Big Sockets to Fill

On July 14, 2012, Department of Energy (DOE) standards covering many popular incandescent reflector lamps will take effect, eliminating a majority of lamps from the market in favor of more efficient, higher cost alternatives. Demand is expected to shift to infrared-reflecting (IR) halogen reflector lamps, which provide similar performance for less energy, and light-emitting diode (LED) directional replacement lamps.

The road to this phase-out is long. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 began regulating reflector lamps. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 imposed stricter energy standards on a broader range of lamps, including R, PAR, BPAR, BR (BR30, BR40), and ER (ER30, ER40) lamps. Several popular lamps were eliminated, including the 50-watt (W) and 75W R20, 85W BR30, and 120W BR40.

In 2009, the DOE announced energy standards covering 40–205W PAR30, PAR38, BR30, ER30, BR40 and ER40 lamps with a diameter larger than 2 inches, 120-volt (V) or 130V, and standard or modified color output, as well as <2-inch R20 and PAR20 lamps. These standards will eliminate today’s standard halogen PAR lamps in favor of more-efficient alternatives, such as IR halogen technology.

Some notable exceptions are expected to remain in effect until at least Dec. 31, 2014, including <50W ER30, BR30, BR40 and ER40; 65W BR30, BR40 and ER40; and <45W R20 lamps. These lamps, particularly 65W BR30 and BR40 lamps, are popular in residential recessed accent and downlighting applications.

Colored lamps, lamps designated for rough or vibration service applications, and other specialty lamps also are exempt; these exemptions will remain in effect beyond 2014.

While some owners will switch to exempt incandescent substitutes, most are expected to upgrade to more efficient alternatives, including IR halogen reflectors, ceramic metal halide (CMH) reflectors, directional LED and compact fluorescent reflector lamps (CFL).

IR halogen lamps contain a capsule with a metallic coating that allows visible light to pass through while reflecting/recycling infrared output back to the filament, enabling the lamp to reach its required temperature using less electric energy. This process can be used to increase efficiency, service life or a combination of the two.

Compared to standard halogen, IR halogen can produce similar light output for 20–30 percent less energy; only today’s more efficient IR lamps comply with the DOE standards. A 55W IR PAR30 short neck lamp, for example, can replace a 75W halogen PAR30S, resulting in 20W of savings; an 83W IR PAR38 lamp can replace a 120W halogen PAR for 37W savings, etc. GE, Philips and Sylvania offer IR halogen lamps in PAR20, PAR30 and PAR38 sizes under the designations HIR (GE), IRC (Philips) and IR (Sylvania).

This lamp type is expected to be the new baseline because it most closely matches the performance of existing lamps, delivering high-quality color output (color rendering index, or CRI, rating of 98–100), tight beam control (allowing focused illumination of an object with no spill light onto its surroundings), good modeling, and good lumen maintenance (>80 percent at end of life). Halogen is preferred for retail and similar applications. Additionally, while it costs more than standard halogen, it is the lowest cost option for compliance.

LEDs, CMH lamps and CFLs are other contenders though few owners are expected to switch to CMH lamps or CFLs. CMH technology offers higher efficiency than halogen but is not dimmable and has an initial cost similar to LEDs. CFLs are suitable only for very wide flood distribution, do not dim easily and have a lower color quality.

Instead, manufacturers are promoting LED alternatives. As inherently directional sources, LEDs are ideally suited to applications such as accent and downlighting. Independent product testing by the DOE demonstrates that LED PAR30 and PAR38 lamps are more efficacious than IR halogen, providing similar performance with certain halogen wattages, while using 70–80 percent less energy.

As the LED is still a young technology, electrical contractors in a position of selecting products should take steps to avoid poor performance. Look for products with the Lighting Facts label, which provides at-a-glance performance data based on verified testing, and the Energy Star mark, which provides assurance that the product performs similarly to the product it is intended to replace, while saving energy. Verify the lamp is compatible with the specific selected dimmer. Consider a mock installation to verify desired intensity and color.

Next month, legislation will put millions of incandescent reflector lamp sockets up for grabs for technologies that can comply with tough energy standards. Ultimately, the right choice of lamp to fill these sockets will depend on the definition of value for the given application, taking into account the relative importance of color quality, beam spread and control, dimmability and ease of dimming, service life and initial cost.

DILOUIE, L.C., a lighting industry journalist, analyst and marketing consultant, is principal of ZING Communications. He can be reached at

About the Author

Craig DiLouie

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

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