Valdosta Daily Times

January 26, 2014

Changing the Light Bulbs

Shining light on new lighting

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — You can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten about the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Signed into law by President George W. Bush, the act focused on energy security and energy savings: better fuel economy, increased production of biofuels, methods and strategies to improve energy efficiency in buildings and industry, and most importantly for this article, improving efficiency standards for appliances and lighting.

Title III, Section B of the act calls for a 25 percent increase in the efficiency of light bulbs. That requirement has been phased in over the last few years, with the last phase of it having kicked in Jan. 1. The New Year phased that requirement in for 60- and 40-watt bulbs, essentially banning the manufacture and importing of the common incandescent light bulbs, though not the purchase of those that stores may already have.

It bears noting that it isn’t a literal ban. Incandescent light bulbs with a demonstrable improved efficiency increase of at least 25 percent would be fine; some companies are working on just that.

Certain specialty lights are excepted from these new requirements. Think stage lights, landscape lights, appliance bulbs, or “rough-service” bulbs, the kind built for heavy-duty applications.

“It hasn’t affected us yet,” said Cheryl Howard with Lighting Concepts. “Until that stock is gone, it’s not going to affect people.”

But for, say, the average light in your house, your options are changing.

Not that that’s a bad thing. All three of your light bulb options — improved incandescents and the acronym-happy compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LED) — offer vast improvements over the old incandescents 90 percent heat/10 percent light ratio.

Take your standard 40-watt incandescent bulb producing 450 lumens, a measure of visible light. Improved incandescents, on average, can produce the same amount of light with just 29 watts, a CFL for 10 watts and a LED for five watts. CFLs, LEDs and new incandescents are more expensive, with LED bulbs generally being the most expensive, but as Howard notes, LED prices have been going down every year, and the impact the higher efficiency can have on your electric bill is significant.

“The savings are immediate,” said Frank Johnson, a lighting consultant with EnviroLight. “Just as soon as you plug it in.”

Johnson’s been in the lighting business for years, and if you ask him, he’ll tell you the whole history of how lighting got to where it is today, starting with Edison, moving on to John Ott, a time-lapse photographer and cinematographer who experimented with full-spectrum lighting, all the way to the moment in 2005 when Oprah featured CFLs on her show, sending the market share of CFLs from 2 percent to 20 percent.

Now, the market is changing so fast that Johnson can barely keep track of its changing story.

Johnson advises clients to focus on two things while navigating new light bulbs: the lumens and the kelvins.

While lumens measure the amount of light produced, kelvins measure the color temperature. If you’re after a warmer color, you want a bulb around 2700 kelvins, or 2700K. The higher the kelvins, the cooler the color, with bulbs approaching pure white around 4000K and bluish white at 5000K.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 also calls for even greater bulb efficiency in coming years.