Options for Meeting the Lighting Requirements of the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence Act of 2007|
Article- September 2011 By Larson Electronics.com
Larson Electronics Hazardous Area LED Light Class 1, Div,2 Groups A-D
Due to new regulations contained within the 2005 Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence Act of 2007, new energy efficiency standards for lighting are now beginning to be enacted and the effects felt by consumers. Started in 2010 and continuing through 2014, new standards are being put in place which have a direct effect on the types of lighting that will be available to both the public and commercial markets, and which have led to a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding. Perhaps the most commonly stated myth arising from these new standards is that the typical incandescent light bulb is being banned in the United States. Although an attractive notion for those inclined to chafe at the idea of federal intrusion into their lives, the fact is that there is no banning taking place, just an increase in the level of efficiency that light bulbs must meet in order to be acceptable for sale and use.
These efficiency standards apply to more than just incandescent bulbs and will have an impact on all forms of lighting. As a result, it’s important that consumers begin looking ahead and planning a change to the more efficient lighting types that will soon be taking the place of less efficient forms that cannot meet the new standards. LEDs, high efficiency halogens, compact fluorescent, high output fluorescent tubes and electronically controlled fluorescent ballasts will soon represent the largest and most effective lighting options, and if chosen wisely, can in fact help consumers not only avoid added upgrading expenses, but help them achieve a net savings in the long run as well.
The lighting types most affected by the new energy efficiency standards are the incandescent bulb and fluorescent tubes. The incandescent bulb has proven very difficult to improve upon because by its very nature it relies on the properties of electrical resistance, which in turn creates a great deal of heat, which represents wasted energy. Incandescent bulbs from the 40 watt to the over 200 watt types will not be able to meet the new standards and so will no longer be legal for importation or sale in the United States. Existing stockpiles will remain available for sale and used for some time until they are depleted, but there will be no resupply afterwards. Because of this, expect the price for these bulbs to increase as demand increases and supplies run short or run out entirely.
Fluorescent lamps are a bit trickier, but the change to higher efficiency standards will be noticed the most by commercial and industrial consumers since the models affected are most commonly used in those sectors, and exemptions exist for household applications. Two to eight foot long T12 fluorescent tubes, the T12 U-tubes, and T12-f34 tubes that acted as replacements for the already discontinued f40-T12 fluorescent tubes are directly affected and are either gone or will soon no longer be available. The F34-T12 is still available, but as of July 1st 2012, the regulations fully affecting these T12 fluorescents will take effect, meaning its time is nearing and it will soon be phased out.
Single pin T8 fluorescents known as slimline bulbs that have a low color rendering index or low efficiency rating, and T8 lamps with a color rendering index below 70 will disappear as well. Additionally, the magnetic ballasts associated with fluorescent lamps are already in heavy decline due to the emergence of the electronic ballast and will also cease to be available. Just as with the incandescent bulb, expect an increase in prices and reduced availability as stockpiles dwindle and production ceases.
In the instances of incandescent and fluorescent bulbs there are a wide variety of exemptions. For incandescent lamps, specialty applications such as appliance bulbs, three way and decorative bulbs, and medical incandescent bulbs will be exempted from the new standards to varying degrees. For fluorescent fixtures using magnetic ballasts, exemptions include but are not limited to; T12 units that can dim the lamps to 50 percent or less of their full output, 8 foot-two lamp-high output T12s used for commercial advertising or signage, and magnetic ballasts labeled for residential applications that have a power factor below .90.
The options for replacing the T12 fluorescent lamp are widely varied and include newer lighting technology such as LEDs that has been very successfully adapted to applications once requiring fluorescent tubes. T8 and T5 fluorescent lamps will make up the bulk of available fluorescent lighting options due to their being 30-40% more efficient than T12 bulbs, and manufacturers will be concentrating most new development and manufacturing on these two types. It is also important to note that although there are many states offering incentives and programs to assist with offsetting costs associated with upgrading from T12 to more efficient lighting systems, these programs are limited time offers, with some lasting no longer than the end of 2012 when most new efficiency standards will have taken effect.
Lest all of this sound unappealing and more trouble that it is worth, it is important to note that not only will the upgrading to more efficient forms of lighting reduce the overall rate of energy consumption in the United States, but it will also result in businesses and commercial operations that make a full upgrade realizing an up to 50% or higher reduction in their own energy consumption, with an accompanying reduction in utility costs. In other words, the switch to these newer lighting standards will save everyone, from the average consumer to the industrial business, a significant amount of money on their electrical bills.
Some lighting companies are offering even greater savings through innovative offerings that take advantage of the higher efficiency of LEDs and apply them to fluorescent style lighting fixtures. Fluorescent light fixtures equipped with LED tube lamps offer even higher energy efficiency than fluorescent tubes, operational lives up to over 3 times as long, are lighter, and produce a better light color quality. Commercial fixtures like Larson Electronicss’ HAL-48-6L-LED Hazardous Area LED Light offer all the best traits of traditional fluorescent fixtures, as well as improvements in efficiency, operational life, and practical application. LED equipped fluorescent style fixtures have no ballast, so there is no additional cost associated with ballast failures, the LEDs last up to 5 times longer than fluorescent lamps, and the light quality is more uniform and better directed to the places it is needed most.
Yet another option is to simply switch the fluorescent tubes in an existing fixture with LED tubes. Although this requires some minor alteration of the fixtures’ wiring in order to bypass the ballast, the result is an LED fixture without the expense of replacing an entire unit. Regardless of the route you plan to take, the fact remains that the common f40 and f32 T12 lamps are either already gone or on their way out.
The most practical approach for most consumers is going to be to take advantage of incentives and rebates while they exist, and upgrade to the most efficient fixtures available in order to reap the greatest returns in costs and savings.