Using Electricity Safely and Efficiently
Beyond Swirly Bulbs
Federal regulations that will phase out inefficient bulbs spur new lighting options
By Megan McKoy-Noe
Children love chasing fireflies and catching them in jars. The
real magic begins as the intermittent glow captivates the captors. That same sense of wonder is found in labs as scientists
refine the process of making light-emitting diodes—
highly-effi-cient light bulbs comparable to the glow of fireflies.
Manufacturers are searching for economical ways to contain a colony of LEDs in a single lighting shell. Just as children
attempt to gather enough fireflies to make a lamp, an LED “jar”
would create enough light output (lumens) to match that of traditional incandescent bulbs.
The research is part of a national effort aimed at redefining
household lighting. Starting in January 2012, 100-watt incandescent bulbs—a technology developed in the United States by
Thomas Edison in 1878—must become more energy efficient.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates 13.6
percent of our nation’s energy supply is used to keep the lights
on. A lot of that power is wasted. If you have ever touched a
traditional light bulb when it is on, you realize much of the
released as heat. That leaves a
lot of room for improvement.
In 2007, Congress passed
phase-in legislation that
requires household light bulbs
using 40 to 100 watts to con-
sume at least 28 percent less
energy by 2014 than tradi-
tional incandescents, saving
Americans an estimated $6
billion to $10 billion in light-
ing costs a year. The law also
requires light bulbs to become
70 percent more efficient than
traditional bulbs by 2020.
LEDs already exceed this goal.
“With shifting lighting
options and consumers look-
ing for every opportunity
to save, navigating lighting
solutions has never been
so important,” says David
Estimates based on typical incandescent bulbs.
Source: U.S. Federal Trade Commission
What to Look for When
Purchasing Light Bulbs
Instead of shopping for watts,
look for lumens. Here’s a helpful
Switching Out Classic Bulbs! 2012
72-W (or less)
bulbs replace 100-W
53-W (or less) bulbs replace
75-W incandescent bulbs.
29-W and 43-W (or less) bulbs
replace 40-W and 60-W
Schuellerman, GE Lighting’s public relations manager.
The act does not actually ban incandescent bulb technology.
“It’s equivalent to standards passed in the 1980s to make
refrigerators more energy efficient,” says Brian Sloboda of the
Cooperative Research Network, a division of the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association. “Refrigerators use less than
one-third of the electricity today than they did in the mid-
1970s, but consumers can’t tell a difference in how their food is
cooled. The premise is, why not do the same for light bulbs?”
The improved efficiency requirements apply only to screw-based light bulbs. Specialty bulbs for appliances, heavy-duty
bulbs, colored lights and three-way bulbs are exempt.
Look for New Labels
Consumers must switch from thinking about light bulbs in
terms of watts (energy used) to lumens (light produced).
“Lumens, not watts, tell you how bright a light bulb is, no
matter the type of bulb,” says Amy Hebert of the Federal Trade
Commission. “The more lumens, the brighter the light.”
The FTC has designed a “Lighting Facts” label and shopping
guide that compares bulbs with traditional incandescent bulbs
based on wattages and equivalent lumens. Beginning in 2012,
labels on light bulb packages will emphasize a bulb’s brightness