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Good News on the Greenlighting Front: Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs Are Here to Stay

With the passing of the Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007, energy-efficient light bulbs are the lighting technology of the future. Green light bulbs represent a considerable reduction in electricity consumption as well as incredible savings for the consumer. And best of all, wherever you use eco-friendly light bulbs, you don't have to sacrifice light quality for all of the benefits.

"Energy efficiency isn't just low hanging fruit, it's fruit lying on the ground." – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, June 26, 2009

In December 2007, then-President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act into law. Among other things, this law opened the door for energy-efficient light bulbs to gain market share in the U.S. However, several commonly used lamp types were exempted under the Act. On June 26 of this year, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced a new set of efficiency standards for General Service Fluorescent Lamps (GSFLs) and Incandescent Reflector Lamps (IRLs). The rules will go into effect in the second half of 2012.

Since these two lamp categories represent 45% of total lighting electricity consumption in the U.S., new energy-efficient light bulb rules are significant. Vast amounts of electricity, and the harmful emissions attributable to its production, will be saved over the decades ahead. This represents good news for the American wallet and the environment we all share. Green light bulbs are here to stay.

Green Light Bulbs for Downlight Fixtures

The rest of this article will focus on the opportunities to save energy with state-of-the-art incandescent reflector bulbs, even before the new efficiency standards go into effect.

The current minimum efficacy (in lumens per watt) standard for PAR20 and PAR30, 120 volt, 75 watt IRLs (established in 1975) is 12.5. The new rules that take effect in 2012 are applicable to the same lamps and increase the minimum efficacy to 16.0 and 18.9 lumens per watt, respectively. This increase in the standard represents a 28% and 51% increase in efficiency, respectively.

Eco-friendly light bulbs, which meet the newly announced 2012 standards, are already on the market (though they're not easy to find). The savvy reader will suspect that a Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL) can easily surpass the new efficacy rules for IRLs. And they'd be correct...CFLs typically produce 40 or more lumens per watt, making them much more energy efficient than the more popular halogen variety. But there's a catch: the light cast by CFLs and some other green light bulbs, while satisfactory in the home or office, is inferior to halogen light in terms of its ability to crisply render colors and fine details.

A Small Business Case Study: The Merits of Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

A small, green, retail business owner wants to reduce electricity costs and carbon emissions without sacrificing the light quality needed to properly showcase merchandise. In terms of switching to the right energy-efficient light bulbs, what can the owner do now?


  • Single location, green home-goods retailer in central New Hampshire occupying 300 square feet of space
  • 36 recessed cans, mounted on 4 tracks, are used to light the store
  • Fixtures accommodate 3.75" wide reflector-type bulbs (PAR30, R30 etc.)
  • 28 cans contain green light bulbs (R30 CFLs) using 15 watts each for general lighting
  • 8 cans, mounted in a track which lights an alcove occupied by a paint-chip display for eco-friendly paints, contain PAR30 long neck halogen lamps of 75 watts each (note that these 8 lamps consume 59% of lighting electricity in the store).
Challenge: The owner wants to improve the energy efficiency of the alcove lamps without sacrificing the crisp, flattering light of the halogen lamps currently in use.

Recommendation: Replace 75 watt PAR30 long neck bulbs with 48 watt GE Long Life HIR(TM) PLUS PAR30 long neck lamps. These energy-efficient light bulbs yield output of 850 lumens, 90 lumens less than the existing lamp. The owner found this reduction to be acceptable after testing the new lamps for several days.

The new bulb produces 17.7 lumens per watt, making it 42% more energy-efficient than the old lamp. Furthermore, it is 5% more energy-efficient than Secretary Chu's just-announced standards for a 48 watt, 120 volt, PAR30 (16.8 lumens per watt).

Finally, these lamps have a 40% longer life expectancy than the old, a redeeming merit due to the typical higher price tags of energy-efficient light bulbs. This advantage will reduce replacement costs and boost overall savings.

Savings Forecast Using Green Light Bulbs

New Hampshire is a high cost electricity state with a commercial rate of 15.6 cents per kilowatt hour as of March 2009 (citation: US Energy Information Administration). The store owner estimates 2,000 hours of annual use for these new energy-efficient light bulbs. At a retail price of $15.38 per lamp, she expects to virtually break even after one year. And over two years, during which time she would have had to replace the original 75 watt bulbs, she expects to save $155, or 30%, using green light bulbs to light her alcove with the eight fixture track.

The newly announced efficiency standards for GSFLs and IRLs are welcome news for those concerned with reducing harmful gas emissions stemming from electricity generation. And according to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, these green light bulbs will save U.S. consumers $1 to $4 billion per year starting in 2012.

Manufacturers of energy-efficient light bulbs and their forward-looking distributors are ahead of the curve however. It is therefore possible for home and business owners with downlight fixtures to immediately start phasing in green light bulbsBusiness Management Articles, without sacrificing the great light quality they enjoy from IRLs.

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Peter Ellinwood is the founder and owner of GreenPoma, which offers hard-to-find, 'green' light bulbs at competitive prices. Ellinwood has an extensive background in product management and marketing, spending 25 years in the insurance industry in Boston, Baltimore, and Annapolis. He eventually decided to use his existing knowledge of marketing for a greater purpose - offering energy-saving light bulbs along with simple advice and easy ways to go green. For more information on GreenPoma or to make a purchase, please visit

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