LEDs: Synergy in ENERGY (STAR)

Logos can connote one note reactions. McDonald’s Golden Arches may trigger a burger craving. Nike’s Swoosh: a hankering for a jog. For ENERGY STAR’s logo, a blue silhouetted script festooned by a star, the sentiment is energy savings.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly 70% of Americans recognize the ENERGY STAR™ logo as an indicator of an energy efficient product. On our globally-warmed planet, the savings is not just in monthly electricity bills: an ENERGY STAR-adorned device can green-up our Earth, helping to reverse the inconvenient fact that humans are polluting faster than nature can recover.

Started in 1992 by the EPA and U.S. Department of Energy, the ENERGY STAR program is an initiative for companies to voluntarily identify and promote products that require less energy and, in turn, reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Typically, a consumer saves 20-30% in energy on an ENERGY STAR device. Computers and monitors were the first ENERGY STAR labeled products, and the low-energy seal now graces refrigerators, toasters, heating and cooling systems, lights, office equipment, even entire building complexes.

The first slate of LED lights has already received the EPA’s version of a gold star sticker. Requirements for ENERGY STAR approval of LED products is stringent, partly to avoid “screwing up like what [the lighting industry] did with compact fluorescents,” according to one insider at the recent Solid State Lighting Conference in San Francisco. This insider was referring to, according to a recent NY Times article, that, when compact fluorescents first hit the market, they were poorly engineered and “buzzed, created harsh light, took 30 seconds to warm up, and didn’t last as long as promised.”

The ENERGY STAR website lists the following as requirements to ENERGY STAR qualified LED Lighting:

  • Brightness is equal to or greater than existing lighting technologies (incandescent or fluorescent) and light is well distributed over the area lighted by the fixture.
  • Light output remains constant over time, only decreasing towards the end of the rated lifetime (at least 35,000 hours or 12 years based on use of 8 hours per day).
  • Excellent color quality. The shade of white light appears clear and consistent over time.
  • Efficiency is as good as or better than fluorescent lighting.
  • Light comes on instantly when turned on.
  • No flicker when dimmed.
  • No off-state power draw. The fixture does not use power when it is turned off, with the exception of external controls, whose power should not exceed 0.5 watts in the off state.

These variety of tests will ensure that LEDs will properly and securely, over the next months and years, become the gold standard by which ENERGY STAR will vigorously compare and contrast all other lighting technologies – to help rescue the large swirling, blue and white sphere that our lives, and futures, encompass.
For more information on the ENERGY STAR program, please visit www.EnergyStar.gov.