Legislation + Regulation

Efficiency Laws Are Retiring Lighting’s Workhorses

Incandescent general-service and reflector lamps, and fluorescent magnetic, mercury vapor and probe-start metal halide ballasts, are being targeted by efficiency legislation. As a result, some of lighting’s most venerable workhorses are being retired. Their new competitors are simply too efficient and better performing.

Light Bulb Crash

The electronic ballast’s rapid rise to dominance of the fluorescent ballast market, for example, will be complete starting in 2010. With passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct 2005), ballast manufacturers will begin phasing out production of their last magnetic ballast models starting July 2009.

Then on July 1, 2010, luminaire manufacturers will stop selling fluorescent luminaires with magnetic ballasts—with a few exceptions—and ballast manufacturers will stop producing replacement ballasts that don’t pass the efficiency requirements.

In the high-intensity discharge (HID) family, mercury vapor and probe-start metal halide ballasts are being targeted.

Mercury vapor isn’t specified very often anymore, but still has a large installed base. EPAct 2005 eliminated manufacture and import of these ballasts as of January 1, 2008. While there may be options to lose the ballast but keep the mercury lamp, owners of installed systems should be encouraged to consider upgrading their lighting to other sources such as metal halide. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) contains technical corrections to EPAct 2005 enabling specialty ballasts.

Starting January 1, 2009, EISA 2007 enacts regulation of the efficiency of ballasts in new luminaires containing 150-500W metal halide lamps, with some exceptions; compliant luminaires will bear a capital “E” printed in a circle on their packaging and ballast label. In a nutshell, probe-start magnetic ballasts for operation of lamps up to 400W will be virtually eliminated from new luminaires and, with them, most 175-400W probe-start metal halide lamps. Alternatives include fluorescent and pulse-start metal halide luminaires, which in almost all respects are more efficient and better performing.

EISA 2007 also took aim at the iconic incandescent lamp with efficiency standards targeting reflector lamps in June 2008 and general-service lamps starting in January 2012.

Regarding reflector lamps, there are notable exceptions, but most incandescent reflector lamps have been phased out. Demand is expected to shift to halogen, which does comply; check with manufacturers about substitutions.

Regarding general-service screw-in incandescent and halogen lamps, today’s offerings will be virtually eliminated—100W lamps starting January 1, 2012, 75W lamps starting in 2013, and 40W and 60W lamps starting in 2014. However, this oldest of lighting technologies may survive if it can be reinvented with a higher efficiency, although this seems doubtful since GE recently announced that it was giving up on its high-efficiency incandescent (HEI) lamp. Meanwhile, energy-saving halogen bulbs are available and more are expected within the next few years.

Of these efficiency regulations, almost all of them target technology that, in some cases, is so obsolete it’s surprising the market hasn’t finished them off on its own. For example, probe-start luminaires were being installed in new buildings that were immediately ripe for retrofit to fluorescent luminaires for up to 50% energy savings. For almost all of the targeted technologies, highly efficient and better-performing substitutes are available. The exception is the general-service incandescent lamp: The compact fluorescent still has some performance issues, such as the fact that dimmable models exhibit problems while dimming on line-voltage dimmers, and it simply isn’t suitable for all incandescent applications. Let’s hope tomorrow’s LEDs can do better.

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.


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