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Tunable white lighting provides a significant new capability for nonresidential general lighting. Benefits include aesthetic, psychological, and potentially physiological advantages. White-light tuning can be used to provide apparent cooling or warming to a room, match room finishes and interior decor, suit user preference, simulate daylight or candlelight for mood, match daylight entering the space, signal activity changes in classrooms, support changing displays, and potentially play a role as an entrainer in circadian-supportive lighting strategies. Overall, tunable-white lighting distinguishes a lighting system as both a utility and amenity.
Tunable white luminaires currently have a cost premium for the added engineering and potentially hardware required to provide the capability. Luminaire wiring may be more complex, and the installation may require more robust specification and commissioning. These luminaires may also be less efficacious (lumens per watt) than comparable fixed-output luminaires, though tunable-white luminaires are nonetheless efficient compared to traditional luminaires, and they are listed in the DesignLights Consortium’s Qualified Products List, which is used by utility rebate programs to qualify products.
The LED lighting revolution has entered a new phase where manufacturers are pushing the technology far beyond the benefits of energy efficiency and longevity to explore the technology’s full capabilities and features. Tunable white lighting is a particularly exciting development as it adds a new dimension of lighting control that can serve spaces and users. However, as with any relatively new technology, it requires careful evaluation to ensure solutions are properly matched to applications, resulting in selection of the right products.
Questions to consider
These questions can help facility managers to decide what tunable-white solution works best for a given application and to evaluate products.
Answering these questions will help discover the right solution for the space. A mockup is recommended, which allows personal evaluation. The effect of personally seeing what’s possible with tunable-white is often powerful.
Craig DiLouie is education director for the Lighting Controls Association.
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