L-prize back up and running for PAR 38 lamps

The PAR 38 category of the L Prize competition recently reopened after being suspended in January 2011. The interruption, says DoE, was to incorporate lessons learned from the recently completed L-Prize 60-W replacement lamp competition.

The new Competition uses the same vetting and testing procedures as in the old, along with the same U.S. sourcing requirements. But DoE has made some changes aiming to shorten the competition timeline and reduce testing costs -- testing costs for DoE, not for entrants.

Now, entrants themselves bear the cost of the initial photometric testing (LM-79). DOE also says it will take advantage of the recently adopted industry standard method for extrapolating LED lumen maintenance over time (TM-21) to allow a shorter period of elevated-temperature testing. There are also some clarifications about how DoE will handle multiple, competing entries. And dimming – often not needed for PAR 38 bulbs – has been eliminated as a requirement. And thanks to input from previous entrants, the PAR 38 process has now been streamlined to reduce total evaluation time by about 30%.

PAR lamps, commonly known as "spot" or "flood" lamps, are widely used in retail businesses and as outdoor security and track lights. DoE says there are about 90 million PAR 38 halogen light bulbs installed in the U.S., in residential and commercial applications. Estimates are that switching all of them with bulbs efficient enough to win the L Prize would save the country 11 terawatt-hours of electricity annually – about as much as the annual electricity consumption of Washington, DC.

DoE says the LED PAR 38 replacements currently on the market are improvements over their predecessors, but they still fall well short of L Prize-winning levels, especially with regard to beam qualities, color quality, and light output.

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