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Lighting efficiency on the agenda for 2014

Canada looks to U.S. fluorescent lamp, ballast standards
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
By Barbara Carss

A previously postponed phase-out of commonly available incandescent light bulbs is set to go in most Canadian provinces in 2014, catching up with regulations that have already been in force in British Columbia for nearly three years. Both the federal and Ontario governments initially proposed a 2012 start date but then added two years to the deadline.

Under the revised timetable, manufacture, import or inter-provincial shipment of 75-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs that fail to meet specified heightened efficiency requirements will be prohibited as of Jan. 1, while inefficient 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs will be targeted beginning Dec. 31, 2014.

“Canada’s standard is a performance or technology-neutral standard. It is set at a level that ensures a wide range of choices will be available to Canadians once it comes into effect,” it states on Natural Resources Canada’s (NRCan) website. “Consumers can choose from a variety of technologies such as LED, fluorescent, halogen infrared and enhanced incandescent, in various shapes and sizes, light outputs (brightness) and light appearances (colour temperatures).”

South of the border, U.S. manufacturers have ceased production of 100-watt and 75-watt bulbs, and will halt production of 60-watt bulbs as of January 2014. Other lighting efficiency standards are also generally more stringent than those in Canada.

Two driving pieces of legislation – the Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act – underpin the U.S. Department of Energy’s rule-making agenda and ongoing scrutiny of a range of commercial/industrial equipment and consumer products.

“Lamp and ballast efficiency standards are continually ramped up to drive the market and reduce the non-compliant product that is left in stock,” explains Lindsay Audin, president of U.S.-based firm, Energywiz Inc. “Magnetic ballasts have been essentially banned, except for a few oddities, for the past two years. The same goes for standard T12 lamps.”

“The requirements for general service fluorescent lamps that came into effect in January 2012 were the most significant rule-making in terms of savings in the Department of Energy’s history,” says Marianne DiMascio, outreach coordinator with the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, an initiative of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Ontario’s recently proposed energy efficiency standards, which were posted on the provincial environmental registry for public review and comment in late June, would harmonize new requirements for general service fluorescent lamps, fluorescent ballasts and high intensity discharge (HID) or metal halide ballasts with the U.S. Department of Energy standards. NRCan is also working on new or updated standards for general service fluorescent lamps, and fluorescent, metal halide and mercury vapour ballasts, but draft regulations have not yet been released. (Since both the federal and provincial governments have the authority to regulate products, some provinces – notably, B.C. and Ontario – have opted to establish their own energy efficiency benchmarks.)

Consumers can already choose from a wide range of products that meet the pending or proposed standards, and often at a comparable price.

“Magnetic ballasts actually cost more than electronic ballasts,” notes Michael Colligan, president of lighting distribution and services company, Lighting Solutions. “You can buy an electronic ballast for $10 to $25. You can’t even buy the raw materials that go into a magnetic ballast for that price.”

Regulations will likely have more impact on consumers purchasing products for individual use than on commercial and multi-residential owners/managers who tend to be more attuned to the cost-saving payback of energy-efficient lighting. Incandescent lamps are a rarity anywhere but in private homes.

NRCan’s website suggests the extra two-year allowance for the wider range of incandescent bulbs gives more time for technological innovation, consumer familiarization and preparation for recycling larger quantities of alternative products such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), which contain mercury. The Ontario government’s December 2011 announcement tactically acquiesced to the federal government’s lead, stating the delay would “ensure a consistent approach to make compliance easier”.

Cost implications are not inconsequential for consumers with lower incomes. Halogen bulbs are the most affordable replacement option, at about $3 to $9 per bulb or approximately triple the cost. LEDs are many times the cost of an incandescent bulb, while lighting designers generally find CFLs don’t work well in applications like chandeliers or mood lighting.

“There is a halogen replacement for every general use incandescent that is 30 per cent more efficient and works exactly the same way,” says Colligan. “I would say the incandescent ban is appropriate but I wouldn’t support moving too quickly to phase-out halogens. It should be done in steps, starting with incandescent bulbs and then targeting halogens as LEDs improve in quality and decline in price.”

Meanwhile, commercial lighting upgrade projects are widespread, particularly as businesses take advantage of incentive programs now available in many Canadian jurisdictions to subsidize the upfront capital costs.

“Ontario is in a fluorescent energy efficiency bonanza. There might be a lot of talk about LEDs but most people are switching from T12s and HID systems with magnetic ballasts to T8s or T5s with electronic ballasts,” says Colligan. “Right now, for a commercial LED system, you are looking at a five-year payback at least. With the pace of innovation, the current LED technology is likely to be obsolete in two years.”

Barbara Carss is the editor-in-chief of Building Strategies & Sustainability and Canadian Property Management magazines. 

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