8 tips for navigating new energy-efficient lighting rules

Anticipating consumer confusion over new energy-efficient light bulbs, two consumer groups publish free purchasing guide.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

OK, I'll admit it. I cover this stuff and even I remain somewhat confused about what exactly is taking place on Jan. 1, 2012, when a first wave of lighting-efficiency policies under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 goes into effect. Anticipating confusion over the changes, especially amid continued political wrangling on how to enforce them, the non-profit Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union have published a guide to selecting the energy-efficient bulbs that make sense for your personal situation.

The guide, "How Many Tips Does it Take to Change a Light Bulb," offers eight tips and myth-busting information.

"Contrary to reports, incandescent lights are NOT being banned, they are simply becoming more efficient," said Mel Hall-Crawford, energy projects director for the Consumer Federation of AMerica. "Consumers will have expanded choices, but will need to understand them so when they go to the store so they can buy the product that meets their needs best."

Here is the short-hand on the tips. (The guide is only two pages, so I encourage you to download the whole thing.)

  1. There are three main choices when it comes to energy-efficient bulbs: halogen incandescents that use much less energy than traditional ones; compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) that use 75 percent less energy and offer the best consumer value; and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), which save the same as CFLs and last up to 25 years but cost more to buy upfront.
  2. Lumens, not watts will help you figure out which bulb is brightest. You'll have to learn how to translate.
  3. Lighting "color" will be different, moving from yellow tints to those that are bluer and whiter.
  4. Manufacturers are required to include "Lighting Facts" information on their products, so check the packaging on the bulbs you are considering.
  5. Because CFLs contain mercury (a very small amount), they will need to be recycled.
  6. Not every bulb can be dimmed.
  7. Downlight and recessed lights will require different bulb shapes.
  8. Look for the Energy Star label for the most energy-efficient choices on the market.

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