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Purchasing Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Did you know?
CFLs and LEDs last substantially
longer than incandescent light
bulbs, reducing labor costs
of replacing light bulbs.

Coal-burning power plants emit
mercury into the environment;
using ENERGY STAR light bulbs
can reduce these emissions.

The Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) provides acquisition guidance for light bulbs, a product category covered by ENERGY STAR. Federal laws and requirements mandate that agencies purchase ENERGY STAR qualified products or FEMP designated products in all product categories covered by these programs and in any acquisition actions that are not specifically exempted by law.

FEMP’s acquisition guidance and associated ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements for light bulbs are technology neutral, meaning that any light source that meets all the criteria can qualify. However, ENERGY STAR’s product specification requirements are limited to the following lamp shapes:

  • Omnidirectional lamps (ANSI standard shapes A, BT, P, PS, S, and T)
  • Decorative lamps (ANSI standard shapes B, BA, C, CA, DC, F, and G)
  • Directional lamps (ANSI standard shapes R, BR, ER, MR, and PAR)
  • Nonstandard form lamps (e.g., bare spiral and mini spiral, bare twin tube, triple tube and quadruple tube, covered and covered with reflector).

In addition, these lamps must have integrated ballasts or drivers and be able to connect to the electric power grid with ANSI standard base types E26, E26d, E17, E11, E12, GU24, GU5, or GX5.3. All other lamp types are excluded. 

This acquisition guidance was updated in August 2015.

Find Product Efficiency Requirements

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides light bulb efficiency levels and product specification information on its ENERGY STAR website. Manufacturers meeting these requirements are allowed to display the ENERGY STAR label on complying models. Get a list of ENERGY STAR certified light bulbs

Make a Cost-Effective Purchase: Save $46 by Buying Energy Star

FEMP has calculated that the required ENERGY STAR qualified light bulb saves money if priced no more than $46 above the less efficient model. The best available model saves up to $51. Federal purchasers can assume products that meet ENERGY STAR efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. Table 1 compares three types of product purchases and calculates the lifetime cost savings of purchasing efficient models.

Performance Best Available ENERGY STAR Less Efficient
Light Output 1,100 lm 1,100 lm 1,100 lm
Input Power 15 W 20 W 75 W
Annual Energy Use 30 kWh 40 kWh 150 kWh
Annual Energy Cost $2.70 $3.60 $13.50
Lifetime Energy Cost $12.64 $16.85 $63.18
Lifetime Cost Savings $51 $46 ======
View the Performance and Model Assumptions for Table 1

Light Output: Shown in lumens, a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted by a source.

Input Power: A measure of total watts used by a light bulb.

Annual Energy Use: Based on the test method referenced in 10 CFR 430, Subpart B, Appendix W.

Annual Energy Cost: Calculated based on an assumed electricity price of $0.09/kWh, which is the average electricity price at federal facilities.

Lifetime Energy Cost: The sum of the discounted value of the annual energy cost and an assumed product life of 5 years. Future utility price trends and discount rates are from Energy Price Indices and Discount Factors for Life-Cycle Cost Analysis – 2015: Annual Supplement to NIST Handbook 135 and NBS Special Publication 709 (NISTIR 85-3273-30).

Lifetime Cost Savings: The difference between the lifetime energy cost of the less efficient model and the lifetime energy cost of a model just meeting ENERGY STAR specifications or the ENERGY STAR qualified model with the best available energy performance.


Calculated based on the December 2014 ENERGY STAR Qualified Products List. More efficient models may be introduced to the market after FEMP's acquisition guidance is posted.


Calculated based on December 2014 ENERGY STAR efficiency levels. Federal agencies must purchase products that meet or exceed ENERGY STAR efficiency levels.


Calculated based on typical products used in non-federal applications.


There are additional cost savings associated with efficient light bulbs due to their long average tested lives. Because they last much longer, the labor cost of replacing burnt out light bulbs is much less with efficient lamps. Table 1 does not include labor savings, or the additional cost of more frequent ordering and stocking of incandescent light bulbs, in the savings estimate.

Determine When ENERGY STAR Products Are Cost-Effective

An efficient product is cost-effective when the lifetime energy savings (from avoided energy costs over the life of the product, discounted to present value) exceed the additional up-front cost (if any) compared to a less efficient option. ENERGY STAR considers up-front costs and lifetime energy savings when setting required efficiency levels. Federal purchasers can assume ENERGY STAR-qualified products and products that meet FEMP-designated efficiency requirements are life cycle cost-effective. In high-use applications or when energy rates are above the federal average, purchasers may save more if they specify products that exceed federal efficiency requirements, as shown in the Best Available column above.

Claim an Exception to Federal Purchasing Requirements

Products meeting ENERGY STAR or FEMP-designated efficiency requirements may not be life cycle cost-effective in certain low-use applications or in locations with very low rates for electricity or natural gas. However, for most applications, purchasers will find that energy-efficient products have the lowest life cycle cost.

Agencies may claim an exception to federal purchasing requirements through a written finding that no FEMP-designated or ENERGY STAR-qualified product is available to meet functional requirements, or that no such product is life cycle cost-effective for the specific application. Learn more about federal product purchasing requirements.

Incorporate Federal Acquisition Regulation Language in Contracts

These mandatory requirements apply to all forms of procurement, including construction guide and project specifications; renovation, repair, energy service, and operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts; lease agreements; acquisitions made using purchase cards; and solicitations for offers. Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Part 23.206 requires agencies to insert the clause at FAR section 52.223-15 into contracts and solicitations that deliver, acquire, furnish, or specify energy-consuming products for use in federal government facilities. To comply with FAR requirements, FEMP recommends that agencies incorporate efficiency requirements into technical specifications, the evaluation criteria of solicitations, and the evaluations of solicitation responses.

Find Federal Supply Sources

The federal supply sources for energy-efficient products are the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). GSA sells products through its Multiple Awards Schedules program and online shopping network, GSA Advantage!. DLA offers products through the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia and online through DOD EMALL. Products sold through DLA are codified with a 13-digit National Stock Number (NSN) and, in some cases, a two-letter Environmental Attribute Code (ENAC). The ENAC identifies items that have positive environmental characteristics and meet standards set by an approved third party, such as FEMP and ENERGY STAR.

The United Nations Standard Products and Services Code (UNSPSC) is a worldwide classification system for e-commerce. It contains more than 50,000 commodities, including many used in the federal sector, each with a unique eight-digit, four-level identification code. Manufacturers and vendors are beginning to adopt the UNSPSC classification convention and electronic procurement systems are beginning to include UNSPSC tracking in their software packages. UNSPSCs can help the federal acquisition community identify product categories covered by sustainable acquisition requirements, track purchases of products within those categories, and report on progress toward meeting sustainable acquisition goals. FEMP has developed a table of ENERGY STAR and FEMP-designated covered product categories and related UNSPSC numbers.

Light Bulb Schedules and Product Codes

GSA offers light bulbs through Schedule 51 V (Hardware Superstore) and Schedule 56 (Buildings and Building Materials/Industrial Services and Supplies). 

DLA offers compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) models with the ENAC "LQ" and light emitting diode (LED) models with the ENAC “DF” at the end of the NSN.

The UNSPSC for lamps and light bulbs is 39101600.

Buyer Tips: Make Informed Product Purchases

When comparing different types of light bulbs it is important to consider lumens, which are a measure of the total amount of visible light emitted by a source. For years incandescent light bulbs dominated the market for screw-in light bulbs and were sold based on wattage, which is a measure of power input. As shown in Table 2, ENERGY STAR qualified products need substantially less power to produce lumens equivalent to incandescent light bulbs. Buyers can use this table as a guide when replacing standard incandescent light bulbs at the wattages shown with more efficient CFLs and LEDs.

Light Output Power Requirements
  Incandescent CFLs LEDs
450 lumens 40 watts 7 to 9 watts 6 to 9 watts
800 lumens 60 watts 11 to 14 watts 8 to 14 watts
1,100 lumens 75 watts 15 to 20 watts 15 to 18 watts
1,600 lumens 100 watts 21 to 26 watts 22 to 27 watts
 View the Power Requirements Assumptions for Efficient Light Bulbs in Table 2

CFLs: Power requirements are for bare spiral type, general purpose replacement products with E26 (medium) bases, pulled from ENERGY STAR’s List of Certified Light Bulbs (August 2014). 

LEDs: Power requirements are for A type, general purpose replacement products with E26 (medium) bases, pulled from ENERGY STAR’s List of Certified Light Bulbs (August 2014).



The color of light produced by artificial sources varies from a yellowish (i.e., warm) white to a bluish (i.e., cool) white. This color has an effect on the appearance or mood of the spaces in which artificial light sources are used. Correlated color temperature (CCT) is a specification of the color appearance of the light emitted by a lamp, relating its color to the color of light from a reference source when heated to a particular temperature, measured in degrees Kelvin (K). The Lighting Research Center offers more information about CCT.

Common CCTs and their effects are shown in Table 3.

Color Temperature Warm Soft Neutral Cool
Kelvin 2,700 3,000 3,500 4,100
Mood and Effect Friendly, personal Warm, pleasing Friendly, inviting Neat, clean, efficient
Applications Homes, libraries, restaurants Homes, lobbies, restaurants Executive offices, reception areas Offices, classrooms, showrooms offers more information about the characteristics of light.

Most incandescent lamps produce warm light with color temperatures around 2,700 K, which compliments the wood finishes, furniture, and fabrics used in homes. In offices, fluorescent lamps that produce a cool, clean light with a CCT around 4,100 K are the dominant source of illumination.

When changing light sources, make sure to buy products with similar CCTs as what was previously used. Radically changing the CCT (e.g., from 2,700 K to 4,100 K) is noticeable and can result in occupant dissatisfaction.


How the color of an object is perceived varies by light source. To indicate this, light sources are rated on a 0- to 100-point scale on their accuracy with rendering different colors in comparison to an ideal or natural light source. Color rendering index (CRI) is considered a measure of light quality with a higher value indicating a better light source. ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs must have a CRI of 80 or greater. The Lighting Research Center offers more information about CRI.


Fully enclosed fixtures trap heat and increase temperatures in which lamps operate. This heat build-up can impact the performance and life expectancy of certain CFL or LED products. When purchasing lamps for use in fully enclosed fixtures, check the packaging or technical specifications to verify they can be used in this application.


If the lighting application requires lamps that can be dimmed, check the product packaging or specification to make sure the products being considered have this capacity. In general, LEDs have better dimming performance than CFLs. However, it is important to make sure LEDs are compatible with the dimming system.


The packaging for medium screw base light bulbs must contain the Lighting Facts label, which was established in January 2012 by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This label includes information on brightness (i.e., lumens), energy cost, life expectancy, light appearance (i.e., CCT), wattage, and mercury content. The FTC can help consumers choose the right bulb for their lighting needs.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sponsors a voluntary labeling program for solid-state lighting products called LED Lighting Facts. This program showcases LED products for general illumination from manufacturers that commit to testing products in accordance with industry standards and reporting the results on the label. Many of the buyer tips mentioned above are addressed on the LED Lighting Facts label, making it easier for buyers to find the information they need. Unlike the FTC’s Lighting Facts label, the information contained on the DOE label is based on testing and not manufacturer’s claims. 


Due to the integrated ballasts or drivers, CFL and LED lamps typically are bigger than incandescent light bulbs, especially near the base. Because of this, some CFLs and LEDs will not fit into smaller fixtures. 


Energy-efficient light bulbs typically last much longer than the products they replace, making them ideal for use in hard to reach fixtures. Facilities personnel must use ladders to replace burnt-out light bulbs in these fixtures, adding to the labor cost of this minor maintenance procedure. ENERGY STAR qualified lamps are required to last 10,000 hours or more, resulting in fewer replacements and additional savings on labor costs. 

A preferred option is to replace the entire fixture with one of ENERGY STAR’s eligible commercial fixture types. These fixtures are designed to accept only energy-efficient lamps (e.g., LEDs or pin-based CFLs), thus preventing incandescent light bulbs from being installed by mistake.

Some utilities offer rebates or other incentives for the purchase of ENERGY STAR qualified products. Use the ENERGY STAR Rebate Finder to see if your local utility offers these incentives.

User Tips: Use Products More Efficiently

When used and handled properly, energy-efficient light bulbs provide years of safe and effective service. Federal users should be aware of the following user tips.


As with all lamps, additional energy can be saved through the use of automatic lighting controls. The lights in unoccupied areas should be turned off, and controls can perform this function more reliably than occupants. There are many control options, including wireless, to choose from. Get more information about Lighting Controls from DOE’s Energy Saver website.


ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs contain 3 mg or less of mercury, which is classified as a hazardous material by the EPA. This mercury is encapsulated inside of glass tubes and does not escape during normal use. It is only when CFLs are broken that the mercury is released. The amount of mercury is so small that it poses little threat to occupants. However, certain steps should be taking during cleanup and disposal to minimize risk. Learn more in EPA’s fact sheet, What to Do if a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb or Fluorescent Tube Light Bulb Breaks in Your Home. The janitorial staff at federal facilities should be made aware of this resource.

Coal contains mercury, which is released into the atmosphere when burnt. By using less electricity from coal-fired power plants, energy-efficient light bulbs actually help reduce mercury emissions.


CFLs should be recycled when they reach the end of their useful lives. When placed in municipal waste streams CFLs are crushed and mercury is released into the environment. The combined mercury content from many improperly disposed-of CFLs can become a hazard. Federal agencies should incorporate CFLs into their recycling efforts and inform their staff how to properly handle these products.

When handled and recycled properly, CFLs are not hazardous to federal personnel. 

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory provided supporting analysis for this acquisition guidance.