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

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.

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