Incandescent Misconception

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 created new efficiency standards for 40–100-watt (W) incandescent general-service lamps, along with an uproar.

As of Jan. 1, 2012, 100W lamps must be 30 percent more efficient, or they will be prohibited from manufacture or import. Jan. 1, 2013 is the deadline for 75W lamps; and Jan. 1, 2014 targets 40 and 60W lamps. California is already starting to implement these rules.

The result is the virtual elimination of today’s incandescent lamps, putting millions of empty sockets up for grabs, with some notable exceptions.

The popular belief is that the government is banning the bulb and forcing people to use compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). As a result of this misconception, the House of Representatives voted on a repeal of this provision in July but it failed to gain the necessary support (see Industry Watch, Electrical Contractor, August 2011).

In fact, the incandescent lamp has not been banned. It simply has to become more efficient. Manufacturers are responding with products that provide nearly equivalent performance but with higher efficiency, which is good for consumers and the environment.

Consumers will have more choices of good lighting, and education and labeling will help them make informed choices. First, let’s look at incandescent lamps.

From the day the act was passed, one lamp type already complied: Philips Halogená Energy Saver lamps, produced in 40–70W models to replace 60–100W incandescents for about 30 percent energy savings and nearly 10 percent less light output. They have a similar form factor, dim easily on line-voltage dimmers, offer a color-rendering index (CRI) of 100, and are rated at 3,000 hours.

Some companies also explored high-efficiency incandescent technology but eventually abandoned the concept. Instead, manufacturers began to introduce their own halogen screw-in lamps. Examples include Sylvania’s Halogen SuperSaver, GE’s and Bulbrite’s A19 lamps, and TCP’s Sustainabulb, a modular bulb with a replaceable internal halogen lamp.

What about self-ballasted CFLs, which offer comparable light output for a fraction of the energy cost? Adoption skyrocketed in the mid-2000s from about 5 percent of the bulb market to about 25 percent today. Some manufacturers are now working on producing CFLs with more incandescent-like performance, size and features.

GE’s Energy Smart 15W CFL, for example, offers the same shape, size and aesthetic as an incandescent A19 or A21 lamp. The GE Reveal AllGlass CFL features an all-glass outer bulb, incorporating a phosphor that enhances red and green. Another GE hybrid bulb consists of a halogen capsule surrounded by a fluorescent swirl and enclosed in an envelope with an incandescent shape. The halogen lamp turns on instantly and then off once the CFL reaches full brightness.

Another example is TCP’s TruDim CFLs, which use an electronic chip to replace a standard circuit board, enabling the lamp to start quickly and dim to 2 percent without flicker, according to the company. Another TCP CFL, TruStart, features a shorter run-up time and a programmed-start ballast that enables a rated life of 20,000 hours.

Many manufacturers are already looking beyond CFLs to light-emitting diodes (LEDs). In Department of Energy CALiPER product testing, omnidirectional LED replacement lamps have demonstrated viable alternatives to incandescents up to 40W. This year, many 60W incandescent replacements will be available from a range of manufacturers, including Philips EnduraLED, Sylvania A-LED, a Cree 60W replacement, Lighting Science Group Definity A19, and Switch Lighting’s Switch60. Philips Lighting and Switch Lighting recently announced 75W replacements.

As LED is still a young technology, buyer beware. Test products in the intended application before a major commitment, and favor LED and CFL products carrying the Energy Star mark, which ensures equivalent performance with a higher efficiency. Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission is implementing new packaging labeling rules, which will help consumers compare and make lighting buying decisions based on more than just watts, emphasizing light output as the primary metric.

While halogen has saved the incandescent lamp, the 2009 version of the International Energy Conservation Code, adopted as a residential energy code in 19 states at the time of writing, requires at least 50 percent of lamps in permanently installed lighting fixtures to be high efficacy. That means 60 lumens per watt (LPW) for lamps larger than 40W; no incandescent/halogen lamp complies. What’s more, the Energy Act of 2007 states that, if Congress does not increase efficacy requirements for incandescents above 45 LPW by 2020, that restriction automatically becomes law by default.

Incandescent’s days may be numbered, but those numbers will likely not be 2012, 2013 and 2014. Instead, consumers will enjoy a high degree of choice over what to put in their incandescent sockets for years to come.

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

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