When searching for energy efficient lighting products, most
buyers have probably noticed that some products display a blue Energy Star
label while others display a Design Lights Consortium (DLC) label. This usually
leads to them ask the following questions:
- What’s the difference between the two?
- Why are products labeled with one or the other,
but not both?
- How does a given product become Energy Star or
In order to answer these questions, let’s first look at the
backgrounds behind them.
Energy Star is a program started by the United States
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1996 to help reduce air pollution. In
2005, the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) expanded it to include
promotion of energy efficient products and buildings. This expansion of its
mission was meant to help reduce energy consumption and lower all types of
pollution. It is a voluntary program that not only applies to lighting
products, but also to computers, household appliances, heating and cooling
systems and home electronics, among other things.
The Energy Star label tells the consumer that the product
has met efficiency standards set by the EPA and DOE.This means that products with it are safer
for the environment than those without it. Although originally established the
United States, the Energy Star program has become an international standard.
In order to earn the Energy Star label, products are independently
tested by a third party EPA-certified laboratory before being sold on the
market. These approved products are later tested at random to ensure that they
still meet Energy Star standards. Some of the standards for lighting products
- Fluorescent lighting must use 75% less energy
and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent lights
- LED lighting must use 75% less energy than
- LED lighting must last 35 to 50 times longer
than incandescent lighting and about 2 to 5 times longer than fluorescent
lighting. No bulb-replacements, no ladders, no ongoing disposal program.
The DLC is a regional group that focuses on energy
efficiency specifically in the lighting industry. It is a part of the Northeast
Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) and was originally focused on the
Northeast and Mid-Atlantic areas of the United States. It was set up in 1998 in
order to promote quality, performance
and energy efficient commercial sector lighting solutionsin the building
sector. The DLC set up a program called the “knowhow series” which instructed
electrical contractors and lighting distributors on how to outfit commercial
spaces with efficient lighting that was also attractive, functional, and up to
In 2010, the DLC created the Qualified Products List (QPL)
of commercial grade LED lights, a
leading resource that distinguishes quality, high efficiency LED products for
the commercial sector. In 2012, due to the DLC’s success, programs from
over thirty states and three Canadian provinces joined the DLC. Today, these
groups collaborate to push the lighting market towards even more innovation and
Products must meet strict requirements to make the QPL or to
earn the DLC logo on their packaging. Manufacturers must apply and pay a fee to
have a DLC-approved third party test their products.
- DLC is strictly for lighting products, whereas
Energy Star is applied to many other types of products.
- Energy Star is typically used for consumer
products, DLC is used for commercial products.
- There are no products that have both ratings, only
one or the other. There is no overlap between the two. For example, recessed
lighting is within the jurisdiction of Energy Star; therefore, DLC does not
rate this type of product.
- Energy Star can claim jurisdiction over
particular products, so if this happens to a DLC product, DLC must remove its label.
- Energy Star covers CFL light bulbs, LED light
bulbs, residential luminaires, decorative light strings and ceiling fans with
- DLC covers commercial products not covered under
Energy Star such as roadway lights or parking garage lights.
Depending on location, some ES and DLC lights
are eligible for tax rebates and incentives. Either way, both labels tell the
buyer that the products that display them have met strict efficiency standards.