Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

LRC organizes ENERGY STAR® socket and ballast base design competition
Image: CFL-dedicated fixture components
CFL-dedicated fixture components

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Lighting Association (ALA) want to make it easier for consumers to use energy-efficient residential light fixtures.

Entries submitted for a new competition, organized by the LRC with support from the EPA, are now under review to select the best line-voltage socket and ballast base design for compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) fixtures. The winning entry eventually will become a design standard for CFL line-voltage sockets used in ENERGY STAR® qualified luminaires, making it easier for consumers to purchase replacement ballasts for their home lighting. ENERGY STAR is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment by using energy-efficient products.

Why is there a need for a standard CFL line-voltage socket design?

All ENERGY STAR residential fixtures use pin-based CFLs. The ballast for the CFL is either built permanently into the fixture, or the consumer must purchase a replaceable electronic ballast that plugs into a line-voltage socket. The problem, says Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., is that no design standard exists for the line-voltage socket. As a result, there is no standard for the ballast base that connects with the socket.

“Without standards for the socket and ballast base, ballast products are not interchangeable,” says Dr. Figueiro, director of the LRC’s Lighting Transformations program. “Therefore, when the ballast dies, consumers have to go through the hassle of finding the correct product that fits their fixture’s particular socket.” Difficulties with buying replacement parts can oftentimes limit consumer acceptance of new products such as energy-efficient light fixtures, she adds.

Manufacturers submit designs to competition

Manufacturers were invited during the summer to compete with innovative line-voltage socket designs suitable for residential luminaires of 26 watts or less, including floor and table lamps, wall fixtures, chandeliers, and ceiling fans. As a condition of entry, the winning socket design must maintain an open protocol and be made available to the public after the competition without any royalties.

The competition submission period closed at the end of September. Entries are now under review by an evaluation panel composed of representatives from luminaire, ballast, and lamp manufacturers, energy efficiency organizations, the ALA, and the LRC. The winning entry will be announced at the end of October.

Following the competition, the ALA intends to recommend the winning CFL line-voltage socket design to its partner manufacturers, says Figueiro. The EPA says it will work with market transformation groups, retailers, trade associations, and manufacturers to encourage universal acceptance of the winning design. “Over time, EPA will build the standard socket into its fixtures specification as a program requirement,” says Peter Banwell, marketing team manager with EPA ENERGY STAR.

Watch the LRC Web site for news of the winning CFL line-voltage socket design.

About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment.

© 2004 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 USA.

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