State proposing strict standards for LED bulbs, some forms of track lighting

State proposing strict standards for LED bulbs, some forms of track lighting

The Sacramento-based California Energy Commission is pondering energy-efficient lighting standards that, if approved, would establish LED bulbs as a statewide staple and consign some forms of track lighting to history’s discard pile.

The CEC contends that the proposed standards on LEDs and small-diameter directional lamps could save Californians more than $4 billion in energy costs over 13 years. The agency said the recommended changes also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Replacing inefficient, energy-wasting light bulbs with more efficient ones is one of the easiest ways to save money and help California reach its energy goals,” said CEC Commissioner Andrew McAllister, the agency’s leader on energy efficiency. “Although both small-diameter directional lamps and LEDs have the potential to save significant amounts of energy, there are no federal or state standards for either.”

The CEC noted that previously approved legislation requires it to adopt standards to reduce energy use of lighting in homes by 50 percent and businesses by 25 percent from 2007 levels by 2018.

The proposed standards include screw-in LED light bulbs that consumers purchase for households. LED stands for “light-emitting diodes.”

Consumer complaints about LEDs typically center on cost – a standard household bulb generally costs $5 to $10, depending on its capabilities – compared with less expensive, traditional bulbs. The CEC says that cost will be made up over time in energy savings. The state agency also says that LEDs last “about 20 years” and that LED bulb costs are declining as they have become more mainstream.

All manufacturers currently produce bulbs that meet the proposed standards, the CEC said.

If approved, the proposed standards for LEDs would take effect in a two-tiered process, with effective dates of Jan. 1, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2019.

The CEC proposals also cover small-diameter directional lamps commonly used in commercial applications such as track lighting. Retailers, hotels and museums are among the typical users. The proposed standards cover directional lamps with a diameter of 2.25 inches or less. The proposed standards would require a minimum lifetime of 25,000 hours for each product, a standard that can only be met by LED lamps.

The CEC projects that directional lamps will potentially increase in cost by $1.50 with an average lifetime savings of nearly $12, candelabra lamps will potentially increase in cost by $1 with an average lifetime savings of about $4.50 and omnidirectional lamps will potentially increase in cost by 50 cents with an average lifetime savings of nearly $8.

For a $4 investment in the more-efficient directional lamps, the CEC estimates a savings of nearly $250 in reduced energy and lamp replacement costs over an average of 11 years.

The proposed standards for small-diameter directional lamps, if approved, would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

CEC spokeswoman Amber Pasricha Beck said the LED and directional lamp deadlines would not apply to already existing stocks in stores, which would be allowed to continue to sell less-efficient lights until supplies run out.

The CEC has been at the forefront of implementing statewide standards for more-efficient light bulbs. A byproduct of that has been LEDs replacing screw-based incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lighting in California homes over the past decade.

Wendy Lofing-Rossotti, co-owner and treasurer of 54-year-old Lofings Lighting in midtown Sacramento, said the proposed CEC standards would not dramatically affect her business because “most of our commercial jobs already involve LED bulbs.”

“I think LEDs are a good move, and they’re becoming pretty cost-effective now. Now, at least you’re getting payback as opposed to incandescent and halogen (lights).”

Ryan Tollefson, district manager of the locally based Batteries Plus Bulbs franchise chain of stores, said the changes would likely benefit business as “anytime there’s added complexity in the market, it’s kind of good for us because we only focus on batteries and bulbs, as opposed to big-box stores.” He said Batteries Plus Bulbs stores already stock lighting products that meet the proposed standards.

The CEC’s Beck said the public is “encouraged to participate” in Wednesday’s CEC workshop on the proposals

“This open process helps guide changes to the draft standards before adoption by the commission,” she said.

The full commission is scheduled to consider adoption of the lighting standards on Dec. 9.