There is a looming concern about a certain type of compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), and some companies are working to address the potential problem.

According to James Wasserman of The Energy Consortium of Minneapolis, low power factor CFLs could become a crucial issue for residential energy consumers and providers as incandescent bulbs are phased out during the next few years in accordance with the energy bill 2007. Low power factor results in harmonic distortion and reduces power quality, and this energy imbalance could lead to extensive and expensive corrective actions by utility companies.

High power factor standards have been set for linear fluorescent lighting in commercial and industrial settings, but power factor stan-dards have not been elevated for the residential sector.

Wasserman, a consultant and program manager for a Minnesota utility company, expects that a power factor correction penalty could be added to residential energy bills in the future to offset the unproductive power created by the influx of millions of low power factor CFL bulbs. With a range of CFL bulbs with varying power factor ratings replacing incandescent bulbs, industry experts have yet to predict the total effect low power factor CFL bulbs will have on power quality in the United States, but the cost will ultimately be passed on to the con-sumer.

“It is important that a definitive study be performed within the industry to ensure that we know what will happen to power quality across the grid as millions upon millions of [low power factor] CFL bulbs are introduced,” Wasserman said. “We’re not sure how big the issue will become, but we know that it could be problematic.”

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program currently only requires a power factor of 0.5 or higher to gain approval, while standards for electronic ballasts set by the American National Standards Institute and the National Electrical Manufacturers Associa-tion recommend a power factor of 0.9 or greater. Because the Energy Star threshold is substantially lower, uninformed consumers are purchasing millions of low power factor CFL bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs.

“While there is no data that declares that a massive influx of low power factor CFL bulbs will have a negative impact on power qual-ity in the U.S., we believe this issue will become extremely important during the next five years,” said Lee Vanatta, president and CEO of PureSpectrum Inc.