Fluorescents, LEDs and Title 24
March 7, 2012 - 4:42pm
Our resident lighting expert, Randall Whitehead, demystifies Title 24.

Q: Randall, with screw-in compact fluorescent bulbs expected to appeal to consumers, do the hardwired rules in California’s Title 24 seem off target? Available dimmable products require expensive fluorescent dimmers and more than two wires, requiring a switch leg.

A: I agree—in theory. The first step, though, is to get people over their fear of fluorescents. They associate all fluorescents with the ones they grew up with in schools, grocery stores and hospitals. They assume all fluorescents hum, buzz and make you look like Shrek. They would simply unscrew the CFLs and put incandescents back in if they weren’t hardwired.            

Title 24 asks that 50 percent of the wattage in the kitchen be high-efficacy (fluorescent or LED). Even though the dimmable fluorescent fixtures are costly in the beginning, we have calculated a payback of 2½ years on your investment if the fixtures are used four hours a day, seven days a week—a conservative estimate of typical usage in a kitchen. Many manufacturers are offering two-wire dimmable ballasts that make retrofitting easier. Bathrooms, on the other hand, can be 100 percent incandescent if you put the lights on a switched motion sensor.

Personally, I am using more LED components in my kitchen projects. Hardwire trims like those by Permlight are in the $90 range (they are UL listed to fit into five commonly available housings) and dim with a standard electronic dimmer. I have them in my own house, in which I use exclusively fluorescent and LED sources (both hardwire and screw-in), and I think it is still quite alluring.

The bottom line is that if people promised to keep the screw-in CFLs in  their fixtures, there would be no need for Title 24. But how can we enforce that? I encourage my clients to use screw-in fluorescents in the rooms where Title 24 doesn’t apply.

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