A new approach to luminaire quality evaluation

February 6th, 2015, Published in Articles: Vector

In August 2014, IESSA formed the Lighting Industry Technical Committee (LITC) to deal with matters of concern to the South African lighting industry. The LITC has also formed a working group tasked with evaluating the status of key industry challenges.

Connie Jonker

Connie Jonker

The committee makes proposals to formulate action plans to deal with matters including SABS certification and testing services, NRCS and regulatory matters and other issues specific to the lighting industry.

Examples of issues submitted to the LITC working group for further investigation and action are product certification; compulsory safety compliance and the integrity of photometric data for luminaires.

Product certification, compulsory safety compliance

SABS-certified luminaires have not been generally accepted by the NRCS as compliant with the applicable compulsory safety specification, VC8055, although the SABS certification scheme ensures continued compliance of products with the applicable standards.

SABS permit holders are often not able to provide recent type-test reports for each luminaire type and therefore do not comply with requirements of the NRCS’ regulatory approval system. While product certification provides better control over product consistency than the regulatory system does, there must be a way to ensure acceptance under the regulatory scheme.

Integrity of photometric data: luminaires

In the case of commercial and industrial luminaires where the photometric performance is of utmost importance, it is often found that luminaires with suspect photometric data are offered for lighting projects.

Inferior, low-priced products are often selected as a result of a lack of third party verification of these products’ photometric performance.

Luminaire standards covering safety and performance requirements for luminaires have been developed over the years, providing specifiers with all the tools needed to select the most suitable luminaires for lighting installations.

The safety requirements are covered in the SANS 60598 series, Luminaires – general requirements and tests. Performance requirements discussed in SANS 475 Luminaires for interior lighting, street lighting and floodlighting – performance requirements, and in a recently-published specification, SATS 17576 Performance requirements of LED luminaires.

Regulation and certification

The introduction of the compulsory safety specification for electrical and electronic appliances, VC8055, which includes luminaires, has generally had a detrimental effect on the quality of luminaires over the years.

With the publication of the safety specifications VC8055 (referencing SANS 60598), the original standards for luminaires (SABS 1119 and  SABS 1277 – 1279) were withdrawn and replaced by SANS 60598, covering safety requirements, and by SANS 475, which covers performance requirements for luminaires.

The safety requirements which were declared compulsory through VC8055 became the norm, causing SABS 475 to become almost obsolete. While the photometric performance of luminaires and energy efficiency remain the most important aspects of good lighting, the use of SANS 475 is now limited to a few reputable manufacturers who wish to compete in terms of performance.

The separation of responsibilities for safety and performance of products with the formation of NRCS has left the industry with no choice but to focus on compliance with the compulsory safety requirements. Cost considerations have forced many manufacturers to give up the certification of their products, making the selection of reliable and efficient luminaires even more difficult.

A positive development, however, is the expected publication of a new compulsory specification, VC9012, by the NRCS.

New compulsory safety specification for electrical luminaires

Following various appeals from IESSA to the NRCS regarding the need to rationalise the content of VC8055, the NRCS approved a project to separate requirements for luminaires from VC8055 and to compile a new compulsory specification.

With the assistance of IESSA and other stakeholders from the lighting industry, the NRCS has now published a new draft specification, VC9012, for comment. The closing date for comment was 31 December 2014. The effect that the new specification will have on the industry will be significant as it consists of the changed scope of products covered. It also makes provision for the acceptance of product certification as a means to prove continued compliance of luminaire “families”.

VC9012 scope

The original compulsory specification for electrical and electronic appliances, Government Notice 466, which was later replaced by VC8055, was intended to cover the safety of household appliances.

Catering equipment and appliances specifically used for industrial and commercial applications were excluded, and only those items intended for use by ordinary persons were covered. While this grouping of products is fairly vague, it resulted in the incorporation of many products that are not intended for use by the ordinary person.

Fortunately, international trends in regulation of the safety of electrical products have indicated that the level of regulation should preferably be based on the risk a product poses to the user. This risk evaluation approach has now also been introduced by NRCS in the compilation of the scope of luminaires to be covered in VC9012.

Different categories and types of luminaire were evaluated in terms of the possible risk to users during a meeting with lighting industry stakeholders at the NRCS.

The outcome of the evaluation mainly distinguishes portable luminaires and luminaires which are handled regularly and within reach of users, as being of higher risk than fixed and recessed luminaires, and luminaires specifically intended for commercial and industrial applications.

It was evident during the risk evaluation process that luminaires which are generally installed by skilled persons (electricians or supervised persons) are generally scrutinised by the installer for general electrical safety. These luminaire types are not generally marketed through retail outlets and, while these are seldom inspected by regulatory inspectors, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer and installer to ensure that these products comply with the basic safety requirements of standard SANS 60598.

While these luminaire categories will in future not be regulated under VC9012, it again creates the opportunity for the certification of these luminaires under an acceptable certification or verification scheme that will give confidence to the user in its continued compliance, with applicable safety requirements.

VC 9012 and product certification

Approval of a product under VC8055 required the submission of a type test report, on which basis a letter of authorisation (LoA) was issued. In VC9012, product certification was included as an alternative option for the issue of LoAs. The conditions of this option are, however, that an acceptable exchange of information between the product certification body and the NRCS be provided to satisfy NRCS requirements to ensure the integrity of the regulatory process.

An acceptable type test report will still be required for the initial application for an LoA for a certified product. This option should, however, make the periodic renewal of LoAs a formality, as continued compliance of the product can be proven through the certification process and periodic factory inspections conducted by the certification body.

Approval of “familes” of luminaires

The approval of multiple variations in a range or “family” of luminaires has been an issue to many manufacturers in terms of obtaining approval from the certifcation body and also from the NRCS. The safety standard for luminaires, SANS 60598, is composed specifically to deal with multiple variations in luminaires within a “family”. This is clearly described in Annex S of the standard, where it makes provision for the approval testing of a “family of luminaires” of which the materials and components are “essentially” the same.

While the grouping of products within a family requires good technical judgement by the evaluator, it has often been a problem to manufacturers who wish to group products together in the testing and approval process. Manufacturers should insist on this grouping process to minimise costs and to handle multiple variations of luminaires more effectively.

It is also IESSA’s intention to ensure that suitable processes for approval of product families are put in place by the product certification body as well as by the NRCS, where applicable.

Where a manufacturer operates under a product certification scheme, the approval of luminaire “families” should be a natural outflow of the product certification process, provided the auditor or inspector is suitably skilled to make such technical judgements based on selection of materials and components, and is supported by in-house testing.

New opportunities

There are strong beliefs that the local lighting industry can only survive if the quality level of luminaires is raised above the basic safety requirements of SANS 60598. This would be applicable particularlyto commercial and industrial luminaires where photometric performance and energy efficiency are important. Such luminaires would also mostly fall outside the scope of VC9012. This would require the support of a credible certification or verification scheme based on SANS 475, which could again give confidence in the integrity of the performance levels of luminaires as claimed by the manufacturer, and enable the selection of better quality product.

Revival of performance standards

At present, SANS 475 only requires photometric data for luminaires, “if specified by the purchaser”. Verification of the data can therefore only be done by a certification body, if such data is made available for verification. This may have contributed to the fact that the SABS product certification based on SANS 475 has, in many ways, lost its value due to limited follow-up testing and the lack of periodic verification of photometric performance of certified products.

A revision of SANS 475 to make photometric performance mandatory for luminaires certified to SANS 475 may possibly solve this problem. With the increased accessibility to photometric test facilities a framework for photometric verification of luminaires could be provided. The present status now also gives us the opportunity to re-consider the energy classification of luminaires, which was attempted some years ago.

In the case of SATS 17576, product certification is not yet possible, as this technical specification remains subject to amendment for one year after publication.
Proposed amendments to the relevant standards will be discussed in more detail at the next LITC meeting.

Certification or verification schemes

The LITC working group has conducted an evaluation of various options for certification or even verification of products. The advantages and shortcomings of the scheme are being evaluated to determine whether approaches should be made to both SABS and NRCS to establish what would be required to fulfil the needs in terms of compulsory specification VC9012.

Various alternative models for certification are being studied, such as the model applied by UL for “listed” and “recognised” products, the self-certification CE scheme and others. Future actions may also include discussions with the SABS or other certification bodies and members in the South African electrotechnical industry.

As an alternative to an accredited product certification scheme to ISO Guide 67, the possibility of creating an industry verification scheme has been mentioned and will be discussed by the IESSA LITC in the near future.

Such a verification scheme could be constructed so that it may also may provide for witness testing by suitably trained personnel at industry-based test facilities, in addition to testing at accredited test facilities. This could bring down product testing costs to acceptable levels without compromising the integrity of the scheme.

Confidentiality issues, however, must be defined clearly and applied. Stakeholders in the lighting industry are invited to participate in forthcoming discussions.

EMC/EMI requirements

Concern has been raised over the apparent non-compliance of lamps and luminaires with the EMI/EMC regulation applicable to electrical and electronic apparatus. While these requirements are not contained in our luminaire and lamp standards, this aspect is often overlooked.

IESSA has been approached to bring this matter to the industry’s attention and, while the electromagnetic emissions of lighting products can also be a threat to health and safety, particularly to persons with pacemakers, this aspect must be discussed at future LITC meetings.

Interested persons are invited to become involved in LITC activities and to also respond with comments which will be forwarded to IESSA.

Contact Sue Swash, IESSA, Tel 011 476-4171, sue@iessa.org.za

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