Jessica Rubenstein

Contrary to what the public has been led to believe, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, which expanded on the 2005 Energy Policy Act (EPAct) and began taking effect in July 2012 (and which is to be phased in through 2014), hasn’t banned anything. There is neither an official war on the familiar A-shape incandescent lamp, nor a mandate to adopt any particular alternative. What there is, though, is a 28 percent higher efficiency standard, as measured in lumens per watt, plus baselines for lamp lifetimes. No conventional incandescent lamp in the 40W to 100W range can meet these criteria, while three major categories of lamps—halogen, CFL, and LED—can, so a de facto phaseout of inefficient lamps, no matter the source, is under way nationwide.

Changing lamp technology and its marketplace impact started long before EISA, says Domingo Gonzalez, principal at New York lighting design firm Domingo Gonzalez Associates. Facilities in many sectors (schools, airports, and libraries, for instance) haven’t depended on incandescents for 15 to 20 years. Comparing the current situation to the dawn of incandescents in the 19th century, Gonzalez says, “We didn’t have to pass a law banning gaslight. It banned itself.”

It might appear that EISA has limited manufacturers’ ability to produce lamps, but what it actually has done is give manufacturers a time frame to develop more-efficient next-generation technologies. The Department of Energy’s 2009 Rulemaking on Incandescent Reflector Lamps (IRL) and Linear Fluorescents—required by EISA and covering the R, PAR, ER, BR, BPAR, and similar lamp shapes, along with linear and U-shaped fluorescents—also went into effect in July. T12 magnetic ballasts have been banned from manufacture or import since 2010, but the sale of inventoried T12 lamps is permissible. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) supports the EISA standards, and major lamp producers have focused on halogens, CFLs, and LEDs, abandoning incandescents despite the loudly publicized congressional defunding of EISA enforcement in 2011.

And the nation’s lighting is not changing overnight. Inventories of incandescents, T12s, and older halogens remain on hand, and habits respond slowly to incentives. “The reflector legislation … was a bigger shock to the system, because that was everything all at once,” says Brian Vedder, LED Portfolio Manager at Philips Lighting. “They had this new efficacy requirement, [whereas] the A-shape [regulation] was phased in over the course of three years.” Still, the scale of change is massive.Options for specifiers boil down to:

• A switch to halogen, ideally the newer infrared (IR) and/or silver-coated varieties, for moderate gains in efficiency but not much gain in lamp life.

• A switch to CFLs for comparable energy gains and longer life if initial cost is the chief concern; dimming and a tight beam aren’t essential; end-of-life disposal isn’t worrisome; and bad memories of early-generation CFLs—with their widely variable quality control and poor color rendering—don’t linger.

• A switch to LEDs, which requires higher initial costs and some research on driver or fixture compatibility and color metrics, but offers better energy savings and lamp longevity, along with the potential for sophisticated control options if fixtures are appropriately matched.

• A switch from T12 linear fluorescents to T8s (which fit the T12 fixture, but need a new ballast) or T5s (requiring new fixture and ballast). This change is required by the 1992 EPAct. (Of note, market parity between T8s and T12s took until 2001.)