By Taylor Jantz-Sell, Energy Star Lighting Program Manager
Today, there are four billion light bulb sockets in the U.S., and more than three billion of them still use the standard incandescent technology that was created over 125 years ago. With new legislation and rapid advancements in technology, the available lighting options have changed so fast that many consumers are unaware of the savings they could see by switching to more efficient options. New Energy Star specifications make it easier than ever for consumers to identify the most efficient, highest performing lighting options. By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with Energy Star-certified lighting, you can save $70 each year. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, and since 1992 has helped Americans save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices.
Lighting showrooms have a unique opportunity to shed some light and dispel any confusion by promoting lighting products that have earned the Energy Star. If every American home replaced their five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ones that have earned the Energy Star, we would save $8 billion each year in energy costs and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 10 million cars.
Lighting showrooms are a valuable resource in promoting efficient lighting because they are so well-positioned to help consumers make the best choices. Big box retailers sell everything and that means they can’t always offer expertise in lighting. Lighting showrooms have highly trained sales staff to help explain the lighting choices and the benefits of Energy Star lighting. To a well-informed customer, Energy Star lighting’s advantages are clear: it uses at least 75-percent less energy than traditional lighting, lasts longer, has been tested to meet high-quality and performance standards, is certified by a third party, and even comes with a warranty that exceeds any product in the electronics industry.
Despite the benefits, confusion remains about the advantages of the new technologies, particularly compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Some consumers may have tried CFLs a long time ago and had a disappointing experience, but the technology has come a long way in the last 20 years. Today’s Energy Star-certified CFLs are small, quick to light up, efficient, produce better light, and are available in a variety of sizes, shapes and shades of light. Some even work on dimmers or three-way switches. Compared to incandescent light bulbs, Energy Star-certified CFLs use about one-quarter of the energy to produce the same amount of light and last about 10 times longer, allowing consumers to save more than $40 over the life of the bulb. To earn the Energy Star, these strict efficiency and performance requirements are backed by manufacturer warranties.
Another new lighting option for consumers is light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs have been efficient and long-lasting as indicator lights in electronics for years, but using LEDs to create stable white light for general lighting is new and very promising. The key to success is smart design. To qualify for Energy Star, LED lighting products must pass a variety of tests to prove that the products will display the following characteristics:
- Brightness is equal to or greater than existing lighting technologies (incandescent or fluorescent).
- Light output remains constant over time, only decreasing towards the end of the rated lifetime (at least 25,000 hours or 22 years based on use of 3 hours per day).
- Excellent color quality. The shade of white light appears clear and consistent over time.
- Efficiency is as good as or better than fluorescent lighting.
- Light comes on instantly when turned on.
Bad LED design can lead to a wide range of problems, some immediately observable and some not. Poorly designed products often come with exaggerated claims while failing to deliver on the quality specifications above. Choose Energy Star-certified LED fixtures and bulbs to ensure the products you purchase perform well.
In addition to promoting Energy Star-certified products, lighting showrooms can educate consumers on the impact of recent lighting legislation. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (the “Energy Bill”) is an energy policy intended to make better use of our resources and help the United States become energy independent. Under the new law, screw-based light bulbs will use fewer watts for a similar light output, as measured in lumens. Efficient products mean cost savings. The new standards mean U.S. households collectively could save nearly $6 billion in 2015 alone, as estimated by U.S. Department of Energy. Another benefit of using more efficient light bulbs includes reductions of harmful emissions of air toxics and carbon pollution associated with conventional electricity, helping to better protect people’s health and our environment. It’s an easy, achievable step toward reducing our carbon footprint.
For the consumer browsing the showroom, the biggest effect of the new law is a shift of focus from watts to lumens when shopping for light bulbs. Lumens tell you how much light a bulb will provide; watts only tell you how much power it uses. For bright lighting, consumers should look for a greater number of lumens; for a dimmer light they should look for fewer lumens. To make it easier to compare light bulbs, the Federal Trade Commission has designed a new label that will provide information about lumens (brightness), estimated annual operating cost, how long the bulb should last and light appearance. This last characteristic, light appearance, will help the consumers find the color of light they find most appealing, ranging from warm yellowish to cool white.
There are many ways small retailers can promote energy efficiency year round. Retailers can share EPA tools for choosing a bulb on their Web site. EPA also offers online training materials and resources for lighting showrooms. EPA helps too, by sharing best practices and ways to highlight Energy Star products, such as hang tags, informational graphics, training materials, savings figures, and help with educational displays.
Lighting showrooms have the opportunity to show customers first-hand that they don’t have to make a sacrifice when choosing Energy Star qualified lighting products, showcasing the variety of great Energy Star lighting products for all of their home lighting needs. Lighting showrooms have the opportunity to teach people about the benefits of more efficient technology and provide a superior customized shopping experience. In a time where choosing a light bulb requires research and investment, lighting showrooms can make the process easy, and make sure their customers have a successful experience with new technology that will save them money without sacrificing performance.
Resources For Lighting Showrooms
- More on training: www.energystar.gov/training
- More on lighting: www.energystar.gov/lighting
- More on lumens: www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls_lumens
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