Manufacturers

Lutron Electronics Studies Light Bulb Ban’s Impact On Dimmers

                  Lutron
Electronics is releasing a new survey showing most Americans are not aware that
40W and 60W light bulbs will disappear when stores run out of supply, and that
few are aware of their options.

                  To
explore some of the ramifications of the phase-out—outlined in a new survey
released last month—a panel of experts gathered in New York City just before
the law went into effect.  Their
purpose was to discuss the dimensions of the problem as well as options
available. 

                  According
to the survey, which was conducted for Lutron Electronics—the company
that organized the New York panel—very few Americans are even aware of the
phase-out.  The Lutron survey,
which polled 1,000 adults in the U.S. in November 2013, revealed that fewer
than one in three understood that the familiar 40 and 60 watt bulbs were soon
to disappear. 

                  “Manufacturers,
retailers and others in the lighting industry—including the trade and general
press—have been working to get the word out for the past two years,” said Terry
McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association and a member of the panel.

“But since the 40 and 60 watt
incandescent bulbs represent more than 60 percent of all U.S. household bulbs
sold annually, some people will definitely be in for a shock.”

                  The
Lutron survey, conducted by The Futures Company, an
independent research organization, also found that only one in 10 adults is familiar
with other options, including Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps and Compact
Fluorescents Lamps (CFLs).  This
corroborates a recent report by the National Electrical Manufacturers
Association
to the effect that CFL market penetration remains flat
and LEDs are being used in only about one percent of all U.S. sockets.

                  Another
member of the panel, Jason Byron Teague, a New York City-based lighting
designer, said his clients have very low awareness of the post phase-out
options. “I hear the same things from all my clients—‘halogen bulbs are higher
priced, the curly bulbs (CFLs) don’t look good’ and ‘LEDs are unfamiliar as
well as new and expensive’— so it’s clear people don’t have enough information
to make a decision. I tell them there’s room for all of these new bulbs in a
home and that the placement of them is really dependent on lifestyle,” said
Teague.

                  While
most people seem to be in the dark about their options, three-quarters of those
surveyed said it’s important that the new energy-efficient bulbs be dimmable

                  For
Ethan Biery, Lutron’s LED lighting expert, that’s a mandate for manufacturers
to come up with better compatibility between the lamps and the dimmers. 

                  “All
halogen bulbs are dimmable, as are most LEDs—provided that the package
indicates as much—but the majority of CFL and LED bulbs will not perform the
same way as an incandescent when actually dimmed,” he explained. “Consumers may
experience buzzing of the lamp or dimmer, flickering lights, long start times,
non-smooth dimming or lights dropping out or popping on when the dimmer is
operated.”

                   To
eliminate some of these problems and accelerate the transition to more
energy-efficient bulbs and lighting systems, Lutron is working with dozens of
lamp manufacturers to improve dimmer compatibility

                  “People
have been dimming their lights electronically since the early 1960s, when
Lutron—the company that invented the household dimmer—introduced the idea. 

But the original dimmers were
designed for incandescent bulbs, not the LEDs and CFLs of today,” said Biery,
who pointed out that the company recently introduced a
line of dimmers
that works with dimmable LEDs and CFLs as well as
halogen and incandescent bulbs. 

                  Another
member of the panel, Stan Mertz, director of operations for Applied
Proactive Technologies
, a firm that designs and implements
residential incentive programs, credited utility companies for providing
incentives to reduce the cost of purchasing energy efficient products such as
CFLs, LEDs, dimmers and occupancy sensors.

                  “At
the moment, less than half the households in America have converted to
energy-efficient bulbs.  Homeowners
would be more inclined to make the switch if they were presented with an
incentive that reduces the cost for these types of bulbs,” said Mertz.

                  While
no one knows for sure which option consumers will embrace in 2014—LEDs, CFLs or
halogens–one thing is for sure. Consumers may be in the dark about their
options, but they are nearly unanimous in hoping that the light at the end of
the tunnel will be dimmable.

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