Energy + Environment, Lighting Design

Illuminate Editorial: “Change Has Arrived”

Big changes are in the works that will impact future lighting designs by eliminating some of the least-efficient and lowest-cost products from the market, while establishing ambitious new goals for energy codes that may severely limit design choices.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 expanded ballast regulations put into effect by the Department of Energy in 2002. By July of next year—with few exceptions—ballast makers will be prohibited from manufacturing magnetic ballasts for full-wattage and energy-saving 4- and 8-ft. T12 lamps in new luminaires or even for replacement purposes.

The magnetic ballast will basically be eliminated. And now, with the introduction of new DOE regulations that take effect July 14, 2012, so will the T12 lamps they operate.

The new DOE rules expand upon efficiency rules established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 by strengthening standards for covered lamp types while also covering 8-ft. T8 lamps, 4-ft. T5 lamps and more wattages of 4-ft. T8 and T12 lamps. The net result is a majority of 4-ft. linear and 2-ft. U-shaped T12 lamps, many 8-ft. T12 and T12HO, and some lower-color-rendering 4-ft. T8 lamps will be eliminated, with some exemptions. While no longer popular in new construction, an estimated 30% of fluorescent 4-ft. lamps sold each year are T12s.

The incandescent lamp is still on the ropes after the Energy Independence and Security Act targeted 40-100W incandescents with new efficiency standards that take effect 2012-2014, with the market expected to shift to compact fluorescent. Meanwhile, new DOE energy standards for incandescent reflector lamps, building on the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, will eliminate many 40-205W R, PAR, BR, ER and BPAR Lamps with a diameter larger than 2.5 in., with only some HIR lamps complying.

In the HID family, mercury vapor and probe-start metal halide lamps have already been impacted. On January 1, 2009, federal law began eliminating probe-start lamps from new 150-500W metal halide luminaires, with the market shifting to compliant pulse-start lamps. A year before that, on January 1, 2008, manufacture of most mercury vapor ballasts was outlawed.

And more change is coming with the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. As of the time of writing in early September, the Senate and House of Representatives had begun final reconciliation on a final bill to send to the White House. This bill has been highly publicized because of its cap and trade program for carbon emissions. This program will require high-carbon-emitting power plants to purchase offsets, which will increase the cost of electricity in some regions of the country and in turn encourage more-efficient design in buildings.

The Act identifies certain types of outdoor and portable lighting and mandates minimum energy standards. But another provision that will have an enormous potential impact on design is a requirement for DOE to recognize new national commercial and residential energy code standards that achieve at least 30% energy savings over ASHRAE 90.1-2004 (commercial) and IECC 2006 (residential), starting with the next iteration of these standards. Then, by January 1, 2014, for residential buildings, and January 1, 2015, for commercial buildings, a target of 50% energy savings must be achieved. From January 1, 2017, for residential buildings, and January 1, 2018, for commercial buildings, additional savings of 5% must be achieved every three years until 2029 and 2030, respectively.

That energy is going to have to come from somewhere, either technology—such as lighting controls and LED—or design. In the near term, lighting design will only become more challenging. In the long term, if technology does not deliver required energy savings, energy codes may increasingly dictate design choices. There is an opportunity here to have a conversation about lighting, but who will speak up for good lighting in public policy? Something that is not required by any legislation, but necessary for productivity, sales, architecture and so on? For most people, some 80% of their impressions of the world around them are visual. Light makes sight, but lighting shapes perception.

There’s a lot at stake. Energy conservation has good advocacy in public policy and it should. But so should good lighting.

  • Peggy Deras, CKD, CID December 8, 2009, 10:26 PM

    Looks like I’m going to be going through my files and calling all those folks with kitchens I designed with ceiling troffers and over-cabinet lighting. Lots of T12s up there.


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