Beginning in 2012, new federal standards for energy efficiency will usher in an era of improved lighting options for consumers. If we take time now to familiarize ourselves and our customers with the coming changes, we’ll all be more informed shoppers when the new standards go into effect.
The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), signed by President George W. Bush in 2007, requires that light bulbs use less energy beginning this coming January. It’s a common misconception that the Act bans incandescent light bulbs. It actually doesn’t. But the EISA’s minimum efficiency standards are high enough that the incandescent lamps most commonly used by consumers today will not meet the new requirements. So the Act will essentially eliminate most traditional 100-, 75-, 60- and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs between 2012 and 2014.
The good news is this change doesn’t mean consumers need to start stocking up on these old-fashioned bulbs. Instead the new standards have spurred innovation – giving consumers choices that provide better lighting, are more energy efficient and last longer than traditional bulbs. Manufacturers across the country are already producing lighting products that meet the requirements of the new standard. So there’s an increasing number of new lighting options, such as LEDs and halogen-incandescent bulbs, joining the ever-popular compact fluorescents.
Energy efficiency programs such as those offered by NSTAR help promote these new lighting options by providing funding that lowers the retail price for many ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs. These discounts benefit customers every time they purchase qualifying lighting products at home improvement, hardware and other local stores.
Another important change brought about by the EISA will be a focus on comparing bulbs based on light output, or lumens, rather than relying solely on the traditional comparison of electricity use measured in watts. As all bulbs get more energy efficient, comparing lumens will be a much more effective way to decide which bulb is right for a particular application. Simply put – the higher the lumens, the brighter light. That straightforward measurement is an apples-to-apples comparison consumers will warm up to over time.
For more information about the upcoming changes to lighting standards, I encourage you and your customers to visit LumenNow.org or LightingFacts.com. As providers of energy efficiency products and services, it’s incumbent upon all of us to do our part to inform customers about the upcoming changes and explain the benefits of moving toward more efficient lighting options. The success and popularity of the new standards depend on it.
Penni McLean-Conner is vice president of customer care and energy efficiency for NSTAR. From an energy efficiency perspective, she is responsible for delivering a cost-effective portfolio of electric and gas programs to 1.4 million customers. A registered professional engineer, Penni has over 20 years in the utility business and is the author of two books; Customer Service: Utility Style and Energy Efficiency: Principles and Practices.