Pass the Torch

Incandescent reflector lamps. fluorescent magnetic, mercury vapor and probe-start metal halide ballasts—they’ve had a good run, but now it’s time to gracefully retire them. Their competitors are simply too efficient.

Policymakers have been busy passing laws and regulations imposing higher efficiency standards on lighting equipment. The result is the end of lighting technologies that had dominated their categories for decades.

Incandescent reflector lamps: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) regulates 40–100W general-service screw-in incandescent and halogen lamps, as has been widely reported, and reflector lamps through separate rules that took effect in June. Reflector lamps are directional lamps, which are popular in recessed downlights and track lighting. Basically, EISA 2007 will eliminate R, PAR, BPAR, BR (BR30, BR40) and ER (ER30, ER40) lamps greater than 2.25 inches in diameter, including smaller lamps, such as the R20 and PAR20. Notable exemptions include less than 50W BR30, BR40, ER30, ER40; less than 45W R20; and 65W BR30, BR40 and ER40 lamps.

Halogen lamps will pass, offering consumers a step up in terms of efficiency, beam control and service life. Check with manufacturers about substitutions.

Fluorescent ballasts: Due to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), fluorescent magnetic ballasts for operation of F40T12, F96T12 and F96T12HO lamps will no longer be manufactured in the United States, with few exceptions. Between July and October 2009, ballast manufacturers will begin phasing out production of their last models.

On July 1, 2010, fixture manufacturers will stop selling fluorescent fixtures with magnetic ballasts, with few exceptions. Also on this date, ballast manufacturers will stop producing replacement ballasts that don’t pass the efficiency requirements, and the electronic ballast’s victory will be complete after only about two decades of real competition.

Exceptions include ballasts designed for dimming to 50 percent or less of maximum light output; ballasts designed for use with two F96T12HO lamps at ambient temperatures of –20°F and for use in outdoor signs; and ballasts that have a power factor of less than 0.90 and are designed and labeled for use only in residential applications.

Mercury vapor ballasts: EPAct 2005 eliminated the manufacture and import of mercury vapor ballasts in the United States as of Jan. 1, 2008. They are rarely specified, but there still are a large number of these ballasts installed in the country.

While there may be options to lose the ballast but keep the mercury vapor lamp, end-users should be encouraged to look at retrofit options, such as metal halide and ceramic metal halide.

EISA 2007 contains two technical corrections to save specialty mercury vapor systems from elimination.

The first correction defines mercury vapor lamps as containing a screwbase, enabling ballasts to be produced to operate specialty mercury vapor lamps with unique bases. The second is for applications where a standard mercury vapor lamp will be used for a specialty application: The ballast label must declare the product is not to be used for general illumination and then identify its intended specialty application(s).

Probe-start metal halide ballasts: Starting Jan. 1, 2009, EISA 2007 will begin to regulate the efficiency of ballasts in new fixtures containing 150–500W metal halide lamps. Fixtures unable to meet the new standards cannot be made in the United States. Fixtures that comply will have a capital E printed in a circle on their packaging and ballast label. Exceptions include fixtures with regulated lag ballasts, fixtures with electronic ballasts for operation at 480V, and 150W wet-location fixtures containing a ballast rated to operate at ambient temperatures above 50°C.

In a nutshell, probe-start magnetic ballasts for operation of lamps up to 400W will be virtually eliminated from new fixtures, and with them will go most 175–400W probe-start metal halide lamps. Many pulse-start magnetic and most, if not all, pulse-start electronic ballasts comply, taking probe-start’s place as the new standard. Pulse-start technology offers better efficiency, light output, lumen maintenance, color consistency, and startup and restrike times while producing a whiter light.

Because the law covers fixtures, not ballasts, noncompliant ballasts will continue to be sold for spot replacement needs in existing installations.

Incandescent and halogen general-service lamps: EISA 2007 mandates efficiency standards for 40–100W general-service screw-in incandescent and halogen lamps, which will result in today’s offerings virtually being eliminated.

The timing: 100W lamps are affected on Jan. 1, 2012, 75W lamps on Jan. 1, 2013, and 40W and 60W lamps on Jan. 1, 2014.

While today’s products will virtually be eliminated, the oldest lighting technologies may survive if reinvented with a higher efficiency. Meanwhile, energy--saving halogen lamps are available, and more are expected within a few years. The technology of incandescence may not be ready to retire just yet. Instead, it will likely grow more efficient and survive to light another day.

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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