lighting

ENERGY STAR LED Bulbs: The “Bright” Choice

By: Taylor Jantz-Sell

Just like early CFLs, LED technology has its challenges, in particular suffering from limitations affecting brightness and light distribution. The truth is, not all LED lighting is created equal. Bad design can lead to a wide range of problems, some immediately observable and some not. Poorly designed products often come with exaggerated claims, while failing to deliver on quality.

To earn the U.S. EPA’s ENERGY STAR label, LED bulbs must overcome these challenges and demonstrate they can meet consumer expectations, delivering on must-haves like brightness, color quality and the ability to produce light in all directions.

So what does it take for an LED bulb to earn the ENERGY STAR?

  • Light Distribution – If you are looking for an LED bulb to replace a traditional incandescent bulb, for example a 60W, be sure to look for an ENERGY STAR certified “A” type 60W replacement. ENERGY STAR certification on these LED bulbs means they put out the same amount of light (about 800 lumens) and shine light in all directions, just like an incandescent bulb. A non-certified LED ”A” bulb or a “non-standard” type LED bulb may look like your old bulbs but only shine light in a limited range.

LED directionalThe LED bulb on the left shines light directly up, which would make it hard to read a book. The ENERGY STAR LED bulb on the right shines light in every direction, which is what most consumers expect.

  • Color Quality – ENERGY STAR certified LED lighting products have to meet strict color performance measures, proving they can deliver high-quality, consistent color up front and over time. They meet six different color requirements, covering everything from color consistency and uniformity to color fidelity and even a requirement to make sure skin tones and reds appear natural. You can find ENERGY STAR certified lighting in a variety of light colors that meet the mood or look for your space.

LED color

  • Brightness – ENERGY STAR minimum light output requirements ensure you will get the right amount of light for the replacement claim. Light output is measured in lumens, so a bulb needs to produce a minimum of 800 lumens to make a 60W replacement claim. LED lighting products that earn the ENERGY STAR must pass tests to prove they will provide the right amount of light up front and over time. Poorly made LED products won’t provide enough light, and their light output can quickly degrade with time and heat.

And remember, only ENERGY STAR LED bulbs are certified by independent, third parties against a long list of rigorous performance requirements. For more information on ENERGY STAR LED lighting, visit www.energystar.gov/led.

About the author: As lighting program manager for the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program, Ms. Jantz-Sell works with leading manufacturers, retailers and efficiency programs to promote and advance the adoption of ENERGY STAR certified lighting products. Ms. Jantz-Sell leads the development of voluntary performance requirements for energy efficient lighting products and develops education materials and tools to aid consumers in understanding energy efficient lighting.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Gaslight: Beautiful…But Dirty

By Walter Mugdan

In 1792 the Scottish engineer William Murdock pioneered the process of commercial coal gasification – that is, turning the solid lumps of hard, black mineral into gaseous form.  Murdock, a colleague of James Watt (of steam engine fame, not the former U.S. Secretary of Interior), heated coal in the absence of air, converting most of the coal to a gas similar to the natural gas that many of us use today heating and cooking.

Murdock’s purpose was to generate gas that could be used for lighting.  Within a few years gas lighting became common in factories in Britain.  By 1814, gas streetlights were being installed in London, and by 1819 close to 300 miles of pipe had been laid in that city to supply some 51,000 burners.  In 1816, a Murdock licensee, the Baltimore Gas Company, started the first coal gasification operation in America, also primarily for use in lighting.  For many decades, coal gas was the dominant fuel for indoor lighting, and for nearly a century it was dominant for urban street lighting.

More than 1500 gasification plants (known as “manufactured gas plants” or MGPs) operated in the U.S. in the past.  It was expensive to build the pipes and other infrastructure needed to convey the gas to homes and streetlights, so these plants were built in the midst of the densely populated urban areas near where the gas was used; New York City alone had several dozen.  The last MFG plant in New York State closed as recently as 1972.

Gaslight was quite beautiful – even romantic – and, of course, an amazing improvement over candles and oil lamps.  But coal gasification was a very messy business, leaving tarry residues loaded with what we now know to be toxic chemicals.  The coal tar wastes were routinely dumped on the ground.  Because the coal tar never really hardens, it tends to ooze its way down into the ground until it hits some obstruction (like bedrock), and then it moves sideways.  Because MGPs used lots of coal, most were built next to a commercial waterway for ease of delivery.  Consequently, those waterways are now often contaminated by the coal tar.

There are plenty of coal tar sites on the federal Superfund list and comparable state lists of contaminated sites.  In New York alone there are some 300 coal tar sites on the state’s hazardous waste site list.   (Nearly 200 of these have been or are being remediated.)  There were no less than 3 MGPs along the short 2-mile length of the infamous Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, which contributed to contaminant levels in the canal mud that are measured in parts per hundred (rather than the usual parts per million, billion or even trillion).

Coal gas eventually gave way to electricity as a means of producing light; and natural gas replaced coal gas for heating and cooking.  But the mess left behind by the MGPs remains a huge problem, requiring billions of dollars in cleanup costs.

About the Author: Since 2008 Walter has served as Superfund director for U.S. EPA Region 2, managing the region’s toxic waste cleanup, emergency response and brownfields programs.  For the previous six years he was director of the region’s air, water, hazardous waste and environmental review programs.  He joined Region 2 in 1975 as a staff attorney doing air pollution enforcement work.  From 1991 to 2002 he held various supervisory positions in the region’s legal office, culminating as Regional Counsel.  In his private life he heads a small, local conservation group in northeast Queens.  He enjoys bicycling, kayaking and hiking; and since 2010 he has been moonlighting as an Executive Producer (read: source of funding) for his daughter’s nascent career as an independent film maker.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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LightFair 2012: The Future of Lighting is Bright and Lighter on the Planet

LightFair

Taylor Jantz-Sell and Tanya Hernandez

By: Taylor Jantz-Sell

When I started working for ENERGY STAR five years ago, I had no idea I’d turn into the lighting nerd I am today. You know you’ve turned when you start evaluating the lighting wherever you go.  Back then, CFLs were just getting past all the early hurdles, and LEDs seemed far off.  Fast forward a few years, and it is amazing how things have improved. While CFLs have always been a no-brainer for efficiency, they weren’t always meeting people’s expectations. Now, with improved starting, appearance, and a selection of dimming models, there is an ENERGY STAR certified CFL to meet almost every need. And what was once the expensive and far-off possibility of LED lighting is now becoming a viable option for general purpose lighting needs. LED light bulb efficiency is on track to surpass CFLs, and with the help of ENERGY STAR, performance and quality have come a long way. Even as improvements are made, cost is dropping.

Every spring, I attend LightFair International– the premier lighting convention in the U.S. — where the latest and greatest in lighting is announced and displayed (and probably one of the few shows where people wear sunglasses indoors). I just returned from this year’s conference, and it is clear that LED lighting is the future.

I remember the first year that LED lighting really showed up at LightFair back in 2010. That year, everyone had to have some kind of LED product on display; I can only imagine the mad rush of manufacturing prototypes in preparation for the show. If you didn’t have “LED” in your booth at Light Fair you were surely to be left behind. Two years later it’s hard to find products at the show that aren’t LED. The exciting thing is that it’s not just a cool new lighting technology; it’s a cool new technology that can really take a bite out of our energy use.

Lighting accounts for 12-30 percent of energy use in the U.S. To put this into perspective, in a home that 12 percent is more energy than your refrigerator, dishwasher, and clothes washer uses combined! In a commercial building, that 30 percent is on par with what the air conditioning system uses.

What is really exciting is that ENERGY STAR has had a major impact on this market. Meeting ENERGY STAR performance and quality requirements is top of mind for anyone developing a new lighting product. What came across throughout the show was loud and clear: ENERGY STAR has set the bar for high quality, LED light bulbs and fixtures. It’s nice to see that ENERGY STAR is leading us all into a brighter future with advanced lighting that is “light” on environmental impact.

Taylor Jantz-Sell has supported ENERGY STAR lighting in various roles over the years, from working on the Change a Light Campaign, to product qualification, marketing, utility program support and consumer education. If you want to geek out on lighting she’s always up for it.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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