one another, it’s fair to say: it’s complicated.  There are numerous national as well as international bodies that publish standards relevant to lighting and lighting controls, but the organizations discussed below arguably have the biggest impact in terms of product design and development in North America.

Before we begin a discussion of standards, it’s worthwhile to take a moment to discuss the framework under which most standards are developed.  The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), administers and coordinates standards development in the U.S.  The ANSI development process requires consensus-based content and strict review and balloting procedures.  Many of the standards in use by the lighting industry in North America are developed according to ANSI protocols and as such, include an ANSI designation in their titles.

The National Electric Code (NEC) is a state and locality-adoptable safety standard published by the National Fire Protection Association as part of the National Fire Code. Because it was developed using ANSI procedures, the formal designation of the NEC is ANSI/NFPA 70.  A change in the 2020 NEC code that took effect at the beginning of this year no longer allows use of gray-colored wire insulation for low-voltage lighting control circuit conductors (i.e., 1-10V dimming control).  This change was made to help minimize the risk of confusion and subsequent injury to equipment installers (gray is an allowed color for grounded branch circuit conductors).

In response to this new requirement, the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association (NEMA) Cable Section and Lighting Systems Division worked jointly on a recommendation for a replacement wire insulation color.  The final recommendation to replace gray control wire is stipulated in NEMA-100-2021, Wire Insultation Colors for Lighting Systems and is represented in the image below.  The image below provides the acceptable colors as defined by the CIELAB color space for compliance with NEMA-100.

NEMA-100-21 Pink (Reprinted by permission of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA))

Going forward, lighting control systems should include violet and pink wire in their low-voltage control circuits instead of the traditional violet and gray, prompting a not insignificant change to design documentation and manufacturing procedures.

NEMA is a trade association serving both the business and scientific communities.  One of its main contributions to the electrical and electronics industries is the development of standards for use by companies in the design and manufacture of their products.  NEMA is an ANSI-accredited Standards Developing Organization (SDO), and serves as the secretariat for five ANSI Lighting Committees, one of which is the C137 Lighting Systems Committee.  This committee is tasked, as its name implies, with development of standards for both indoor and outdoor lighting systems.  The C137 Committee has recently released two standards that provide insight into the direction the lighting industry is taking.

  • ANSI C137.5-2021, American National Standard for Lighting Systems – Energy Reporting Requirements for Lighting Devices, addresses energy measurement for lighting systems and devices in recognition that access to real-time energy consumption data is becoming increasingly relevant to users.
  • ANSI C137.6-2020, American National Standard for Lighting Systems – Data Tagging Vocabulary (Semantic Model Elements) for Interoperability, provides a vocabulary for common data tags used in lighting systems.  This standard was developed in response to the need for common terms to facilitate data exchange for control and analysis.

NEMA’s Lighting Systems Division is also the secretariat for the C136 Standards for Roadway and Area Lighting Committee.  The standards developed by this committee are more focused on equipment requirements vs. the more system-level standards of C137.  Recently published C136 standards also reflect changes in the lighting industry.

  • ANSI C136.50-2021 – American National Standard for Roadway and Area Lighting Equipment – Energy Measurement for a Network Lighting Control (NLC) Device with a Locking-Type Receptacle, addresses energy consumption measurement requirements for what are commonly referred to as “twist-lock” lighting controllers typically mounted atop lighting poles.
  • ANSI C136.52-2021, American National Standard for Roadway and Area Lighting Equipment – Metering Performance Requirements for LED Drivers with Integral Energy Measurement, provides performance requirements for LED drivers used in outdoor applications for energy consumption metering.

The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) is also involved in the development of ANSI-accredited standards for the lighting industry.  Just over a year ago, the IES released its Lighting Library, a web-based compendium of its standards.   IES standards are generally focused on recommended practices for lighting designers, test procedures for lighting products, and other topics related to lighting science and application.

And last, while readers are almost certainly familiar with IEEE, they might not know that an operating unit, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE SA), is the IEEE internal international body tasked with development of global IEEE standards.  Unlike ANSI, the IEEE SA is not authorized by any one government but rather, functions like other international bodies such as ISO and IEC.

This article was originally published on EDN.

Yoelit Hiebert has worked in the field of LED lighting for over 10 years and has experience in both the manufacturing and end-user sides of the industry.


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