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March 2017

Demystifying the DLC certification

A new acronym has made an appearance in the lighting industry and it’s the DLC certification. It has led many lighting designers, distributors and specifiers to inaccurately assume that it is a mandatory requirement for the purchase or sale of LED lighting. Indeed, many of our own products are DLC certified, which is short for the DesignLights Consortium. The truth, however, is that it is not mandatory. Let us explain.

What is the Design Lights Consortium?

According to the DLC website:

The DLC® is a non-profit organization whose mission is to drive efficient lighting by defining quality, facilitating thought leadership, and delivering tools and resources to the lighting market through open dialogue and collaboration.

DLC certification is a utility-based initiative. Numerous organisations in the United States and Canada base rebate programs on DLC standards for products including high bays, wall packs, roadway luminaires, retrofit kits, LED panels, and more.

The DLC is a voluntary certification initiative for LED technology. In order to certify, lighting products must comply with minimum performance standards in three critical areas, such as:

  • Distribution
  • Colour
  • Longevity / stress

Testing to DLC lighting requirements must be completed by an accredited laboratory. The results are submitted directly to the DLC by the manufacturer.

How does DLC differ from ENERGY STAR?

DLC is a regional group that started out as a project of the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnership (NEEP). It does not presently certify LED products. In order to establish product quality and performance, manufacturers must therefore seek out independent evaluations of their LED products. Although the qualifications for Energy Star and DLC are similar, DLC evaluations are in fact more comprehensive. DLC has consequently become a prevailing standard among LED lighting manufacturers.

One of the reasons DLC listing is increasingly popular is the growth of LED fixture rebates from utilities. Since the Energy Star label is not applicable to LED fixtures, most fixture-focused utility rebates require the DLC label for the product to qualify.

Must a product be DLC qualified in order to buy or sell it?

The lack of DLC certification on an LED product does not prevent it from being bought or sold, since manufacturers are not required to test for it. For instance, it can mean that the product has failed to meet DLC’s energy efficiency or quality standards. It can also mean that the manufacturer hasn’t applied for qualification or completed the application process.

Note the distinction between DLC certification and others such as CSA, UL or ETL: they are safety standards. DLC is not a safety standard but simply a resource that can be used to qualify the performance of an LED product. Unless you are seeking a utility rebate, DLC is not a mandatory fixture approval rating.

To conclude

In conclusion, a product does not necessarily need to be on the DLC list in order to be bought or sold. Nonetheless, a luminaire listed on the DLC website will ensure you of its overall performance.

Working with a certified lighting expert will certainly help you navigate the tricky details of evaluating an LED product. It will help you make an appropriate choice for your specific application needs, regardless of a DLC certification.

If you would like to know if the product you’re considering to purchase is DLC qualified, read the Product Qualification Criteria.