Learn your Lumens, New Light Bulb Labeling in 2011

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New labels for light bulb packaging will arrive in 2011 with the emphasis on Lumens instead of Watts as the measure of brightness and primary benchmark.  This is a much anticipated overhaul by the Federal Trade Commission which will help in the marketing and comparison of CFLs and LEDs to the old incandescent bulbs being phased out.

Traditionally one might say I need a 60 watt bulb.  This would refer to a 60 watt incandescent which has been the common everyday bulb since Edison’s 40 hour bulb in 1870.  When Compact Fluorescents came out they realized the consumer’s understanding of light and included a ‘incandescent watt equivalent’ on their packaging to demonstrate the savings.  With the variety of lighting options in today’s market this antiquated way of benchmarking lights is ineffective and will soon be gone.  Now brightness (lumens), light color or appearance (Kelvin temperature), life (hours) and energy consumption will all be factored on the product label much like reading a nutritional label.  The new label will push consumers to ditch the watt description in place of lumens and energy cost.

There is still room for improvement by logically combining the lumen output and cost/year into a  lumen/watt ratio (luminous efficacy) on the labels which could serve as the rule of efficiency for lighting much like miles per gallon does for a car; simply comparing input to output.  Labeling as mundane as it may initially seem is vital to any market.  Proper labeling is the key driver to market transformation and enables consumers to vote with their dollar, therefore driving change.

Hopefully the building market can follow the lighting and car market and mandate ‘Building Energy Performance Labels’ for all residential and commercial buildings so consumers will know immediately how certain homes, offices or buildings perform in regards to energy consumption.  The US Green Building Council’s LEED Rating System serves as an example to the industry of what proper labeling can do to value.  Their certification levels and LEED Facts label have helped quantify environmental benefits in the building sector as well as producing an easy to understand overview of the building’s sustainability aspects.

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5 Comments

  1. I hope the term “Brightness” isn’t going to be used, although one might argument it is intuitive for end users, it is also manifestly wrong. And while it might get unnoticed by end users for the replacement of halogen spots and incandescents now (point light sources, where the relation between luminous flux and brightness is rather straightforward), it will not be the case for products like led strips and certainlyu not for future OLED panels. Panels with low brightness might have luminous flux output higher then panels with high brightness. This will lead to confusion.

    I do agree that the technical term “Luminous flux” is maybe too technical, but one could use “Light output” or “Light power” (or something else).

  2. Steve McMullen on

    Lumens is a great metric, the problem I have is I have no way to percieve this new metric. Presently we put a 60 watt light where we need a 60 watt light. If I replace it with a 60 Watt equivalent CFL, I want the same light output. Thus I compare both the watts and the Lumens to get the conversion close to the same lighting. Using the new labelling scheme, I am sure I will buy CFL and LED lights that do not have the same Lumens that I am current expecting and the new label will not allow this comparison.

  3. Ronny, you are correct. Brightness is a non-technical term and would be more appropriately put as light/lumen output. Brightness is more of a laymen’s term to get the idea across. There is an education factor pointed out by Steve that in order to get these concepts/measures across we need to help with consumer education. Someday people will speak in Lumens as we speak in Watts now to describe lights, it will take some time for everyone to grasp that. There is a good conversion chart here, http://www.sunmia.com/catalog/index.php?main_page=shippinginfo

  4. Pingback: Learn Your Lumens « Mark Schrieber

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