Good News on the Greenlighting Front: Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Are Here to Stay

With the passing of the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, energy-efficient light bulbs are the lighting technology of the future. Green light bulbs represent a considerable reduction in electricity consumption as well as incredible savings for the consumer. And best of all, wherever you use eco-friendly light bulbs, you don’t have to sacrifice light quality for all of the benefits.

“Energy efficiency isn’t just low hanging fruit, it’s fruit lying on the ground.” – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, June 26, 2009

In December 2007, then-President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act into law. Among other things, this law opened the door for energy-efficient light bulbs to gain market share in the U.S. However, several commonly used lamp types were exempted under the Act. On June 26 of this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a new set of efficiency standards for General Service Fluorescent Lamps (GSFLs) and Incandescent Reflector Lamps (IRLs). The rules will go into effect in the second half of 2012.

Since these two lamp categories represent 45% of total lighting electricity consumption in the U.S., new energy-efficient light bulb rules are significant. Vast amounts of electricity, and the harmful emissions attributable to its production, will be saved over the decades ahead. This represents good news for the American wallet and the environment we all share. Green light bulbs are here to stay.

Green Light Bulbs for Downlight Fixtures

The rest of this article will focus on the opportunities to save energy with state-of-the-art incandescent reflector bulbs, even before the new efficiency standards go into effect.

The current minimum efficacy (in lumens per watt) standard for PAR20 and PAR30, 120 volt, 75 watt IRLs (established in 1975) is 12.5. The new rules that take effect in 2012 are applicable to the same lamps and increase the minimum efficacy to 16.0 and 18.9 lumens per watt, respectively. This increase in the standard represents a 28% and 51% increase in efficiency, respectively.

Eco-friendly light bulbs, which meet the newly announced 2012 standards, are already on the market (though they’re not easy to find). The savvy reader will suspect that a Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) can easily surpass the new efficacy rules for IRLs. And they’d be correct…CFLs typically produce 40 or more lumens per watt, making them much more energy efficient than the more popular halogen variety. But there’s a catch: the light cast by CFLs and some other green light bulbs, while satisfactory in the home or office, is inferior to halogen light in terms of its ability to crisply render colors and fine details.

A Small Business Case Study: The Merits of Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

A small, green, retail business owner wants to reduce electricity costs and carbon emissions without sacrificing the light quality needed to properly showcase merchandise. In terms of switching to the right energy-efficient light bulbs, what can the owner do now?


  • Single location, green home-goods retailer in central New Hampshire occupying 300 square feet of space
  • 36 recessed cans, mounted on 4 tracks, are used to light the store
  • Fixtures accommodate 3.75″ wide reflector-type bulbs (PAR30, R30 etc.)
  • 28 cans contain green light bulbs (R30 CFLs) using 15 watts each for general lighting
  • 8 cans, mounted in a track which lights an alcove occupied by a paint-chip display for eco-friendly paints, contain PAR30 long neck halogen lamps of 75 watts each (note that these 8 lamps consume 59% of lighting electricity in the store).

Challenge: The owner wants to improve the energy efficiency of the alcove lamps without sacrificing the crisp, flattering light of the halogen lamps currently in use.

Recommendation: Replace 75 watt PAR30 long neck bulbs with 48 watt GE Long Life HIR(TM) PLUS PAR30 long neck lamps. These energy-efficient light bulbs yield output of 850 lumens, 90 lumens less than the existing lamp. The owner found this reduction to be acceptable after testing the new lamps for several days. Baby night light

Good News on the Greenlighting Front: Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Are Here to Stay

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