Let There Be Light, and Make Sure It Is Energy Efficient

08 Mar

Since the late 1800s, consumers have relied on standard incandescent light bulbs to illuminate homes and businesses at the flick of a switch, but this is about to change.

Due to provisions of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, also known as the Clean Energy Act of 2007, incandescent light bulbs will be phased out and replaced by more energy-efficient lighting, including halogen, compact fluorescent, or CFL, and light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs.

General Electric Co., the last U.S. based manufacturer of incandescent light bulbs, closed its plant at the end of 2010.

According to GE, the Clean Energy Act requires that between 2012 and 2014, standard A-line 40- and 100-watt incandescent light bulbs must use 30 percent less energy, but produce the same light output as today’s incandescent bulb.

While consumers won’t be required to throw out existing bulbs, according to GE, “you may be surprised when trying to find the same replacements at the store. After 2012, you’ll find that these bulbs will have to be replaced with energy-efficient options, such as halogen, CFL and LED light bulbs.”

Richard Wilkins, operations manager for Ulster Electric in Poughkeepsie and Kingston, said that lighting technology is changing every day in an effort to meet demands for energy efficiency.

“There’s always something new coming out,” he said. “Lighting technology is going to change within the next 10 to 15 years,” he said.

LED lighting, for example, is currently somewhat expensive to purchase but is expected to come down in price, Wilkins said.

“LED lighting offers better light output with less wattage,” he said.

CFL bulbs, Wilkins said, draw a lot less energy but are more expensive to purchase than incandescent bulbs.

New construction projects benefit from tax incentives when installing energy-efficient lighting, Wilkins said.

“Architects are seeing rebates for using energy-efficient products in new construction, including commercial projects,” he said.

According to the United States Department of Energy, artificial lighting consumes “almost 15 percent of a household’s electricity use.”

Use of more efficient lighting technologies, according to the DOE, can reduce lighting energy use in homes by up to 75 percent.

The DOE’s EnergyStar website notes that one CFL bulb can save homeowners more than $40 in electricity costs over its lifetime.

CFLs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer.

Consumers have been slow to warm up to CFL lighting due to factors such as a yellowish lighting tint, a slow warm-up time and traces of mercury in the bulb, according to a recent article in USA Today.

Manufacturers are addressing concerns by producing bulbs that use less mercury and produce brighter light.

With LED lights, according to the DOE, small light sources become illuminated by the movement of electrons through a semiconductor material.

LED lighting is more efficient, durable, versatile and longer lasting than incandescent and fluorescents lighting.

LEDs emit light in a specific direction, whereas an incandescent or fluorescent bulb emits light — and heat — in all directions.

LED lighting uses both light and energy more efficiently, according to the DOE.

A benefit of LED lights is that they turn on immediately, as opposed to CFL lights that take a moment to illuminate.

The American Lighting Association recommends CFL bulbs as lighting for laundry rooms, storage rooms, kitchen and baths.

LEDs, according to the association, are very efficient light sources for a growing number of applications, such as under-cabinet lighting, task lighting and outdoor step lights.

For tasks such as reading, however, the association recommends that incandescent bulbs are often still the best choice because of their brightness.

To be as energy-efficient as possible, the association recommends using halogen incandescent bulbs instead of standard bulbs.

Halogen lights are more expensive to purchase than incandescent bulbs, according to the DOE, but are less expensive to operate because of their higher effectiveness.

They are commonly used in reflectors such as indoor and outdoor flood lighting, indoor recessed and track fixtures, and floor and desk lamps.

Unlike many CFL bulbs, some halogen lamps are dimmable, and are compatible with timers and other lighting controls.

According to GE, “Halogen lamps provide a small, white light source with excellent color rendering. Unlike standard incandescent lamps, halogen lamps use a halogen gas that allows the bulbs to burn longer without sacrificing light output.”

As living green becomes more ingrained in our lives, LEDS will continue to light the way, said Jeff Dross, senior product manager of Kichler Lighting, who will introduce several new under-cabinet systems and landscape products with an ultra-efficient technology next year.

LED lighting, in addition to halogen and CFLs, offers energy conscious options to replace the incandescent bulb.



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