California Proposed Lighting Standard Raises the Bar for Energy Efficiency

The California Energy Commission released a final staff report proposing the first standards for small-diameter directional lamps and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Directional lamps are often used in commercial track lighting, while LEDs replace screw-based incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) typically found in homes. Prompted by legislation requiring the Energy Commission to adopt standards to reduce energy use of lighting in homes by 50% and businesses by 25% from the 2007 levels by 2018, the proposed standards will save energy and improve the quality of the light bulbs that Californians are buying every day.

The new standards will have a financial impact. For a $4 investment in the more efficient directional lamps, the Energy Commission estimates consumers will save nearly $250 in reduced energy and lamp replacement costs over an average of 11 years. The savings with LEDs are also significant and growing as purchase prices continue to decline.

"Replacing inefficient, energy-wasting light bulbs with more efficient ones is one of the easiest ways to save money and help California reach its energy goals," said Commissioner Andrew McAllister, the Energy Commission's lead on energy efficiency. "Although both small-diameter directional lamps and LEDs have the potential to save significant amounts of energy, there are no federal or state standards for either. The proposed standards also address quality and performance of LED technology in order to avoid problems that consumers have expressed with CFLs."

In 2029, the total estimated savings for the directional lamps and LEDs standards is more than 3,000 gigawatt hours per year, equivalent to the amount of electricity required to power all the households in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties (about 400,000 average homes) indefinitely.

Small-diameter directional lamps
Small-diameter directional lamps are often used in stores, hotels and motels, homes, and museums. In California, about 16 million of these lamps are installed in existing buildings, and the stock is expected to grow to 18 million by 2029. The proposed standards cover lamps with a diameter of 2.25 inches or less and would go into effect on January 1, 2018. The proposal includes:

  • A requirement that lamps have either an efficacy greater than or equal to 80 lumens per watt or a color rendering index +Efficiency score of at least 165 with a minimum efficiency of at least 70 lumens per watt.
  •  A minimum lifetime of 25,000 hours for each product. LED lamps are the only products on the market that meet this proposed lifetime standard. The adoption is expected to cause a transition to LEDs from less efficient technologies.


The proposed standards for LED lamps include omnidirectional, directional, and decorative lamps, as well as LED lamps designed for retrofitting the covered socket types. 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 higher purchase cost.

The proposed standards for LEDs include improvements to lamps currently on the market, yet allows for tradeoffs between the efficiency and color rendering index of a lamp. The proposed Tier I standards would take effect January 1, 2017, and proposed Tier II standards would take effect January 1, 2019. The proposal includes:

  • A requirement for omnidirectional lamps to produce a light distribution pattern that aligns with requirements adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) ENERGY STAR® program for lamps.
  • Labeling standards for manufacturers to meet minimum thresholds before making claims about dimmability or applicability to retrofits of traditionally incandescent sockets.
  • A limit to the amount of power a connected LED lamp can use in standby mode.

Public input has been critical to developing the proposed standards, but there are additional opportunities for more public input. A workshop is scheduled for Nov. 18, where public comments will be heard. Also, written comments on the proposal will be accepted through Nov. 30. The comments will guide changes to the staff analysis and proposed standards before the full Commission considers adoption on Dec. 9.

For more information please see the frequently asked questions on the proposed lighting standards. 

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