Welcome to 2012, the year lighting efficiency takes center stage. From federal regulations to emerging standards affecting bulbs, lighting systems and controls, the next 12 months and beyond will present electrical contractors and their customers with change and choice.

The most immediate effect, though minimal for the electrical contractor, is the enactment of new efficiencies for general-service incandescent lamps. The Edison bulb, as we know it, was set to begin its initial phase-out this month with the traditional 100-watt (W) lamp; the enforcement of this ban is effectively pushed back until September. Last-minute Congressional wrangling over implementation of the 100W incandescent phase-out has created murkiness, but the fact is that the availability of the phased-out lamps will be limited to lesser known manufacturers and may be subject to quality and performance issues.

Barring futher Congressional action, 75W incandescent lamps will no longer be sold starting in 2013, and 60 and 40W lamps will follow in 2014. As directed in the U.S. Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, lamps must be at least 30 percent more efficient than their predecessors. It’s a mandate for manufacturers and consequently a mandated choice for consumers. Though consumers may still find 100W incandscent products on the market, they won’t be from the big three major lamp manufactuers and other well-known companies.

Regardless of whether the lamps are officially banned or not, the lighting manufacturers have been hard at work producing replacements for years, and more-efficient products will dominate the shelves at authorized dealers and major retailers. For instance, newer halogen--based incandescent lamps already meet the 30 percent less energy threshold. Exemptions include appliance lamps, colored lights, three-way lamps and 19 other “specialty” lights.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that compliant lamps could save consumers nearly $6 billion by 2015. Upgrading 15 inefficient incandescent lamps in the home could save an estimated $50 per year. Alternatives, such as compact-fluorescent lamps (CFLs), will expend approximately 75 percent less energy than incandescent, while light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been measured to be up to 85 percent more efficient when properly installed.

So why should electrical contractors care? Well, there’s a marketing opportunity here. The electrical contractor can educate the residential consumer as to why the 100W lamp will go away (poor performance) and what is being gained by better performing replacement lamps (same illumination, lower energy). This shift opens the door to a discussion of lowering lighting costs and is an opportunity to upsell to lighting fixtures and devices that offer long-term savings and control.

Instead of watts, get customers comfortable thinking of lamp brightness—how much light a lamp emits (lumen output). This will go a long way in communicating efficiency gains. For example, a lamp that gives you about 1,600 lumens will provide the level of brightness of a 100W lamp and expend no more than 72W.

Create a fact sheet or other primer on the changes in incandescent lamps that shows the energy and dollars saved with today’s replacements. Perhaps compare incandescent, CFLs and LEDs, while factoring in performance, cost, lamp life and dollars saved. The DOE has a ready-made site: www.energysavers.gov.

This year, all lamp packaging must list lumen output, estimated yearly energy cost, life, light appearance (cool to warm) and energy used. It will look similar to nutritional labeling, but instead feature energy performance.

Fluorescent lighting: the other shoe
The DOE is currently looking at efficiency standards for general--service fluorescent lamps (GSFL). First up are amended and tighter conservation standards slated to go into effect in mid-July for manufacturers and importers. Affected tubular fluorescent lighting includes 4-foot medium bi-pin, 2-foot U-shaped, 8-foot slimline, 8-foot (high output), 4-foot miniature bi-pin (standard output), and 4-foot miniature bi-pin (high output). So what disappears? Though they will not be prohibited, T12 fluorescents, in most cases, will not meet the new standards. The ever-popular T8 and T5 lamps will. The chart on this page shows the amended efficacy changes. Color rendering index (CRI) is not affected by the new standards.

Some fluorescent bulbs are exempted: 4-foot medium bi-pin lamps or 2-foot U-shaped lamps rated less than 28W and 8-foot high-output lamps or slimline not defined in ANSI C78. Cold temperature, impact-resistant and other special purpose lamps are excluded, as well. View this as another marketing opportunity; explain these changes to building managers and others.

Energy Star revises its lighting standards
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has made its Energy Star certification program more stringent in 2012. In April, Luminaires V1.1, will replace the Residential Light Fixtures (RLF, V4.2) and Solid-State Lighting Luminaires (SSL, V1.3) specifications. V1.1 updates standards for Energy Star-qualified lighting fixtures. For example, fluorescent lamps will need to increase efficiency 30 percent above past qualified standards. In 2013, performance requirements will increase to 40 percent. The DOE added, “Fixtures will continue to meet other strict performance requirements that ensure quick start-up and high quality light output as well as reduced toxics in the fixture materials.”

Under the new requirements, product performance must be certified by an EPA-recognized third party, based on verification testing in an EPA-recognized laboratory. Fixtures must come with a three-year warranty. More information can be found at www.energystar.gov.

Other federal lighting standards being considered
The DOE has determined it will be analyzing high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps for their energy usage. Outlined in the Federal Register, the DOE states such standards would lead to “a migration from less efficient probe-start metal halide (MH) lamps to more efficient pulse-start MH (PMH) lamps and high-pressure sodium (HPS) lamps.” There has already been an initial comment period. Based on data gathered, the DOE estimates cumulative energy savings over a 30-year analysis period (2017–2046) of at least 11.4 quads—the equivalent to the electricity consumption of 57 million U.S. homes in one year. No immediate deadline for the standard is yet in place and, as such, the directive is “tentative.”

Controls and lighting systems remain a major lighting industry response to achieve even greater efficiency gains beyond lamp advances. The DOE is considering whether federal standards of such products are necessary. Through a current request for information, the DOE is reaching out to the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and others. NEMA, ANSI and other standards do exist. The department says it is “evaluating whether federal test procedures for luminaires/lighting systems could be based on existing industry rating systems and test procedures such as NEMA’s LE 6 rating system and EPA’s Energy Star luminaire specifications.” The DOE may ascertain that mandating nothing more than a standard performance label will suffice.

UL enters the picture
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), through its subsidiary UL Environment Inc., is in the process of developing its own sustainability standard for lighting products with assistance from several lighting stakeholders. The Illinois-based independent, not-for-profit product safety testing and certification organization formed UL Environment in 2009. The subsidiary was created in response to the growing demand for sustainable products. The division offers testing services and sets benchmarks for green products to help manufacturers “maintain transparency and credibility in the marketplace.”

“Sustainability to us is a natural extension of UL’s noted mission to protect human health,” said UL Environment’s Daniel Ryan who serves as Standards Technical Panel chair. “With the growing demand for greater sustainability, the need for comprehensive standards will only increase.”

The technical review panel comprises 31 individuals and will help develop UL Standard 106. The members represent manufacturers, national labs, municipalities, major retailers and others.

“We’d like to develop a 360-degree analysis of a sustainable lighting product’s impact and recognize the leaders in performance,” Ryan said. “While we’ll factor in energy performance, we also want to gauge product end-of-life issues, the degree of sustainability in the manufacturing process, can the bulb be refurbished, and is packaging recyclable?”

Ryan explained that UL product standards in general are based on life-cycle assessment thinking and testing that helps in assigning point values for a particular criterion.

“For luminaires, the ‘use’ stage is by far the largest energy-consuming phase. As such, we’ve assigned over half the points in the current version of the standard to energy conservation features of the lamp and luminaire. We hope to ultimately create an ANSI standard for sustainable lighting.”

The types of bulbs or lighting systems that could fall under UL 106 are still being discussed. An updated proposal for panel review is slated for the first half of 2012.

“Being in the early developments’ stages, the panel is still identifying hurdle issues,” Ryan said. “We do know the objective of this group is to create an aggressive standard that exceeds a minimal sustainability threshold. This will also be consensus-based, which will give the standard added creditability and strength. It is my job to guide our stakeholders to consensus.”

While UL offers photometric testing of lamps and luminaires for commercial and retail purposes in two principal areas: distribution of light and color quality, UL 106 will only deal with efficacy.

“The standards technical panel concluded that designers and ‘specifiers’ of the luminaire will decide on the appropriate trade-off between energy use and color or light quality. We will require labeling of this lamp information,” Ryan said.

UL is now an EPA-recognized laboratory for Energy Star certification, as well.

Ryan shared that UL Environment is considering an initial nonconsensus standard to guide manufacturers as the technical review board works to develop UL106. He sees the possibility of his team addressing installation guidelines, which would be especially helpful for electrical contractors.


GAVIN is the owner of Gavo Communications, a marketing services firm serving the construction,landscaping and related design industries. He can be reached at gavocomm@comcast.net.