A significant change is on the horizon that can significantly impact rebates and incentives for commercial lighting projects. At the end of this month, the Design Lights Consortium (DLC) will be transitioning its solid-state technical requirements from v5.0 to v5.1. With most rebate programs requiring a DLC listing to get an incentive, this changeover can have major implications for projects underway.
What is the DLC?
The DLC is a non-profit organization that sets standards for efficiency, controllability, and light quality of LED products and controls. Their product specifications ensure that customers get high-quality and efficient lighting that they can depend on. Their qualified product lists cover most types of commercial lighting, as well as networked lighting controls and horticulture lighting.
What does the DLC have to do with rebates?
Many incentive programs use DLC as the gold standard for LED products. Across North America, roughly 60 - 80% of rebates, depending on the product category, require a LED product to be DLC listed in order to get an incentive. In other cases, non-DLC products may still get a rebate, but it may require additional engineering review, or the dollar amount may be lower. Many of the large utilities and rebate programs are also members and stakeholders of the DLC and actively participate in developing the standards.
What's New With DLC v5.1?
The DLC locked in the specification for this version on July 1, 2020. The DLC v5.1 technical requirements focus on better quality of light. Version 5.1 adds new color quality requirements to ensure good color rendering and better consistency over time. It also introduces improved glare performance for products seeking the DLC Premium v5.1 qualification. In addition, almost all the products listed must be dimmable. This update is mainly about the quality of light and controllability; the efficacy (LPW) remains the same between v5.0 and v5.1.
"The latest technical requirements were developed to improve user satisfaction and comfort, by ensuring enhanced lighting quality and enabling greater energy savings from controls of QPL-listed fixtures," DLC Executive Director and CEO Christina Halfpenny said. "Many commercial lighting energy efficiency programs recognize the importance of features such as dimmability and integral controls and rely on SSL V5.1 compliance for incentive programs."
On June 30, all products that do not meet the v5.1 spec will be delisted and removed from the active list. This deadline was originally scheduled for December 31, 2021, but the DLC extended it by six months after they received feedback from multiple manufacturers and stakeholders about component shortages.
What LED Products Will Be Impacted?
The new technical requirements apply to every category of LED lighting. For a product to qualify under v5.1, the manufacturer had to submit additional testing information by April 15th. Update applications are still being processed, but the DLC estimates over 200,000 v5.1 products will be on the list by June 30th.
Still, a lot of products will be falling off the list. Roughly two-thirds of the current DLC list will be removed during the changeover. Most of the soon-to-be delisted products have been DLC approved for four or more years, meaning that they're older products and probably no longer available for sale. The category that's impacted the most is mogul-based HID replacement lamps (sometimes referred to as corn cobs), with almost 80% of the listing being removed.
Rebate Programs and the v5.1 Transition
Some rebate programs have already released how they'll handle the transition, while a majority still haven't made an official statement. Typically a rebate program will either immediately require a product with a v5.1 listing, or they'll allow a grace period for v5.0 products.
Here are a few examples of how some large rebate programs are addressing the change. As you can see, each program has a different approach.
Eversource, which has programs in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, has stated that "only v5.1 products will be accepted for all Eversource lighting incentives beginning on July 1."
PPL services roughly a quarter of the state of Pennsylvania. In their recent email to contractors participating in the program, they revealed that "Products that meet the requirements of SSL v5.0 will be grandfathered for use if purchased before May 31, 2023."
Potomac Edison covers the western part of Maryland. In an email to their Program Allys, they indicated that "the current and one previous DLC versions are available for use in the program."
How To Handle The Changeover
The most important thing you can do is check to see the current status of the product you're using on the DLC website. You can use the DLC's online search tool to quickly see which version a LED is approved under. Access to the DLC list is free, but you do need to sign up for an account with DLC before using it. When you click the product in the tool, you can easily identify if it's approved under v5.0 or v5.1. It's also helpful to make a note of the Product ID. This identifier is the easiest way to help rebate programs look up the fixture on the list.
If the product shows v5.1, you're all set. However, if it shows v5.0, you should check with the local rebate program you're working with to see how they're handling this change.
Remember that an active DLC listing on their website is what really matters when checking eligibility. It doesn't matter if there's a DLC logo on the spec sheet or on the manufacturer's website. Most rebate programs will go to the DLC website and check the products to confirm eligibility. Some programs even have the DLC list built directly into their online application tool to verify products on the spot.
If you are planning a project and need help with the rebate process, BriteSwitch can check that the products you're using are eligible, estimate the incentive amounts, and file the paperwork.
If you file for rebates yourself, our RebatePro tool is a great resource that speeds up the process of estimating and filing rebates. For any rebate program that has stated how they will handle the DLC v5.1 transition, we've included that information in RebatePro.