COMMENTARY: EPA continues to pursue an agreeable lamps specification (MAGAZINE)

Did EPA bow to pressure on Draft 4?

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This article was published in the Spring 2013 issue of IIF Magazine.

View the Table of Contents and download the PDF file of the complete Spring 2013 issue, or view the E-zine version in your browser.


M Wright 062013

We are approaching two years during which the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has pursued a new Energy Star Lamps specification, and the agency has just published the fourth draft of the Version 1.0 specification. My purpose here isn't to criticize the EPA because the journey has been a challenging one. Still we need a finished spec at some point, although some of the more recent changes or lack thereof are questionable.

In Draft 4, the EPA did decide to leave the efficacy requirements for lamps unchanged. Back in January, as we covered on our LEDs Magazine website, a coalition of companies, lighting designers, and researchers had asked the EPA to lower efficacy requirements slightly in products that had a 90 CRI or above. The theory was that many specifiers would only use 90 CRI lamps. But manufacturing a lamp to 90 CRI that could also meet the efficacy requirements was a challenge that could actually slow the adoption of more efficient LED-based lighting. The group argued that Energy Star recognizing products at slightly lower efficacy could conversely hasten the transition to LED lamps and increase aggregate savings.

The EPA says that it carefully considered the stakeholder request for a relaxation of efficacy requirements by 5 to 10 lm/W, but decided against it. The new draft notes that products currently on the Energy Star qualified products list and listed in the US Department of Energy (DOE) Lighting Facts program do in fact deliver on the efficacy requirements in 90 CRI flavors. The EPA did say that it was still inviting stakeholder comments on the matter. Realistically, the lower efficacy would have been more of a benefit a year ago rather than a year in the future or even now. Efficacy advancements in LEDs and better approaches to color rendering will likely quickly make the discussion obsolete.

Another contentious area, however, is in the beam distribution of omni-directional lamps. The progression of changes in that area could allow inferior lamp designs to earn the Energy Star label. Several drafts back, the specification required uniformity to within 20% from the top of the lamp (considered 0°) down to 135° toward the base of the lamp. Remember that the DOE L Prize requirements were for 10% uniformity over 0 to 150°.

The lamps spec has loosened those requirements significantly. Draft 4 allows a 25% variance from 0 to 135° and states that only 90% of the values measured at 5° increments must meet the requirement. The EPA said that the revision will provide consumers with more choices in energy-saving omni-directional lamps, that many legacy lamps didn't meet the prior requirements, and that consumer expectation is not aligned with the tighter criteria.

A number of lamp makers that had carefully designed products to meet the old uniformity requirements feel that the EPA bowed to pressure from some stakeholders, although we could find no one willing to speak on the record about those feelings. But clearly lamps could be designed to meet the tighter requirements.

What do you think about the latest changes? Are there other elements of the draft that need work? Email me your thoughts at

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