Learn about cannabis lighting certifications, testing and ratings.
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Cannabis Lighting Certifications: What does it all mean?
Our last article briefly touched on cannabis lighting certifications, testing, and ratings. Often, one can know the type of testing or certification a lighting fixture has attained, but what does it really mean? Why are the details important for cultivators to know?
Cannabis lighting certifications, testing, and lighting fixture ratings help us plan and design our cultivation spaces. Nothing beats real-world experience with a light fixture, where you can measure power and learn its capabilities in a grow environment. This lighting information should be recorded frequently and be part of routine environmental data collection. However, before operating and getting dialed in, a comprehensive lighting strategy is required. Knowing and trusting the sources of a fixture’s specifications becomes imperative when planning ahead. It is the reason why cultivators review cannabis lighting certifications, testing, and ratings.
This information becomes more value-laden when looking at fixtures such as LEDs. They are considered energy-efficient light sources that can accurately measure power and efficacy by getting tested and certified. Testing ensures accurate specifications, quality build, and safe operation and can potentially qualify lights for energy savings incentives.
Cannabis Lighting Certifications for Safety
Whether double-ended high-pressure sodium fixtures or LEDs, cannabis lighting fixtures should bear the mark of an electrical safety standard. In North America, we look to Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Intertek (ETL), and in Canada, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) as organizations that administer safety certifications. While they are different organizations, they all adopt the same electrical safety codes and international standards for electronic equipment development.
From a safety certification perspective, they are interchangeable because the organizations are all part of the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NTRLs) recognized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). NRTLs ensure that the manufacturing and fixtures comply with standards associated with electrical lighting. In addition to safety codes, international standards for equipment design are developed in part with the International Electrotechnical Commission. Their website describes them as the organization that ensures the performance, reliability, efficiency, and safety of electrical and electronic systems and devices. They provide standard understanding and terminology that experts can use when developing technology.
These organizations set up the specifications and testing protocols to ensure fixtures conform to electrical safety, but what specific details do they provide about a lighting fixture? These entities help to accurately quantify the electrical input and output power, including watts, amperage, and voltage required to operate the fixture at optimal capacity. They can provide specifications on the operational frequency, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) output, and a fixture’s efficacy for converting energy into light. Additionally, they can provide information on optimal operating temperatures and specific physical characteristics of a unit. They ensure the product will last and be safe for the intended use. Recognizing the marks of these safety organizations means you can trust the specifications reported.
If the electrical specifications are trusted, and accurate, engineers and electricians can use this information to plan out the capacity and infrastructure of a grow space. This will lead to effective and efficient electricity use if designed appropriately. If this information is not known, there may be a situation where the infrastructure might not be able to keep up with the demands of the equipment used to cultivate. This would hinder the success of the grow. The cultivation hobbyist can also use this information when planning their grow space. Knowing the input power and output of light energy helps determine the type and number of fixtures required.
Lighting Quality Standards & Ratings
Other quality standards are found in the manufacturing process and types of protection ratings that are useful in specific scenarios. For example, say there is a grow space where a cultivator wants to implement cannabis lighting fixtures, but the space often gets dusty and can retain a lot of moisture. One would then examine the Ingress Protection (IP) rating to understand if it’s manufactured appropriately to avoid dust or moisture penetration. This is so that dust or moisture will not “ingress,” meaning “get into” the sensitive electrical components. The higher the IP rating, the greater the protection from dust and moisture.
Other quality standards, such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), are manufacturing standards that can describe the operating procedures for how a product was made or the types of materials used as components. These standards are helpful in knowing the quality of the build and the potential for equipment to pose a hazard risk based on the materials used to construct it.
These ratings and other standards help inform growers about the special requirements for the fixtures and information on the manufacturing of the product they are purchasing.
Third-Party Verification Testing
There are many third-party organizations, including non-profit organizations, that perform verification testing to ensure manufacturers’ specifications are accurate and reliable. The same safety accreditation organizations recognized by NRTLs can perform third-party verification testing.
There are also reliable non-profit organizations specifically engaged in the lighting sector, such as the Design Light Consortium (DLC), that partner with industry leaders and other organizations to promote and improve lighting efficiency. They verify the efficiency of a fixture and then publish the details of the product by category. For example, they have a category and verification standards for horticultural lighting.
How do these help cultivators? Additional verification tests and ratings can assist in obtaining electrical rebates for lighting efficiency because they are independently verified. You save money on electrical lighting costs by using more efficient fixtures and also can receive cash back for eligible incentives. Some insurance companies offer discounts or reduce premiums if you use certified and tested fixtures. This helps to reduce your overall costs to cultivate.
While this is not a comprehensive list of all the cannabis lighting certifications, testing marks, and ratings for cannabis lighting fixtures, it provides a snapshot of the major standards. If you need to understand these concepts further, please feel free to contact us.