FTC lamp labels will emphasize lumens, not watts

Starting in mid-2011, the US Federal Trade Commission will require that all light bulbs will carry new labeling on packaging that is designed to help them choose among the different types of bulbs on the market.

The FTC proposed new output-based labels for light bulbs in November 2009, and says that the new regulations will come into force in around one years’ time from now.

Under direction from Congress to re-examine the current labels, the FTC has devised new labels for light-bulb packages that are intended to enable consumers to save money by selecting the most efficient lamps that best fit their lighting needs.

FTC label for bulbs containing mercury
Label for bulbs containing mercury
For the first time, the label on the front of the package will emphasize the lamp’s brightness as measured in lumens (see Footnote), rather than a measurement of watts. The FTC says that the “focus on brightness in lumens will help consumers make purchasing decisions as they transition to more energy-efficient types of bulbs.”

The new front-of-package labels also will include the estimated yearly energy cost for the particular type of bulb.

Meanwhile, the back of each package of light bulbs will have a “Lighting Facts” label modeled after the “Nutrition Facts” label that is currently on food packages. The Lighting Facts label will provide information about:

  • brightness
  • energy cost
  • the bulb’s life expectancy
  • light appearance (for example, if the bulb provides “warm” or “cool” light)
  • wattage
  • whether the bulb contains mercury.
The bulb’s brightness, measured in lumens, and a disclosure for bulbs containing mercury, also will be printed on each bulb.

Proposed FTC label for non-mercury-containing lamps
Proposed FTC lamp label
The new labeling requirements become effective one year from the date they are issued. The FTC also is seeking public comments on several issues that might be relevant to future changes to light bulb labeling requirements, such as whether new labeling requirements should be applied to candelabra bulbs. Information on how to submit public comments can be found in a Federal Register notice.

The lumen is the unit of luminous flux (effectively the total light output), while brightness or luminance is the luminous intensity per unit emitting area, and is actually measured in candela/m2 or nit.

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