Guiding Light

The International Code Council (ICC) develops model codes regulating construction of residential and commercial buildings, one of which is the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). Most states have a commercial or residential energy code that is based on some version of the IECC.

Lighting consumes more than 10 percent of electric energy used in homes, yet until now, the IECC has not regulated it. The 2009 IECC adds a lighting provision for home construction that states, “A minimum of 50 percent of the lamps in permanently installed lighting fixtures shall be high-efficacy lamps.” How is “high-efficacy” defined in this IECC provision?

• 60 lumens per watt (W) for lamps over 40W

• 50 lumens per watt for lamps over 15W to 40W

• 40 lumens per watt for lamps of 15W or less

Today, this basically includes fluorescent lamps, such as a T8 or compact fluorescent lamp (CFL); pin-based lamps designed for dedicated sockets; and screw-base lamps that are interchangeable with incandescent lamps. The provision applies to indoor spaces and outdoor facades of all residential buildings, including accessory structures and garages.

Z. Todd Taylor, manager, residential research and development for the Building Energy Codes Program and senior research engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, said there should be minimal, if any, impact on how electrical contractors do their jobs at the outset.

“Unless the builder chooses to use pin-based fixtures, contractors will generally be installing the same fixtures they’re used to, at least in most applications,” he said. “Best of all, there might even be fewer complaints and callbacks regarding overtaxed circuits.”

Taylor added that contractors may see some changes to how lighting is designed, such as fewer or smaller incandescent chandeliers, because of the high number of sockets, and other evidence of tough “budget” choices with lamps. For example, CFLs are not suitable for some applications, such as when controlled by dimmers, and may be suitable but not the best choice for others, such as accent lighting requiring punch.

“Builders need not make radical changes in most cases, either,” Taylor said. “They must simply ensure that half the bulbs installed at the time of occupancy are high-efficacy. CFLs are especially well suited to ceiling-mounted lighting in kitchens, hallways, bedrooms, bathrooms—as long as the lamps are not exposed—and other living areas. Their longer life makes them ideal for high ceilings and other hard-to-reach spots. Porch lights and other outdoor applications work well if diminished light output with low temperatures is acceptable. Note that applications with photocells require ‘fluorescent-rated’ photocells. Reflector CFLs work well for recessed downlighting, provided they have passed elevated temperature life testing.”

However, CFLs are more likely to have performance issues in incandescent fixtures, as these fixtures are compatible with CFLs but designed for optimal operation with incandescent lamps. For this reason, contractors responsible for choosing or recommending products should become familiar with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star labeling program for dedicated (pin-based) CFL fixtures manufactured for homes. They also should look for Energy Star labeling on all CFLs to ensure the lamps installed in the home meet minimum performance standards.

Meanwhile, distributors should prepare by offering ready availability of Energy Star products, dimmable CFLs, CFL reflector lamps, high-efficacy lamps for candelabra mounts and products developed for other specialty applications.

On the commercial side of the model code, lighting power allowances are unchanged from the 2006 version, but otherwise, there are several significant changes that will be the subject of a future column. These include the following:

• Addition of interior daylighting zones, which need to be separately controlled from the general lighting

• Recognition of automatic shutoff controls added to furniture-mounted task lighting as a way to exempt this lighting from being counted in the building’s interior lighting power

• Other exceptions for what is to be included in the interior lighting power

• For line-voltage track lighting and plug-in busway, recognition of wattage of circuit breaker or current-limiting device in addition to wattage of fixtures with a minimum of 30W per linear foot

• Dramatic reductions in additional power allowances for retail display lighting

• Creation of exterior lighting zones

To get a copy of the 2009 IECC, visit the ICC bookstore at For more information about elevated temperature-life testing, visit For more information about Energy Star, visit For information about CFL/dimmer interoperability, visit And for more information about energy codes, visit

DILOUIE, 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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