How to Shop for LED Lighting
New Lighting Facts label will make shopping for lumens popular.
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December 07, 2011 by Steven Castle

It’s almost time to start shopping for lighting in a different way.

On Jan. 1, 2012, not only does a new law go into effect in the United States that phases out many inefficient 100-watt light bulbs, you’ll also see a Lighting Facts label on the packaging of any general service medium-base bulb—the kind you’re likely to buy for your home.

The label is being mandated by the Federal Trade Commission to help consumers better select lighting products like newer LED (light emitting diode) lamps that use far less energy, as measured in watts, than traditional incandescent bulbs.

The new labels allow consumers to see the bulb’s brightness, longevity and efficiency.

“Wattage was traditionally the best way to make your buying decisions when it came to selecting light bulbs in the past,” explains Martha Delgado, product marketing manager for Bulbrite. “However, now that more efficient bulbs can produce similar light levels while consuming less energy, the old theory that ‘The higher the wattage, the brighter the lamp’ isn’t true anymore,” she says.

So what to look for, especially when buying newer LEDs? Lumens, which is a measure of brightness.

According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), 2012 marks the start of consumers getting comfortable with the word “lumen.”

Especially when buying LED lamps, you want to shop lumens, not watts. An LED lamp that replaces a typical 60-watt incandescent, for example, might only use 12 to 13 watts, which makes it much more energy-efficient, but if you want to replace the brightness of a 60-watt incandescent, it will need to produce 800 to 850 lumens.

That’s why it’s important to shop lumens—and that’s why you’ll see lumens at the very top of the new Lighting Facts labels.

According to the FTC, the new labeling will affect packaging and the bulb in three ways:

1. The front of the packaging must provide information on brightness (lumen output) and estimated annual energy cost.
2. The back of the package must include the FTC Lighting Facts label, which provides information on brightness, energy cost, the bulb’s life expectancy, light appearance, wattage, and the mercury content (if any).
3. Lumen output must be printed directly on the bulb, along with mercury content (if any).

Delgado offers the following comparison when shopping for lumens:
• 100 watts (listed on previous light bulb packages) = 1490-2600 lumens
• 75 watts = 1050-1489 lumens
• 60 watts =  750-1049 lumens
• 40 watts = 310-749 lumens
• 25 watts =  150-309 lumens

“Light Appearance” on the more detailed labels on the backs of packaging includes a sliding scale that shows the color temperature, as measured in Kelvins (K). A measurement of 2700K to 3000K produces more of a “warm” yellowish light like an incandescent bulb, while higher numbers in the 4000K-to-6000K range produce more white and bluish light.

You may also still see a similar Lighting Facts for LEDs label from the Department of Energy, which includes information such as lumens per watt (a measure of efficiency), color temperature and color accuracy. Though this label is intended more for lighting designers, resellers and retailers rather than consumers.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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