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2007 Energy Law Eliminates Sale of Probe-Start Metal Halide Fixtures

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 contains significant provisions affecting the sale of metal halide lighting fixtures.

Starting in 2009, 150-500W metal halide lighting fixtures must contain ballasts that operate at a certain level of efficiency, virtually eliminating probe-start lamps and ballasts from new fixtures.

This provision of the 2007 Energy Act essentially makes a Federal standard of efficiency requirements already enacted in California, New York, Arizona, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington.

What the law says

EISA 2007 regulates the efficiency of ballasts in new lighting fixtures containing 150-500W metal halide lamps.

Starting January 1, 2009, new metal halide lighting fixtures cannot be manufactured or imported unless their ballast operates the lamp at a minimum efficiency level as shown in Table 1. Compliant fixtures will contain a capital E printed in a circle on their packaging and ballast labels (similar to legislated fluorescent ballasts).

Exceptions include fixtures with regulated lag ballasts, fixtures with electronic ballasts for operation at 480V, and 150W wet-location fixtures containing a ballast rated to operate at ambient temperatures above 50°C.

This Federal law covers manufacture and not sale, so distributors will be able to sell their inventories of non-compliant fixtures until they are depleted (unless prohibited by state law). The law covers fixtures and not ballasts, so distributors will also be able to continue selling non-compliant ballasts to customers for spot replacement needs in existing installations.

Table 1. Minimum metal halide ballast efficiency levels mandated by EISA 2007. Efficiency is measured as Pout/Pin where Pout is the lamp wattage and Pin is operating wattage.


Probe-start magnetic ballasts for metal halide lamps up to 400W will be virtually eliminated from new fixtures. Because probe-start lamps require probe-start ballasts, this will also eliminate 175-400W probe-start metal halide lamps from new fixtures.

Demand will shift to pulse-start. Note,however, that while many pulse-start magnetic ballasts comply with EISA 2007, a significant number do not, so look for the compliance symbol on the ballast label and fixture packaging.

Meanwhile, most, if not all, pulse-start electronic ballasts comply, so it is expected that electronic ballasts, including dimming versions, will get a boost.

In recent years, pulse-start lighting systems have been making significant advances against traditional probe-start in higher wattages.

Pulse-start systems produce higher light output than traditional probe-start systems both initially and over time, operate more efficiently, produce whiter light, provide good lamp-to-lamp color consistency, and turn on and re-strike faster. In terms of energy efficiency, pulse-start metal systems can provide up to 25% energy cost savings in existing applications over probe-start, and up to 30% savings in capital and operating costs in new construction.

So the law is essentially accelerating the phase-out of an obsolete technology in favor of readily available, better-performing, more-efficient technologies.

Specialty mercury vapor systems

While on the subject of HID lighting, EISA 2007 also includes a little-known provision that updates previous legislation impacting mercury vapor ballasts.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 prohibited manufacturing and importing mercury vapor ballasts starting January 1, 2008. The law intended to target standard systems but inadvertently targeted specialty systems as well.

EISA 2007 includes two technical corrections:

First, mercury vapor lamps are defined as featuring screwbases, so manufacturers can still produce ballasts to operate uniquely based lamps used in applications such as UV curing and chip manufacturing.

Second, if a standard screwbase mercury vapor lamp is to be used in a specialty application, the ballast’s label must include the notice, FOR SPECIALTY APPLICATIONS ONLY, NOT FOR GENERAL ILLUMINATION, as well as its intended specialty applications.

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