The Design Lights Consortium® Qualified Products List, or DLC QPL, is a qualification program created and administered by the nonprofit Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), whereby approved lights must pass certain energy efficacy criteria in addition to color, thermal and total flux requirements. For instance, the measured lumens per watt (efficacy) must be at a certain ratio. While the DLC was launched nearly 20 years ago, the DLC QPL began in 2008 and took off in 2009. By creating assurances for energy efficient standards for general lighting, the DLC QPL has been adopted by more than 80 energy efficiency programs through electrical utilities in North America.
This has provided incentive for commercial and industrial businesses nationwide to replace their relatively wasteful lights, such high intensity discharge (HID) bulbs, through the issuance of energy rebates, delivered between utility companies and consumer after the purchase and installation of a “DLC-listed” product. Utility companies have incentive to offer rebates for lower power consuming lights because it provides a way to lessen electrical demand without having to implement highly expensive infrastructure upgrades. After all, most electrical markets were laid out years before electronic technology created such a thirst for outlets and grid power. But utility companies need a way to ensure the subsidies they were handing out were for legitimately energy saving LED lights.
In order to be compliant with the DLC QPL, testing is necessary. But it is generally not feasible for lighting manufacturers to test their luminaires in-house. While they may produce their own photometry with their own photometric equipment, the DLC requires all light testing to be conducted under rigorous laboratory accreditation standards approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) and laboratories listed in the Department of Energy LED Lighting Facts Approved Testing Laboratories List. While it is possible for lighting manufacturers to have their in-house laboratories accredited, the total investment in goniophotometers, human capital training, and the rate of light testing usage normally makes the expenditure to fulfill compliance standards unjustifiable. In fact, when priced out, using a third party accredited laboratory often times is considerably more economical.
Because of the nation-wide success of the DLC QPL in regulating legitimate energy saving LED lighting products, the list grew to over 160,000 products. Also, due to the drop in pricing of LEDs, it became easier to bring LED products to market which met the lumen per watt (lumen efficacy) requirements for each of the DLC QPL Categories, such as indoor troffers and high output outdoor retrofit kits, for example. The QPL was conceivably becoming diluted, which called for a significant update to the lumen efficacy for each category. These new requirements are called the Technical Requirements Version 4.0, as this is the 4th version of product specifications published by the organization. Version 4.0 rendered 40-60% of the pre-existing products on the QPL no longer eligible and became active April 1st, 2017.
Yet not all utility programs are necessarily rejecting rebate redemption of these products immediately. Some have grace periods depending on the date of purchase, issuing rebates if the LED lights were active on the QPL before the Version 4.0 update, or giving 30, 60, and 90 day windows to redeem the rebates.