We’ve seen a variety of lighting in this hobby over the years and for the most part we get to know the watts and color temperature of the bulb but have to go chasing down third-party data to find out the brightness of the bulb in question. Things are about to change, at least with general application lighting, with new light bulb labeling policy from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requiring manufacturers to provide information on light bulbs with the emphasis on lumens, not watts, to give the consumer basic information on each bulb.
Similar to the nutritional fact labeling we have on food, the new labels will roll out in 2011 showing lumens, color temperature, estimated yearly cost, lifespan, energy used and if the bulb contains mercury. Beyond the packaging, the new labeling policy will also require the bulb’s brightness, measured in lumens, and a disclosure for bulbs containing mercury, to also be printed on each bulb. More details and our take after the break.
Aquarium lighting may fall under Part 305 of the “Appliance Labeling Rule” by the FTC and could be excluded from this form of labeling but we hope to see this trickle down into the hobby since it makes a lot of sense. A few key things point to the bulbs we use in the hobby being excluded. First the color temperature scale on the label ranges from warm (2,700 K) to cool (6,600 K) and that pretty much makes it irrelevant for 95 percent of the reef lighting market. In the eyes of the FTC, this rule covers “general service lamps” defined as:
- A medium base compact fluorescent lamp
- A general service incandescent lamp
- A general service light-emitting diode (LED or OLED) lamp
- Any other lamp that the Secretary of Energy determines is used to satisfy lighting applications traditionally served by general service incandescent lamps
So it seems like specialized PC, T5, VHO, MH and LED lights for the aquarium will not be required to include these consumer information labels. We would hope that manufacturers see the positive benefits of delivering basic data for the consumer and would include this at least on their website.
A proposed “Reef Builders” resolution for reef aquarium lighting manufacturers would be to include basic data besides power used and color temperature. It would be incredible if we adopted a standard where brightness would be measured in a controlled environment. For example, lighting could be mounted 12 inches over a 24-inch tall tank of water (RO/DI freshwater, with as many impurities out as possible, no rock or anything else) with measurements taken right at the bulb’s surface, at the water surface, then 12 inches below and 24 inches below the surface. Armed with these basic pieces of information, hobbyists would be able to make more informed purchases and would maybe police the industry from delivering crap bulbs.
Many of us started out in the hobby with the old “watts per gallon” rule but with power compacts, metal halide, VHO, T5 lighting and more recently LED lights available to us, each has distinctly different characteristics in efficiency and brightness, making that guideline confusing and obsolete. Instituting a similar labeling policy in the hobby could help put the responsibility on the manufacturer to give the consumer more information we rightly deserve.
We are looking forward to seeing the labels even if it only means being able to get information on bulbs we use to light the rooms around our tank.