Beginning with this post, with the help of Lutron Technical Documentation and Support, we will begin to discuss some of the most common questions we hear with regard to Light Emitting Diode (LED) and Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs - dimmability. You can effectively dim LED and CFL bulbs, but you need to be armed with the right information. We’ve answered a few of the most commonly-asked questions about dimming different types of bulbs here.
Let's start with the Federal legislation that has gotten us to this point. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (which addressed energy consumption including heating, cooling, electrical and more) set a new, energy efficient standard for light bulbs. For our discussion, basically put, light bulbs must meet or exceed a minimum energy efficiency requirement - if it is consuming (X) amount of energy it must produce a minimum of (Y) amount of light output (you will see this stated as the efficacy of a bulb or lumens per watt). Incandescent bulbs are much less efficient than most other types of electric lighting. Incandescent light bulbs convert approximately 5% of the energy they use into visible light, with the remaining 95% of energy being converted into heat (remember the Easy Bake oven?). The luminous efficacy of a typical incandescent light bulb is approximately 16 lumens per watt (lm/w), compared to approximately 60 lm/w of a compact fluorescent light bulb. The law took a phased approach, starting in January 2012, and was completely implemented by January 2014. So, under this law the 40, 60, 75 and 100 watt incandescent bulbs that we grew up with can no longer be manufactured.
New screw-based light bulbs will use fewer watts, consuming less energy (X) to achieve the same level of light output (Y). Common household light bulbs that traditionally used 40, 60, 75 and 100 watts will now use significantly less energy. Screw-in LED bulbs and CFL are great, energy-saving alternatives. LEDs and CFLs that are designed and constructed for dimming applications can be effectively dimmed. Dimming these bulbs saves even more energy and gives you the same kind of flexibility and control you expect from your incandescent bulbs. The bulbs will deliver excellent dimming performance when paired with a compatible dimmer, but there are some challenges.
Are all CFL or LED bulbs dimmable?
No, not ALL standard CFL or LED screw-in replacement bulbs are dimmable. If you want to dim a standard CFL or LED screw-in bulb, you must use a light bulb that was designed for dimming. You can find out if a bulb is dimmable on the bulb’s package and/or on the bulb itself. Bulbs that can’t be used on a dimmer switch will have the caution statement "not for use with dimmers" marked directly on the bulb. Possibly the easiest way to know that you have placed a NON-dimmable CFL or LED on a circuit with a dimmer switch is that, once you turn the switch on, the bulb will begin to flicker or will not turn on at all. Remove those bulbs right away. Leaving them in that circuit will compromise the electronics in the ballast or driver. You will have potentially damaged the bulb and you will have voided any manufacturer’s warranty.
What is a "standard" or "conventional" dimmer?
A standard or conventional dimmer is a dimmer switch that is rated for use with incandescent light
bulbs. In some cases, an LED manufacturer may recommend a standard or conventional dimmer be used with their product. However, Lutron doesn’t recommend using standard or conventional dimmers with LEDs. Lutron’s LED Control Center of Excellence tests fixtures and bulbs and reports exactly which controls to use with those fixtures and bulbs. The LED Control Center of Excellence doesn’t test standard dimmers with LEDs because standard dimmer switches aren’t UL Listed to work with LEDs.
Can I use dimmable CFLs and LEDs with the standard incandescent dimmer that I currently have?
It depends on the dimmer. Some dimmable LEDs may work fine with a standard incandescent dimmer. However, standard incandescent dimmer switches are not UL Listed to work with LEDs, so Lutron does not test them or recommend you use them. To ensure compatibility, Lutron strongly suggests using their line of C•L® dimmers, which include features to help maximize the dimming performance. Many bulbs on the market dim to low light levels and some bulbs can dim lower than others. To help maximize your home or office dimming experience, Lutron C•L® dimmers are equipped with an adjustable low-end trim. Adjusting the low-end trim will help you set the bottom of the dimming range for the type of bulb you’re using. Dimming range will depend on both the bulb and the control. Many LED bulbs are not capable of being dimmed below a 10% measured light level, regardless of the control used.
Green Electrical Supply stocks a wide variety of Lutron C•L® dimmers. At the bottom of most individual product pages, you will find a brief video produced by Lutron that will show you just how easy it is to set the dimming range on their C•L® dimming switches. Take some time to see our selection of Lutron C•L® dimming controls and stay tuned – more LED and CFL dimming questions to be answered in posts to come.
MaxLite Works with Progress Energy Carolinas to Provide Energy-Efficient CFLs to Habitat for Humanity ReStores
West Caldwell, New Jersey – MaxLite is helping Habitat ReStore customers in the Carolinas save energy and money through an innovative program by Progress Energy Carolinas that provides ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) to customers at greatly discounted prices. The bulbs are discounted through Progress Energy Carolina’s Energy-Efficient Lighting program and then gifted to the stores. MaxLite is also partnering with utilities and Habitat ReStores in other select areas of the nation as well.
“We are proud to work with Progress Energy Carolinas to offer substantially discounted CFLs for the consumer,” explained Utility Solutions Program Manager for MaxLite Joe Pater. “Habitat ReStores are doing an excellent job of marketing these energy-efficient light bulbs to their customers, and as a result, we are providing energy-saving lighting at affordable prices to consumers, to support a great cause.”
Progress Energy Carolina’s Energy Efficient Lighting program provides product discounts that enable the Habitat ReStores to offer a MaxLite four-pack of 13-watt CFLs for only $1.50. The product’s actual retail value ranges from $7 to $8. In addition, a 13-watt CFL, which is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, saves $7.72 per year in energy costs, based on usage of three hours per day, seven days a week. The bulbs are sold at Habitat ReStores located throughout the Carolinas, and the proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity in North and South Carolina.
The Habitat ReStore in Aberdeen, North Carolina, is experiencing tremendous success with MaxLite’s CFLs. “MaxLite lamps are provided to us through Habitat International and we sell them through our stores directly to consumers,” explains Yvette McCormick, Manager of the Aberdeen Habitat ReStore. “Our proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina Sandhills, the affiliate that works with construction volunteers to build homes for people in need in the local area.
“The MaxLite bulbs are flying out of the store,” continued McCormick. “Our first order of 250 four-packs sold out in one day and a half and the second shipment sold equally as fast; we doubled the third shipment and those bulbs are nearly gone. Our customers had an initial trepidation that 13-watt CFLs were not bright enough, however, everyone loves the quality, the reduced price and the long life.”
The Habitat ReStore in Asheville, North Carolina, is experiencing a successful promotion as well. “In less than a week, we sold 250 four packs of 13-watt CFLS from MaxLite,” explained Jay Sloan, Donation Manager for the Asheville Habitat ReStore. “We sold another 350 units in less than two weeks and we will be selling 18-watt CFL packs soon. We are very thankful to MaxLite for putting the deal together with Progress Energy.”
MaxLite CFL four-packs are also available in Habitat ReStore locations throughout North Carolina, including: Asheville, Waynesville, Goldsboro, Pittsboro-Farrell, Pittsboro-West, Sanford, Cary, Oxford, Raleigh, Dunn, Wilmington, and Spruce Pine. In South Carolina, the bulbs are available in Florence, Hartsville and Sumter.
See http://www.maxlite.com/PDFs/PR/PRkit/MaxLite_HC13WW.zip for high-resolution images of MaxLite’s 13-watt CFL display and product image.
While it is widely believed that new federal regulations will ban the sale of the standard 100-watt bulb and other traditional incandescent lights, the truth is a little more complicated. New lighting efficiency regulations, which take effect in late 2012, do not ban incandescents or any other type of bulb. They do require, however, that common light bulbs use about 25% less energy (measured in watts) for the amount of light produced (measured in lumens).
Currently available 100-watt incandescent bulbs produce about 1,600 lumens. Under the new regulations, bulbs with this level of brightness must have a maximum wattage rating of 72. Most incandescent products currently on the market do not meet these requirements and will no longer be manufactured or imported for sale in the United States after October, 2012.
Energy-Saving Replacement Options
What does this mean for your household? While homeowners are not required to upgrade to products that meet the new regulations, the standard 100-watt bulbs will soon disappear from store shelves. Congress delayed the enforcement of these new standards until October 2012. Fortunately, a variety of energy-saving alternative technologies are available that still provide the light quality that homeowners have come to expect.
Compact-Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). An ENERGY STAR qualified CFL is 75% more efficient and lasts up to 10 times longer than a comparable incandescent bulb. CFLs are available in cool white or warm yellow tones and some are encased in a cover to diffuse the light and provide an appearance similar to traditional bulbs. Dimmable CFL bulbs are also available. Consumers Energy provides a simple tool for selecting the right CFL for your fixture. In addition, discounts for CFL bulbs are provided by Consumers Energy at participating retailers throughout Michigan.
Halogen Incandescents. Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. These lights are 25% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to three times longer. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colors, and can be used with dimmers.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs). LEDs are made from a coated semiconductor material that produces light when exposed to an electric current. They are one of the most energy-efficient and rapidly developing technologies in today's market. An ENERGY STAR qualified LED bulb is 75% to 80% more efficient than an incandescent bulb and lasts up to 25 times longer. Although the technology is still evolving, LEDs are commonly used in recessed fixtures and small track lights. While LEDs are more expensive to purchase, their low energy use and durability can save money over the life of the bulb.
The new regulations apply only to conventional 100-watt bulbs; three-way and other specialty lighting products are not affected. New efficiency standards for 75-watt incandescent bulbs will take effect starting on January 1, 2013, while those covering 60- and 40-watt bulbs will begin on January 1, 2014.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that compliance with the new regulations will save consumers about $6 billion in energy costs by 2015. In a typical home, replacing 15 traditional incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient alternatives will save an estimated $50 per year.
This article previously appeared in the Consumers Energy Saving Solutions newsletter, and is used with permission.
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