LED Lighting Regulation in 2012

by Paul Williams

Greph Credit: U.S. Department of Energy

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 put many changes into motion for the lighting industry. The most significant change is a required 25 percent increase in the energy efficiency of light bulbs. Since manufacturers are currently unable to increase incandescent bulb efficiency by such a large percentage, the end result is essentially the phased elimination of this type of bulb.

In January of 2012, the manufacture of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs that fail to meet the new efficiency standard will be prohibited by law. In January of 2013, the scope of the law will increase to include 75-watt bulbs, and in January of 2014, 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs also become subject to the regulation.

The use of compact fluorescent bulbs and LED bulbs will increase dramatically as incandescent technology is phased out. Both of these technologies are more energy efficient than incandescent lighting, but fluorescent bulbs contain mercury vapor. This could result in disposal issues as the bulbs become more widely used.

LED lights operate on solid state semiconductor technology. They do not contain mercury, but the thin semiconductor films do make use of toxic metals such as gallium, arsenic, indium, and germanium. These materials are present in minute quantities, and LEDs have a much greater life expectancy than typical fluorescent bulbs. LED bulbs designed to replace incandescent lights contain multiple LEDs in a bulb-like housing that will screw into any standard E27 socket. LEDinside is an excellent resource for current information on warm white LED lighting.

The LED industry has been aware of the impending change for some time, and LED lighting technology has been improved to produce brighter and more natural light each year. An offshoot of the development has been an increased use of LED technology in the automotive industry. LEDs in braking lights have become commonplace, and LED headlamps can also be purchased.

Additional LED vehicle lighting is available as aftermarket enhancement. Valve stem spinner lights and various ground effect lights have become popular aftermarket modifications, and many states have implemented statutes to limit their use. Some states argue that these modifications are distracting and lead to accidents. Others are concerned that, depending upon the color and placement of the LEDs, the lights could cause conventional vehicles to be confused with public safety vehicles at night.

Most states have laws prohibiting the use of flashing, spinning, or stroboscopic lighting. Some states prohibit the use of specific colors of lights, such as blue, whether they flash or are lit continuously. All states generally prohibit the use of red lights anywhere except the rear of the vehicle.

These statutes have become contentious issues for motorcycle enthusiasts. Motorcyclists argue that LED accent lighting enhances their visibility to other motorists and reduces the risk of collisions. For information on usage trends for LED lighting, consult LEDinside, but for the legal requirements on the lighting for any motor vehicle, always consult the statutes of the specific state.


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