The residential section of the 2009 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), recently published, has a new Section 404, which covers residential lighting.

It’s the first time IECC has covered residential lighting efficiency.

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The entire section reads simply:

“404.1 Lighting equipment (prescriptive). A minimum of 50% of the lamps in permanently installed lighting fixtures shall be high-efficacy lamps.”

In the definitions at the beginning of the code, a “high efficacy lamp” is defined:

“Compact fluorescent lamps, T8 or smaller diameter linear fluorescent lamps, or lamps with a minimum efficacy of: 1) 60 LPW for lamps >40W, 2) 50 LPW for lamps >15W to 40W, and 3) 40 LPW for lamps 15W or less.”

This strangely includes screw-in CFLs in incandescent fixtures, which could theoretically be changed out as soon as the owner moves in. There are several things to worry about with this type of approach, but I’ll leave those aside for now to focus on some big news. The International Code Council (IECC), the organization that creates and maintains the IECC, recently held a meeting and rumor has it they are considering raising this number to 80% for the next version of the code.

CFLs are not universally dimmable and special, more expensive products are needed. Currently, many dimmable CFLs exhibit operating issues on most incandescent dimmers. I put in a dimmable CFL in my house, which is mostly dimming and few CFLs, and it flickered intensely like Dr. Frankenstein’s lab until I dimmed it down to about 40%, when it cut out abruptly and started strobing like a hazard light. Both the dimmer and CFL were from reputable manufacturers with brands you’d recognize at first glance.

Faced with a choice, I kept my dimmer. My energy savings aren’t as big, but I can save 20% (average dimming, according to one study) and I hardly ever change light bulbs because dimming extends incandescent lamp life. My family lives a very “green” lifestyle and we don’t mind being inconvenienced to do so, but we’re not really into compromising the basics. For example, we’re not going to accept bad lighting just as we wouldn’t consider switching to cold showers.

This is why I was so disappointed when GE announced it was stopping work on its high-efficiency incandescent (HEI) project. That leaves the energy-saving version of the Philips Halogena screw-in halogen lamp series as the only incandescent/halogen lamp in compliance with the Energy Independence and Security Act, which begins to become phased into effect in 2012.

GE is shifting its resources to work on LEDs. So has Philips. Incandescents are considered out, and even CFLs are being considered a transitional technology.

I just hope the new LED lamps work on my dimmers. It’s not going to be very green to have everybody rip their dimmers out of their walls and throw them away.

In the meantime, I am hoping ICC will do what lighting designer and code expert Jim Benya encouraged them to do during the public review process for 2009 IECC, which is adopt language similar or identical to California’s Title 24 energy code, which is very simple, effective and flexible.