When President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Steven Chu were considering new ways to improve energy efficiency, a light bulb went on in their heads.

Noting that 7 percent of all electricity used in the United States is for lighting, the Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced aggressive actions to promote energy efficiency, propelled in large part by new standards for the lamps most commonly found in resi-dential and commercial buildings.

The standards apply to general service fluorescent lamps (GSFLs) and incandescent reflector lamps (IRLs), which account for about 38 percent and 7 percent of total lighting energy used, respectively. GSFLs are typically found in residential and commercial buildings, while IRLs are commonly used in recessed and track lighting.

At a press conference with Chu, Obama put the new standards into context.

“By bringing more energy-efficient technologies to American homes and businesses, we won’t just significantly reduce our energy de-mand,” he said. “We will put more money back in the pockets of hardworking Americans.”

The standards, which take effect in 2012, call for a 15 percent reduction in the electricity consumed by GSFLs and a 25 percent re-duction in the electricity consumed by IRLs. The new standards will eliminate the need for up to 7.3 gigawatts of new generating ca-pacity by 2042 and drastically reduce carbon emissions. As the president emphasized, they will also save consumers their hard-earned dollars.

Although the new standards are expected to raise the costs to purchase the new, more efficient lamps, the potential savings over the lifetime of the lamps is expected to outweigh the costs. For example, the DOE expects consumers will save up to $8.66 on the costs for electricity to run a GSFL, and $7.95 per lamp for IRL, over the lifetime of the lamps, compared to today’s lamp models.