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Light Bulbs Easier to Choose with New Nutrition Facts-Style Labeling

Updated on June 3, 2011

My previous hub was about how it's not easy to choose light bulbs. I just found out that this will no longer be the case with the new light bulb labeling required by the FTC. Lighting manufacturers will need to include relevant facts about the light bulbs contained in each package; gadzooks, if consumers know what they're buying, how will companies make money?

Brightness, Estimated Yearly Energy Cost, Life, Light Appearance, and Energy Used are the pieces of information displayed on the new labeling. Consumers will have a way easier time deciding between light bulbs with this info so prominently displayed.

Light Bulb Labeling Greatly Improved

I'll probably actually pay attention to these "fact labels", unlike nutrition facts
I'll probably actually pay attention to these "fact labels", unlike nutrition facts

Huzzah for New Light Bulb Labels!

The most important aspect of any light bulb is the first piece of information to be listed: Brightness. The new label displays how many lumens the light bulb outputs, which is the technical term for how bright a light bulb is. I believe lighting manufacturers already included the lumens of a light bulb on the packaging, but until now it wasn't obvious what "lumens" meant. It's clear now, so consumers can pick up an incandescent light bulb and a compact fluorescent and compare their light output directly from the package. Nice.

Next is displayed the Estimated Yearly Energy Cost for the light bulb. The FTC uses generic numbers of 3 hours usage per day with an energy cost of $0.11 per kWh to arrive at the Estimated Yearly Energy Cost.  Note that this is a very conservative base usage number, so your personal yearly cost for a light bulb could be much different.

The 3 hours usage per day number is also used to calculate the next line of information; Life. The estimated life of the bulb is displayed in years, so you can quickly figure out how much money you may additionally save or spend after you've already purchased the light bulb.

The Light Appearance of the bulb is displayed after the Life number. Light Appearance refers to the color temperature of the light bulb, shown with a horizontal bar indicating how "warm" or "cool" the light is. This is a great piece of information, especially if someone already knows what kind of light they want.

The last piece of information is the Energy Used, displayed as watts. It's fairly ironic that what used to be the most prominent attribute of a light bulb is now at the bottom of the list of facts. It's better this way though because wattage is not a uniform number that can easily be compared between light bulb technologies.

Now It's Easy to Choose the Right Light Bulb

Soon these packages will actually include useful information about the light bulbs within
Soon these packages will actually include useful information about the light bulbs within

I look forward to seeing the FTC's new labeling policies put into action by lighting manufacturers. I've been familiar with the lighting industry for a long time so for me it has been a simple matter to choose light bulbs, but I can certainly remember when I did not have such information and it was a chore finding the right bulbs. The average consumer probably does not go to the trouble of finding the information that will now be on light bulb package labels, which left them in the dark as to which product was best.

This type of information sharing should be required on all products, since we can't be experts at everything! Placing pertinent pieces of information right on the label in an easy to navigate fashion improves the consumer experience by educating them and making the process more efficient. Even possible detriments are disclosed, which is evident by compact fluorescent light bulb labels including a section indicating they contain mercury.

Shopping for light bulbs will be easier than ever with these new labeling standards. It's about time, FTC!


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