Lighting Aisle Changes of 2012: What Consumers Need to Know

Three types of light bulbs

Photo courtesy of GE Lighting

Foreword by Trish Holder, Greenspiration Home Publisher
Short of having a decent sense of humor, my timing has never been great. I’m always a little too early or too late to the party.  This includes my premature decision to use all fluorescent lighting in the Greenspiration Home (completed in 2009).

Most of these light fixtures came with the bulbs – the older style pin type.  Therefore replacement bulbs are only available through the manufacturer or a lighting specialty story – not your local big box.  A few times we’ve had to special order replacements from the specialty store.  It’s a real pain.  I guess I was thinking, “Hey they won’t burn out for years, right?”  Wrong.  We’ve been in our home for nearly 3 years, and about 18 bulbs have burned out.  That’s disappointing.

Of course, since we built our home, fluorescents have become more mainstream, and finding light fixtures with the typical screw-in fluorescent bulbs (which you can find in the big box stores) is easier than it once was.  But that doesn’t do me any good.  I’m stuck unless I want to replace all my light fixtures.

I know I’m not alone, which is why I asked the folks at GE to put together the following “consumer friendly” update on home lighting options.  So before you fall for fluorescents or leap toward LEDs, please read this article first.


New Lighting Efficiency Standards
Beginning in January of 2012, new energy efficiency standards for lighting will come into effect. The new standards for lighting require light bulbs to provide certain minimum light levels with approximately a 30 percent energy savings. Making the switch will help to use less electricity at home and curb greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change. This means the way you light your home will also need to change considering the standard 100-watt incandescent bulbs will no longer be manufactured in 2012. In 2013 the 75-watt incandescent light bulb will no longer be manufactured and the 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent bulbs will no longer be made in 2014.

Efficient Lighting Alternatives
As you enter the lighting aisle in stores throughout 2012 you will begin to see a significant change. New energy-efficient alternatives will be displayed including that of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), halogens and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Although the upfront cost for these bulbs is higher than a traditional incandescent, over time, the alternative bulbs will actually save you money. CFLs, halogens and LEDs all offer substantial energy savings over traditional incandescent bulbs, and also have a longer lifespan. It is estimated that the average savings for a household from the new standards will be $50 to $100 per year, every year going forward.

The most common replacement bulb for incandescents is the CFL bulb. The best application for these bulbs is anywhere lighting is left on for extended periods and generally where full brightness is not immediately necessary. These include rooms such as bedrooms, family rooms and common areas. In comparison to incandescent bulbs, CFLs last up to ten times longer and most generate the same light output in the same color range. CFLs also use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs and are available in a variety of different shapes and sizes to fit almost any fixture.

Another alternative that meets the requirement of the new lighting standards is the halogen bulb. The halogen bulb looks like the original incandescent bulb with the same warm color and has nearly the same light output with the ability to dim and turn on instantly. These bulbs operate by using approximately 30 percent less energy and some last up to 33 percent longer than incandescents. The best places to use halogen bulbs are where dimming is required, or where users require warm instant light or sparkle, or in cold applications.

CFL technology has its drawbacks including the fact that it takes a longer time for the bulb to reach full brightness, even though it has a longer life span than the instantly bright halogen. GE has recently created a solution by combining both technologies into one, a hybrid halogen-CFL bulb, called “Bright from the Start”. This bulb gives consumers what they want — full brightness instantly but with the energy savings of a CFL.  Once the bulb reaches full brightness, the halogen switches off and the energy-efficient CFL takes over. The life span of this bulb also is about eight times longer than an incandescent.

Finally, consumers have the option of purchasing the newest technology in lighting, the LED, as a replacement. While the LED technology is more expensive, it is most energy-efficient. LEDs use up to 75 percent less energy than incandescents and last up to 25 times longer than both incandescent and halogen bulbs, and up to three times longer than most CFLs. Unlike CFLs, LEDs are bright instantly and do not experience the delayed warm-up.  LED bulbs available today may replace standard 40-watt incandescent or halogen light bulbs and a number of 60-watt replacements are being developed as well. LED reflector bulbs are also available that are remarkable for giving off directional light, such as that needed for spotlights or reading.

Status of Incandescent Bulbs
Consumers should not feel they are required to throw out their incandescent bulbs after the 2012 lighting standards go into effect. In fact, you may even see these bulbs on shelves in your local stores in 2012. This is because retailers are still able to sell their existing inventory even though these bulbs will no longer be manufactured. It is also important to note that many specialty incandescent bulbs such as 3-way bulbs, plus refrigerator and appliance bulbs will still be manufactured and sold in stores.

New Light Bulb Packaging
As the new lighting efficiency standards go into effect, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is simultaneously requiring new labeling on many light bulb packaging to help consumers have an easier time comparing light bulbs and choosing which bulbs are right for them when shopping for these new alternatives in the lighting aisle. A nutrition-like label on packages will be displayed and will include information on the brightness of the bulb in lumens, energy cost, expected annual operating cost, life expectancy, light appearance and wattage. It will be easier for you to use the lighting facts label for an “apples-to-apples” comparison on different brands of light bulbs.

For more information about the new lighting standards, visit

Joseph Howley Biography
Joseph Howley is the manager of industry relations and environmental marketing, GE Lighting. He has more than 25 years of experience with GE and has worked in several different technical marketing and management positions. He is the Chairman of the Lighting Division of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) in the USA and Chairman of Electro-Federation’s Lamp Committee in Canada. In addition, Joe is the past Chairman of the ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1 National Building Energy Code Lighting Subcommittee. Joe has an Architectural Engineering Degree from Penn State University and an MBA from Lake Erie College.

4 Responses »

  1. With all of the information floating around out there about the new energy efficiency standards going into effect, true or otherwise, it is extremely difficult to wrap your arms around which light bulb would make the most sense for a given residential application. By outlining all of the options, we as consumers are now armed with the facts on which alternative would make the most economic sense.

    Trish and Joseph, you have succeeded where others have failed. Thanks for simplifying the lighting standards, and alternatives. And thanks for posting, great job!!

  2. Great story , Consumer reports has reliable reviews on all types of energy efficient lighting, they will tell you LED are the best overall value, with even a 60 dollar bulb saving $80+ over the life of the product.

    With so much selection, I recommend looking for bulbs bearing the Energy-Star logo. This is VERY hard to get for LED, so any product with this certification most likely will live up to advertised life expectancy.


  3. Does anyone know the mercury content of the CFL bulbs? Insignificant is not an acceptable answer but it is the only one I have found. Mercury is a neurotoxin and has been listed as one of the planets most insidious toxins since the 1990 Clean Air Act.


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