Frugal Living 

New Lighting Facts Label

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Compact Fluorescent Light BulbI’m a big proponent of compact flourescent light bulbs because they use less energy, last longer, and are better for the environment when disposed of properly. They aren’t without downsides though but I believe the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

While I’m not going to run out to buy those 17-year LED lightbulbs GE is releasing later this year, I am glad to see that there is more news about lighting technology. Prime on that list of “good things” is the new FTC labeling requirement. Lighting manufacturers will soon be required to place a “Lighting Facts” label on the back of bulb packages, similar to Nutrition Facts on food. Additional, and almost more importantly, bulbs containing mercury will be labeled as such on that label.

Here’s what the label will look like:
Lighting Facts

Here’s one for bulbs that contain mercury:
Lighting Facts, Mercury Edition

Brightness will use lumens, which is a unit of measure we aren’t used to here in the United States. Unlike wattage, which is not an accurate measure of brightness when it comes to different lighting technologies (hence the labeling today of 100W equivalent, uses only 32 watts), lumens is a standardized measure of brightness. I found this chart of luminous efficiency to be pretty interesting as it shows how incandescent bulbs are far less efficient than fluorescent and LED bulbs (though they’re better than candles and gas mantles!).

I think education is absolutely crucial and this will go a long way in informing people so they understand the choices they’re making. If you are dead set against CFLs and love incandescents, I hope you’ve reached that conclusion because you have all the facts and aren’t just a light snob. 🙂

(Photo: asurroca)

{ 25 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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25 Responses to “New Lighting Facts Label”

  1. Traciatim says:

    . . . and remember, it may save you some cash on your energy bill depending on your circumstances, but step 1 on the EPA recommended actions if you break one is to evacuate your room. Sounds like a product I want in my house.

    Incandescent or LED, the only way to be.

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      This is if they break in a way that will allow for the mercury inside to spread through the air. Still not great, but probably a rare occurrence. I’ve had two break, one was in a drawer during moving and not really kept in a way to keep it from breaking, and I dropped a packaged one once and it broke. Neither was that big of a deal.

      Soon, incandescent bulbs won’t be sold. LEDs are nice, but very expensive at the moment. In a couple of years, they’ll be better.

      • fairydust says:

        LOL! It may be rare, but DH and I managed it beautifully – whacking one of the CFL bulbs with a broom handle and completely shattering it all over our garage. Did I know about evacuating the room? Heck no! I stayed and cleaned up the mess I’d just made… oh well…

  2. Mike says:

    The only problem is that CFLs cost more per bulb. I think the label makes it easier to determine the bulb’s total life cycle cost (purchase cost + $/yr x life span). With that in mind, for the two bulb panels shown in the article, the CFL must not exceed the cost of the incandencent by more than $1.49 per bulb. That’s a thin margin.

    As far as the mercury concern, people have been handling it for years. the issue is long-term exposure and/or ingestion (that’s one theory how Alexander the Great died). I for one do not worry about the few micro-grams involved.

    Of greater concern to those worried about the environment or other similar hazards should be the manufacturing process. I suspect the CFLs require more energy, produce more bi-products, and consume more rare resources.

    • I’m not following your math.

      Using the bulb referred to in the second label (CF) instead of the one referred to in the first label (incandescent) will save you $5.66 (7.23 – 1.57) per year in energy costs (assuming the 3 hours of use per day and 11 cents per kwh).

      Cost breakdown over the 5.5 year life of the CF:

      Energy: $8.64 (1.57 X 5)
      Bulb: X

      Energy: $39.77 (7.23 X 5.5)
      Bulb: 3.9Y (You’d need to replace the bulb every 1.4 years)

      As long as:
      8.64 + X = 39.77 + 3.9Y
      the CF comes out even

      solving futher
      X = 31.13 + 3.9Y
      X – 3.9Y = 31.13

      if we assume a cost of 50 cents for an incandescent, that would leave X = 29.18

      I’m pretty sure I can buy a 13W CF for less than $29.

      • Mike says:

        You’re right. Over the same usage time (5.5 years) several incandescent bulbs would be needed, increasing their total cost.

        However, your assumption of $0.50/bulb is too low by about 3 or 4 times. I think that would only strengthen your argument.

        • Ah. I see what you did. You calculated the cost of electricity over the life of the bulb.

          As for the cost of the incandescents, I could swear I could get multi-packs for less than a buck a bulb, but I might be wrong. I’ve mostly switched over to CF just to avoid climbing up and down ladders all the time to change bulbs in the ceiling fans 🙂

          In any case, it was fairly clear that the numbers were going to come out in my favor, so I tried to err in your favor (since a high value of Y would push up the allowable value for X). It’s always a good idea to concede minor points in a discussion 🙂

    • Maddhatter says:

      Good point about the concern about manufacturing. I think it is safe to say that energy and rare resources would be (and are) visible in price differences. With bi-products, it depends on what they are and how they are labeled (i.e. sold as some other product or shipped off as hazardous waste). All of these things don’t necessarily add up to more environmental concerns, but certainly could

    • cubiclegeoff says:

      As an economic argument, I know at Boston University, one professor did an analysis and found that CFLs or other energy efficient bulbs, although more expensive as capital, were significantly cheaper than current bulbs because of the cost of labor to replace the other bulbs more often.

  3. Traciatim says:

    Also remember, CFLs aren’t good in places with high on off cycles, not to be used on dimmer switches (unless specially designed and labelled as such), exposure to heat and cold dramatically reduces their life, they don’t work well in below freezing temperature, and you shouldn’t used them in enclosed or non ventilated fixtures.

    Just wit for LEDs to be cheap, CFLs are not the answer to good lighting.

  4. JimmyDaGeek says:

    Yay, finally. If education was truly useful, companies wouldn’t spend so much money trying to sell you stuff you don’t need. People would be just “too educated” to fall for that stuff. 🙂

  5. zapeta says:

    I think this is a pretty useful idea. It’ll make it a lot easier to compare bulbs instead of just guessing.

  6. Safeway_Sage says:


    Sorry to say, the unwashed masses are not going to dispose of CFLs properly. They contain mercury and people are too lazy to throw them away properly. I am totally against even a minute amount of mercury being dispersed by a broken CFL. It adds up over the millions and millions of bulbs that are thrown away incorrectly.


  7. Jamie says:

    Why don’t they package CFLs with a special bag to place them in (that seals) and includes disposal instructions on it? I broke one and put it into a ziploc baggie, then looked up on the internet how to dispose of it. I would have appreciated a little more help. But I love CFLs’ long life. I hate changing light bulbs. Eventually, disposal will get easier. Either cities will provide better opportunities or the technology will improve to negate the need for special handling.

  8. I really like that these labels will include the estimated energy cost per year. It will make it a lot easier for people to understand why they cost more upfront.

  9. James says:

    i think it is totally worth the extra money to do what is right by your overall energy bill, the environment and knowing that if everyone did the same it would have a huge impact.

    last time i checked all 9 lights in my place were energy efficient and i am proud of that 🙂

  10. MikeZ says:

    Maybe its the crappy electrical system in my house but I absolutely NEVER get five years out of a CFL. Heck they don’t seem to last much longer, if any than Incandescent. Certainly in some fixtures incandescent last longer.

    Personally I’d like to see the bulb/ballast separated in CFL bulbs. The real cost for the new lightbulbs is in the ballast not the bulb itself. The cheap ballasts in most CFL bulbs is probably what makes them die in my house. I’d gladly pay for some nicer electronic ballasts (which would save even more energy) if I could get cheap non-integrated bulbs.

  11. JimmyDaGeek says:

    MikeZ, I’m with you on separating the bulb from the ballast. You can get built-in fixtures like that. Unfortunately, separate bulbs are much more expensive than the integrated units, for some reason.

  12. billsnider says:

    There is also one other fact you didn’t discuss. It is the light appearance.

    There are three colors. Blue, natural and yellow. If you get yellow (warm) your photos will not be realistic.

    Bill Snider

  13. Anonymous says:

    Gotta actually spell it right first. They’re not made of wheat, so it’s not flourescent, and since they emit light be fluorescing, well, you can see where I’m going.

  14. eric says:

    A lighting facts label haha..I like it. Just like a food label 🙂

  15. Brian Wells says:

    Good post. It’s funny I came across this article today. Just three weeks ago I found out those lights had mercury in it. My parents panicked when I told them. I do not see the big deal. I just bought a house and replaced most of the lights with the ones mentioned in this article. My rules:
    1. If they break, leave the area and get some gloves and a dust mask.
    2. Put into a ziplock bag or something like that and bring to recycling center.
    I do not think there is any reason to panic.
    I like the lighting label. It is a good idea. We are aware of what we eat. Shouldn’t we be aware of the things we come into contact with too if they present any danger?

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