It used to be that the hardest label to read was the nutrition label on food; now it's light bulbs. The Lighting Facts label is the informational table required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that outlines a light bulb’s brightness, annual energy cost, lifetime, light appearance, and energy usage.
While this new label provides useful information for consumers, the actual process of deciding what bulb is the best option to purchase can be confusing (especially when comparing and contrasting LEDs with CFLs and incandescents). The Lighting Facts label provides consumers a few key initial considerations that may eliminate some confusion when finding the right bulb for their individual needs.
Brightness – A common misconception is that watts indicate how bright a bulb is, when in fact watts measure the amount of power a bulb consumes, not the brightness of the light emitted. There is no specification for incandescent brightness. Since LED bulbs consume much less energy (power), consumers are understandably confused. To reduce consumer confusion, LED bulbs are marked as a watt value equivalent or replacement (e.g., 60-watt replacement). When it comes to brightness, the actual value is measured in lumens for any given bulb – the more lumens, the brighter the bulb will be. The FTC created this video that provides a good overview of the difference between lumens and watts.
Estimated yearly energy cost – The upfront cost of a bulb isn’t the only dollar amount to think about; it’s even more important to understand how much that bulb will cost you every year. The estimated yearly energy cost on the Lighting Facts label represents the cost to light your bulb based on an average usage of 3 hours/day and the national average energy rate of 11 cents/kWh. It’s important to note that there are other key factors that play into overall cost of a bulb, including the expected lifetime of a bulb.
Life – How often do you really want to change out all of the bulbs in your home – every year? Every 20 years? Probably as infrequently as possible – especially if it involves getting up on a ladder.The life of a bulb listed on the Lighting Facts label is based on an average usage of 3 hours a day. A typical incandescent lasts about 1 year at 3 hours per day, meaning a consumer would have to purchase and replace their incandescent bulb about 25 times over the lifetime of one typical LED bulb. Most LED bulb manufacturers rate a lifetime of 25,000 hours (or 22.8 years at 3 hours/day), which is significantly longer than both incandescent and compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.
Light Appearance – This spec indicates the hue in degrees Kelvin emitted within the white light color spectrum. “Warm” colors have lower color temperatures (2700 – 3500K) while “cooler” colors have higher Kelvin temperatures (3600 – 5500K+). To pick the right light for you, choose Warm/Soft White if you enjoy an inviting, comfortable and relaxing atmosphere to add a peaceful aura to any space. Choose Cool/Daylight to create a bright, clean, and lively mood and inspire active areas in your home with intensely vibrant light.
Energy used – As noted earlier, the actual energy consumed by a bulb is represented by watt value. The lower the wattage, the less energy used and more money saved. Energy efficient LED bulbs consume much less energy than incandescent bulbs..
As the consumer lighting market continues to innovate and evolve, there’s a chance for the industry to add new specifications to the Lighting Facts label and/or their products to further reduce consumer confusion. Options include bulb type, warranty length, light quality and overall dimming capability could improve consumer understanding of their lighting options. For now, the Lighting Facts label provides a basic, but good starting point with these five important features to analyze when shopping for light bulbs on store shelves.
Written by Mike Watson, Vice President of Product Strategy, Cree.