Changes in energy regulations to affect lighting showrooms
 

Now that the dust has settled from last year’s introduction of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the lighting industry turns its attention to the myriad compliance deadlines that loom just over the horizon. The energy legislation promises profound changes for lighting manufacturers and lighting showrooms. Most importantly, it sets new efficiency standards for incandescent bulbs -- effectively rendering today’s models obsolete and calling for updated technology by 2012. No one is quite sure how the new regulations will impact the industry, but experts agree that it’s the end of business as usual.

“The days of the 50-cent light bulbs are going to go away,” says Paul Vrabel, Director of the Energy-Efficient Products Group for Sea Gull Lighting.

Vrabel and Terry McGowan, Director of Engineering for the American Lighting Association, teamed up during September’s American Lighting Association conference to lead a presentation about the changes in store for the lighting industry as the recently enacted legislation begins to take effect.

According to Vrabel and McGowan, lawmakers worked with lighting manufacturers and the American Lighting Association to schedule the various deadlines over several years. The 150W PAR38 outdoor lamp is already on its way out, for example, while other products are still waiting to be phased out or replaced over the next few years. The most important changes will take place between 2012 and 2014, when the next generation of incandescent bulbs hits the market.

Vrabel makes the point, however, that these changes are nothing if not grand opportunities for lighting showrooms to educate consumers and take on a new role as indispensable retail technology outlets.

“Retail stores are going to have to become a source of answers for their customers,” he explains. “The average consumer is going to have lots of questions, and that always presents an opportunity.”

For an analogy, Vrabel points to the cellular phone industry. The earliest mobile phones could do little more than place and receive calls, and the most that salespeople had to do was to help customers set up their voicemail and then send them on their way. But then new features started appearing. Before long, mobile-phone retailers found themselves repairing complicated electronic equipment and conducting how-to seminars for new customers.

The same explosive growth in technology is now happening to the lighting industry, Vrabel says.

“We’re going to see LEDs and other advanced technology come about, and lighting’s going to get more complex,” he says. “[Lighting showrooms] need to embrace change themselves. They need to look at this as a huge marketing opportunity.”

One change that consumers certainly won’t greet with open arms is the unavoidable price increase for incandescent bulbs. These products -- a legacy of Edison’s era --- will be required to meet much more stringent energy benchmarks in coming years. The research and development required to hit these performance thresholds will warrant a substantial price increase.

“Come 2012, you’re going to see a much higher price for an incandescent light bulb,” Vrabel predicts. “People are going to get hit with a sticker shock at some point that year.”

Experts expect next-generation incandescent bulbs to be priced similarly to CFLs -- making it easier for employees at lighting showrooms to compare the two products and, where appropriate, make the case for CFLs. McGowan expects this phenomenon to have a net positive effect on the adoption
of CFLs.

“The market forces are such that incandescents will start to fade [into] the background and become a more expensive choice,” he says.

For more information on how the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and its deadlines will affect your business, download a copy of the law’s lighting section at www.americanlightingassoc.com/members.

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