Energy Star’s Sunset: Why this specification was a success and what’s next

By Craig DiLouie | Mar 15, 2024
Energy Star's Sunset
In March 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would sunset Energy Star specifications for lamps and luminaires effective Dec. 31, 2024. 




In March 2023, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would sunset Energy Star specifications for lamps and luminaires effective Dec. 31, 2024. Lighting requirements for Energy Star ceiling fan and ventilation fans were removed Aug. 1, 2023, though fans with lighting will still be eligible.

Based on industry feedback, specifications for recessed downlights and recessed downlight retrofit kits will continue in an updated form. While the Energy Star mark will disappear from lamps and luminaires, the Federal Trade Commission’s Lighting Facts label will also continue to provide lamp performance, including lumen output, service life, light appearance as the expression of correlated color temperature and more.

Launched in the 1990s, Energy Star is  a voluntary labeling program to identify energy-efficient products for consumers. The program expanded to dozens of product types in addition to homes, commercial buildings and industrial plants. The first lighting specification was in 1997, which promoted compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). Over time, many utility rebate programs required Energy Star certification to qualify energy-efficient lamps for rebate eligibility.

An achievement in lighting

Based on its results, Energy Star could be considered a success story. To earn the Energy Star mark, products had to satisfy rigorous energy and other performance criteria proven through third-party testing. This influenced consumer preferences and product development. Since 1998, EPA estimates that Energy Star certified lamps and luminaires have generated more than a trillion kilowatt-hours of energy savings.

The EPA’s decision to discontinue specification is based on three factors: additional cost-effective efficiency gains are not expected to be realized, government policies set a high standard as a baseline or the market has evolved so high-efficiency products have been widely adopted.

All appear to have been met with LED lighting, another sign the tech has won the revolution and has entered a maturity phase.

In 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) required that 40–100W general-service lamps operate at 25% greater energy efficiency, with some exceptions, which resulted in the phase-out of the majority of incandescent lamps. The market was expected to shift to CFLs, but two surprising things occurred.

First, consumers shifted to halogen general-service lamps. Second, LED lamps entered the consumer market and eventually dominated. 

In the first quarter of 2022, based on member shipments, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association reported that LED A-line lamps accounted for 80% of the consumer lamp market, followed by halogen A-line lamps at 19% and CFLs at less than 1%.

Besides establishing general-service lamp energy standards to be phased in between 2012 and 2014, EISA required the Department of Energy (DOE) to initiate a future rulemaking to determine if general-­service lamp efficacy should be increased, and if it did not do this, a backstop measure would be triggered that required a minimum efficacy of 45 lumens/W by Jan. 1, 2020. And it didn’t prohibit manufacture and import, but the sale of noncompliant lamps.

DOE failed to make its rulemaking, but in 2017, it eliminated the law’s exemptions for rough service lamps, shatter-resistant lamps, three-way incandescent lamps, vibration service lamps, reflector lamps and certain decorative lamps.

The Trump administration withdrew this rulemaking and interpreted the backstop provision of 45 lumens/W as not applying. The Biden administration reinstated the rulemaking, and in April 2022 recognized the backstop, with enforcement beginning in the summer.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, about 1 billion sockets were affected, with the market again expected to shift to LED. Additionally, DOE initiated a rulemaking that would significantly raise the minimum efficiency of general-service lamps. As a result of the backstop being implemented, utility rebate programs began discontinuing their rebates promoting general­-service LED lamps in 2023.

New requirements

Based on industry feedback, the EPA stated that it will continue Energy Star certification for recessed downlights and recessed downlight retrofit kits, determining that significant energy savings were possible. The EPA is developing a new specification with a higher efficacy requirement than currently imposed in the luminaires specification, while respecting existing performance requirements. The EPA indicated that it is working toward completing this specification in time for a seamless transition from the discontinued luminaires specification.

Feedback on the proposed sunsetting included concerns about energy and quality backsliding. The EPA responded that the EISA backstop and the high energy standards currently in development by DOE would address the first. Regarding the second, the EPA stated that while it established performance standards to promote adoption of energy-efficient lamps, the primary purpose of Energy Star is to save energy. There may be an opportunity for an industry organization to take on this role.

Overall, Energy Star arguably made a significant positive impact on the residential lighting market, but its time is passing as the LED revolution cements its place as the predominant light source in homes. / hadeev

About The Author

DiLouie, L.C. is a journalist and educator specializing in the lighting industry. Learn more at and





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