This article was originally published in the September/October 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online September/October 1997
Protect the Environment with a Flick of the Switch
The Energy Star residential light fixtures program was launched in March 1997, and the first labeled products reached the market at the end of June. The program is designed to promote the use of dedicated energy-efficient fluorescent fixtures. Such fixtures do not require the ballast to be replaced when the light burns out--you just replace the pin-based bulb.
The EPA targeted residential lighting because of the large efficiency potential offered in a market where technology has not changed significantly for generations. Studies have shown that 25% of a typical home's fixtures account for 75% of lighting energy (see Shedding Light on Home Lighting Use, HE Jan/Feb '97, p. 15). By introducing energy-efficient fixtures in these high-use applications, Americans could save 70 billion kWh annually and lower their monthly energy bills.
The lighting specifications went beyond identifying efficiency standards. They also targeted consumer barriers that have slowed penetration of efficient residential lighting. For example, they require that indoor models start immediately and operate without the low-level hum typical of older fluorescent fixtures. Portable models above 22 watts of input power feature dimming or multiple switching (off/low/ high) capabilities. Outdoor fixtures automatically shut off during daylight hours, and some models are equipped with motion sensors.
Some consumers still confuse efficient lights with old-fashioned fluorescent tubes. But the eerie blue-green glow given off by the old tubes is a thing of the past. The Energy Star fixtures feature lamps with high color rendering indices (CRIs) and color temperatures of at least 80 for CFLs and 70 for all other lamps. To use the Energy Star logo, manufacturers that do not include lamps in the package with the fixture must agree to include color temperature guidance on the package. This is meant to help each consumer identify the appropriate lamp, based on color rendering and temperature, for a given room.
Fixtures that carry the Energy Star label also meet the safety and reliability guidelines established by the National Electric Code and ANSI/IEEE standards. To help convince consumers that these fixtures truly represent a new generation of lighting, Energy Star models come with a warranty. All models are guaranteed for two years against defective housing and electronics, and outdoor models also have a one-year customer satisfaction guarantee.
Along with the performance warranties, the EPA sought to make the fixtures attractive and recruited leading decorative fixture manufacturers to do the job. One of the new Energy Star fixtures that should attract significant attention is the halogen torchiere alternative (see Bright Prospects for CFL Torchieres, HE Jan/Feb '97, p. 13). Several manufacturers have models that offer lumen outputs that meet or exceed those of inexpensive halogen torchieres, while operating at a safe, cool temperature. And the styles offered should appeal to a wide variety of consumer tastes.
The public will be seeing a lot of the Energy Star logo over the coming year as EPA/DOE embark on a national education campaign to help consumers recognize and understand the logo whenever they see it on products. This effort will be supported by the manufacturing partners, utilities, and retailers. So the next time you are shopping for new lighting fixtures, look for the Energy Star label--the symbol of energy efficiency.
--Lena NirkLena Nirk is manager of the Energy Star Residential Light Fixtures program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For more information about Energy Star labeled residential light fixtures, call (202)233-9841.
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