Guest post by Jim Brodrick, Department of Energy
We’re often asked to explain the difference between DOE’s Lighting Facts label and the Lighting Facts label that will soon be required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s a good question, so we thought we’d take the opportunity to answer it in this Posting.
The goal of both labels is to eliminate confusion and put everyone on the same page when it comes to evaluating lighting products. The two labels are intended to complement one another in what they cover. The FTC label applies only to medium screw-base light bulbs, and applies to all of them regardless of the technology; whereas the DOE label applies only to SSL products, and covers luminaires as well as replacement lamps.
Another big difference is the target audience. The FTC label is aimed at consumers, whereas the DOE label targets retail buyers, utilities, and lighting professionals – i.e., people who already have a certain amount of lighting knowledge. And while the DOE label is purely voluntary, the FTC label is mandatory and must appear on the back of each package of medium screw-base light bulbs by January 1, 2012. After that date, DOE won’t encourage the use of its own label on the packaging of SSL replacement bulbs, but when reviewing products, Lighting Facts partners can still rely on the verified information on the DOE label, which can be found on manufacturing specification sheets as well as at www.lightingfacts.com/products.
Although the two labels look somewhat similar, there are differences in their content. Both give the light output in lumens, the watts consumed, and the CCT as an indication of light color. The DOE label also indicates the efficacy (in lumens per watt) and the color accuracy (expressed as CRI), whereas the FTC label instead provides the estimated yearly energy cost, the mercury content (if any), and the lifetime (based on three hours of usage a day).
We’re often asked why lifetime isn’t also included on the DOE label. The reason is that, at present, there’s no standard method for predicting the lifetime of an LED lamp, so referencing lifetime on our Lighting Facts label would be contrary to the policy of requiring standardized testing. A working group under the joint auspices of DOE and the Next Generation Lighting Industry Alliance has been addressing this issue, and revised recommendations for measuring and reporting the lifetime of SSL luminaire products will soon be published. In parallel, standards groups with DOE involvement have been working on test methods. Together, this work will pave the way for including lifetime on our Lighting Facts label.
As we’ve mentioned before, DOE’s Lighting Facts program is about far more than just the label. Our Lighting Facts website offers a wide range of tools to help users evaluate SSL products. One of those tools is a Product Snapshot of LED replacement lamps, which uses data from the Lighting Facts product list – now numbering more than 2,900 products and growing all the time – to compare the performance of LED replacement lamps to standard technologies and the new efficiency levels called for by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The Product Snapshot is updated twice a year and, like all DOE Lighting Facts tools, is available online at no charge.
The latest Product Snapshot, released in May, includes some findings that are worth noting. For example, the light output of LED replacement lamps has been rising steadily, with 800-lumen products – equivalent to 60W incandescents – beginning to appear on the Lighting Facts product list late last year. But many A-shape and reflector LED replacement lamps still don’t meet the light output of high-wattage incandescents – and even when they do, many of these LED products fall short in terms of such metrics as CRI, CCT, and light distribution. In addition, many LED replacements for general-service fluorescent lamps have significantly lower light outputs than the products they’re intended to replace, and also fall short in terms of efficacy. What all this means that SSL is still far from being a slam-dunk, and that any evaluation of LED products has to consider total performance, not just one or two parameters.
The Product Snapshot also shows that because of their high purchase price – currently averaging around $40 – the payback for LED replacements of 60W incandescents is more than six years. Right now, CFLs can pay back in less than a year, saving more than $50 over the typical 10,000-hour life of the product. However, the price of LED replacement lamps continues to decrease very rapidly, and their payback times will before long become competitive with those of CFLs. Higher efficiency incandescent lamps, such as halogens, use nearly 30% less energy than their 60W low-efficiency incandescent counterparts, but still have roughly the same total cost of ownership due to their higher initial purchase price.
With SSL developing so rapidly, it can be hard to sort through the profusion of LED lighting products on the market and make intelligent buying decisions. DOE’s Lighting Facts program can help a lot in that regard. For more information, or to join, please visit www.lightingfacts.com.
- Concept 21st Century LED Lamp (electronics-lab.com)