If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Good, the Bright, and the Dim

As you may be aware, there are now labelling requirements on light bulb packaging in the USA, as in the EU, and indeed elsewhere.
Basically, a requirement to show brightness in "lumens", alongside other information.


image: Vector

image: Inhabitat

More about this from the information on the website of the American Lighting Association (the trade organization of the residential lighting industry in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean).

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is requiring manufacturers of incandescent, compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs to use new labeling on consumer packaging by mid-2011 to help consumers choose the most efficient bulbs for their needs.

U.S. Light Bulb Packaging Front LabelFor the first time, the label on the front of the package will emphasize the bulb's brightness as measured in lumens, rather than a measurement of watts.

“While watt measurements are familiar to consumers and have been featured on the front of light bulb packages for decades, watts are a measurement of energy use, not brightness,” stated the FTC in its press release. “As a result, reliance on watt measurements alone make it difficult for consumers to compare traditional incandescent bulbs to more [energy] efficient bulbs, such as compact fluorescents.”

The new front-of-package labels also will include the estimated yearly energy cost for the particular type of bulb.

The back of each package will have a “Lighting Facts” label modeled after the “Nutrition Facts” label that is currently on food packages. The Lighting Facts label will provide information about:
* Brightness
* Energy cost
* Life expectancy
* Light appearance (for example, “warm” or “cool”)
* Wattage
* Mercury content

The bulb's brightness, measured in lumens, and a disclosure for bulbs containing mercury, also will be printed on each bulb.

Europe (EU)

(images from the EU Commission and Osram,
unfortunately no larger or clearer image of packaging seen elsewhere)

The EU Commission has a good illustrated factsheet with information.

However, it is hardly a surprise that they leave out the advantages of incandescents, and while acknowledging a couple of CFL/LED issues, tend to marginalize any problems with them.

Edited extracts, beyond the hype:

Comparisons based on wattage are not meaningful any more and can be misleading.
Look for 1300-1400 lumens for the equivalent of a 100W incandescent bulb, 920-970 lumens for a 75W, 700-750 lumens for a 60W, 410-430 lumens for a 40W and 220-230 lumens for a 25W bulb.

The lifetime of a lamp is expressed as the number of hours it will operate before dying. The average use of a lamp is 1,000 hours a year, which is based on the assumption of 3 burning hours per day on average. Lamps that are on constantly will die faster, those rarely used will last longer.

The number of times compact fluorescent lights are switched on and off also influences how long they live. Standard compact fluorescent light bulbs (with 3000-6000 on/off switches) should not be installed in locations where switching on and off more than three times a day is likely, e.g. in toilets or corridors with motion sensors.

Colour of the light (colour temperature)
While incandescent bulbs in the shops tend to be near the same light colour ("warm white"), compact fluorescent lights and in particular LEDs are offered in a wider range of colour temperatures, measured in Kelvins. [But that may be at the expense of a full, smooth light sprectrum quality, which in turn influences reflected color accuracy, as shown by the CRI, the Color Rendering Index, which is very high (100) with incandescents, of value also in photography]

Warm-up times
This information is particularly important for compact fluorescent lamps. Standard compact fluorescent lamps take a bit longer to start and to reach their full light output than other lamp technologies (up to 2 seconds to start and up to 60 seconds to reach 60% of their light output).

You should always check this logo for compact fluorescent lamps and LEDs, as many of them will not work when operated on standard dimmers.

Operating temperature
Compact fluorescent lamps and LED lamps are more temperature sensitive....

Lamp dimensions
When you choose to buy a new bulb type, do not forget to check whether it will fit your lamp.
[Note that the fatter base of CFLs, unaccounted for here, stops them being used as candle/flame light replacements in chandeliers and small lamps]

How to dispose of compact fluorescent lamps and light emitting diode lamps?
These lamps contain complex electronics and should not be placed in the normal household waste. This is shown by the crossed-out bin logo.
They should be returned to the shops selling them or into another dedicated collection system.


The main change is therefore from an energy usage description in Watts to a brightness rating of Lumens.

This is right and logical.
You go into a shop and buy a 100 Watt bulb because it is bright, not because it uses 100 Watts.

Perhaps that is why it seemed a "good idea" to also base American phase out standards on brightness rather than energy use.
But the whole rationale, albeit itself misguided, is to save energy - and it creates the anomaly as seen, that dim 75 W bulbs are still allowed in 2012 but bright 75W bulbs are banned.
Or, to put it more practically, since dim incandescents are made because they last longer, that manufacture/import of dim long-lasting 100W bulbs below 1490 lumens is allowed in 2012, but bright common shorter lasting ones are banned!
Some might welcome this on sustainability grounds - but it's supposed to be about saving energy. See the earlier blog post about it.
[Canada is similar, the EU chose a wattage based phase-out, while Australia had a more complete one-off ban, as referenced]

There is a particular irony about banning a bright lighting technology, whatever way it is done: After all, arguably the greatest quality a light can have is that it is bright!
The "inefficiency" of incandescent lighting certainly does not relate to the efficiency behind a simple construction to deliver bright light.

There is then the further irony that regular 100W bulbs are the brightest cheap standard size incandescent bulbs, at the same low price as other incandescents:
Higher wattages increase bulb size and price, while Halogen type energy efficiency
alterations change light quality/heat/appearance characteristics in various ways, and again cost more.

The irony increases, when it is seen that unlike with standard incandescents, it costs more to make brighter CFLs and LEDs, to the extent they can be made in the first place: the technical aspects are covered on the website.
Omnidirectional general purpose bright lighting is difficult with CFLs and not possible with "true" RGB Leds, with white LEDs being similar to CFLs.

But it does not end there.
Even the lab-based specified brightness that can be achieved with CFLs and LEDs is open to doubt in real life conditions, based on brightness measurement procedure, on warm up times, on surrounding temperature, on decreasing brightness with age, and on enclosing the lamps (for safety, or to spread the light).

It takes pretty dim politicians to ban bright bulbs.
And we are not short of dim politicians.

The Commission of the European Union was for political reasons named the European Commission rather than the
"EU Commission" terminology that I prefer to use. But Europe is of course not the same as the EU. Not yet anyway.


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