Understanding California’s new lighting standards

May 11, 2016

Earlier this year, the California Energy Commission adopted new lighting standards that are predicted to save consumers more than $4 billion over the first 13 years. The standards cover what the CEC calls "the next generation of light bulbs," small-diameter directional lamps and LEDs. With these more efficient lights already available for purchase and still two years until the standards go into effect, the CEC expects the initiative to have an immediate impact.

What you need to know about the new standards:

Small-diameter directional lamps
The CEC defines small-diameter bulbs as those 2.25 inches across or less. Typically used to provide track lighting at commercial sites, such as stores and museums, the CEC estimates 16 million of these bulbs are already in use in California.

The standards stipulate that these bulbs must maintain a specific level of efficiency, as well as maintain a minimum lifetime of 25,000 hours. According to the CEC, LED bulbs are the only technology that currently meets this standard, which suggests many commercial builders will begin to transition to using LEDs at their sites.

These protocols are expected to offer recurring savings to consumers, both on bulb replacement and energy costs. The CEC predicts that for an investment of just $4 for a more efficient small-diameter bulb, consumers could save as much as $250 over 11 years.

The new standards require residential LEDs to be more efficient and long-lasting. The new standards require residential LEDs to be more efficient and long-lasting.

Light-emitting diodes
The new CEC standards cover LEDs of all types, from omnidirectional and directional bulbs to decorative bulbs and those designed for retrofitting covered sockets. Beginning in 2018, the new LED standards will require efficiency and quality improvements. One year later, additional stipulations will take effect to limit power usage in standby mode.

Several of the standards for LEDs include:

  • A minimum lifetime requirement of 10,000 hours.
  • Mandatory performance thresholds for dimmability.
  • Limits to the amount of power a light can draw in standby mode.
  • ENERGY STAR® requirements for light distribution in omnidirectional LEDs. 

According to the Energy Commission, "LED bulbs consume less energy than other types of light bulbs and have a longer lifespan, making the lifetime energy savings far greater than the incremental cost." As a result, they expect consumers to save between $4.50 and $12 per bulb initially, a figure predicted to grow as initial hardware costs continue to fall. 

These new lighting standards are the first of their kind in the United States, which could make compliance a challenge. With no existing blueprint for how such a change might be implemented on the ground, building designers and contractors may wish to partner with energy consulting groups to ensure their plans are up-to-date with new compliance regulations. At Benningfield Group, we specialize in helping stakeholders achieve maximum energy savings in a variety of compliance landscapes. To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today.