Ready For The Post-Incandescent Plant?

The much-debated “phase-out” of incandescent light bulbs has struck a nerve with consumers and manufacturers alike recently, but the process began long ago, when the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 was passed into law.

The bill, co-sponsored by 198 representatives, passed the House in January 2007, the Senate in June, and was signed into law on December 19 by President George W. Bush. At its signing, the bill’s purpose was “to move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government.”

In terms of lighting, the bill’s requirements are clear: by 2014, all general-purpose light blubs that produce 310 to 2,600 lumens of light must be 30 percent more energy efficient than current A19 incandescent lamps. The first of these mandates, beginning on January 1, 2012, uses the 100-watt incandescent bulb as a baseline for efficiency. Lamps that do not meet the AISA standard will no longer be manufactured or sold.

The EISA mandates have been the subject of a great deal of controversy, so it’s important to make a few points outright. First, EISA 2007 does not target incandescent lamps specifically, as many have been led to believe. There is an indirect mandate, but the 30 percent efficiency requirement merely uses the 100-watt A19 incandescent as a standard. The bill does not disallow incandescent lamps; in fact, these products will still be made, albeit in different forms.

In other words, if a more efficient incandescent lamp is developed, it can be manufactured and sold right alongside the fluorescents, compact fluorescents (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LED). Halogen lamps, for example, are based on incandescent technology but use a halogen gas—such as iodine or bromine—to help increase efficiency. In addition, some companies have responded directly to EISA and other regulations worldwide with products like the “Halogena Energy Saver,” which uses improved incandescent technology to increase efficiency by 30 percent.

Fluorescent tubes (a much more common source of lighting in manufacturing facilities) will be regulated in the same fashion beginning on July 14, 2012. In 2013, the mandate will begin to affect lamps equivalent to 75 watt incandescents, and in 2014, will affect 60- and 40-watt versions.

By 2020, the goal is to further tighten these restrictions, enforcing a rule that all general-purpose bulbs must produce at least 45 lumens/watt. In comparison, today’s 100-watt incandescent bulb produces between 17 and 18 lumens/watt, while a CFL produces roughly 60 lumens/watt.

By eliminating any lamp technologies at or below the efficiency level of the 100-watt incandescent, the bill aims to reduce in-plant costs, cut demand on the grid, and lower our dependence on foreign fuel sources.

What It Means For Manufacturers

The EISA mandate targets general-purpose bulbs, which might not make much of a difference for many manufacturers. Most facilities use a variety of industrial-strength lighting solutions, such as fluorescent or metal-halide fixtures, and not incandescents, which means they might not be targeted by EISA’s earliest mandates.

For those who still do utilize incandescent lamps in their plant, EISA’s first enforcement will prove to be an important transition that must be thoroughly vetted beforehand. In order to work through some of the associated issues, we sat down with Wayne Callham, Vice President of Energy Efficiency at BlueStar Energy Solutions.

Callham says that, in simple terms, manufacturers will need to move away from incandescent lamps, particularly if they make use of 100-watt bulbs. Stockpiling is an option, but it’s only delaying the inevitable—because those bulbs will no longer be manufactured after Jan. 1, 2012. Replacements will be difficult, at best, to come by.

Incandescent manufacturers will be able to sell their current stocks, and distributors will be able to sell out their inventories, but once they’re gone, they’re gone forever. Callham says that unlike many government regulations, EISA is a kick-start for manufacturers to actually save money and achieve a positive ROI. In order to do so, a few changes are in order on the plant floor.

If a facility has electronic ballast for powering fluorescent tubes, it doesn’t need to be upgraded or retrofitted to supply power to new lamps. If, on the other hand, there’s magnetic ballast strung up along the ceiling, it’s time to make some decisions. Callham says, “You can replace that entire fixture or retrofit the proper components. Retrofitting is the less expensive option, so if your fixtures are in good shape, you can put in new electronic ballast, a clean and high-efficiency reflector system, as well as new sockets, wires, and lamps.”

For facilities that make use of incandescent or halogen lamps, converting to more energy-efficient lamps is an easier process. CFL and LED lamps are both fully compatible with existing sockets, which means a simple relamp is in order. Current LEDs, such as Cree’s XLamp XM-L, offer 1,000 lumens of light (ideal for high-bay lighting) at 100 lumens/watt, which is almost six times more efficient than an incandescent.

By making one of these changes, manufacturers can drastically reduce the amount of energy their lighting uses. According to Callham, “When you convert your incandescent lamp into a compact fluorescent system, you’re going to see a 4-5 times increase in efficiency. So what might have been 13 lumens being produced by a watt of power, that is now something much greater.” In addition, new lighting technologies enjoy a longer lamp life, which means the total return on investment (ROI) arrives much more quickly. If operated at the proper current and temperature, some LEDs can achieve lifetimes of 100,000 hours. In comparison, incandescent lamps are manufactured to last 1,000 hours.