By Dan Carazo
Historically, T12 fluorescent lighting
has represented a huge portion of the commercial and institutional linear overhead
lighting market. As recently as 2003, T12 four-foot lamps held approximately
50% of the U.S. market split evenly with T8 lamps. However, since 2005 the U.S.
Department of Energy’s (DOE) mandated phase out of core T12 technologies has been
reshaping the market for linear fluorescent lighting. What’s surprising is that
as of Q3 2011, T12 lamps still represented 30% of the entire fluorescent lamps
sold in the U.S.
With lamps and ballasts
accounting for greater than 10% of a typical distributor’s annual sales, the
transition to higher efficiency lighting solutions creates both opportunities
For most distributors the T12
phase out has been a slow gradual change. But by some accounts, the T12 phase
out holds significant potential for new sales due to a perceived lack of
knowledge on the part of many commercial building owners.
According to Joseph Howley, manager of industry relations and environmental
marketing for GE Lighting, there remains a great many customers who are still
in the dark about the impending lack of availability of T12 lamps and ballasts.
“Although manufacturers have been communicating this message for almost three
years, many building owners are still not aware of the phase-out of T12 lamps,”
explained Howley. “Distributors should contact any building owner who is still
purchasing significant quantities of T12 lamps.”
Richard White, vice president, distribution
channel for Fulham North America, said while contractors are generally well
aware of the T12 phase out, customers including building owners and plant/MROs
are not yet up to speed.
When asked if cost incentives for
T12 retrofit upgrades are still available in 2012, Howley confirmed that
funding still remained, but suggested customers act quickly. “Utilities
are expected to shift rebate funding away from T12 retrofits in the future, as
many T12 products are no longer available,” added Howley.
“Fortunately, many utilities
continue to provide T12 upgrade incentives,” agreed White.
This multi-step move by the federal government to ban older T12 lighting
technologies in favor of more energy efficient lighting products began July 1,
2005 when T12 magnetic ballasts were banned for use in the manufacture of new
fixtures. Then on July 1, 2010, the DOE’s mandate became official ending
production of magnetic ballasts affecting their use for T12 linear fluorescent
lamp lighting systems.
The switch to electronic ballasts
had become complete. Now, two years later, in July 2012 many T12 lamps will
also be phased out of production, a move that should favor even greater demand
for T8 and T5 solutions.
A look at indexes for linear
fluorescent lamp shipments prepared by the National Electrical Manufacturers
Association (NEMA) show T12 lamps have suffered a steady decline since 2003. NEMA
reported T5, T8 and T12 all enjoyed increased shipments during Q3 2011 compared
to the previous quarter with T8 lamp shipments leading the way with a 6.1%
increase. Shipments of T5 lamps also posted a robust increase of 5.7%, while T12
lamps grew slightly by 0.9%.
Year-over-year performance showed
double-digit increases in shipments of both T8 and T5 lamps with T5s growing by
18.8% and T8s by 20.8%. By contrast, the index for T12 lamps lost ground
dropping nearly 10% compared to a year ago.
Thanks to the DOE’s T12 phase
outs, T8 lamps have eclipsed T12 sales with 62.4% of current market share during
Q3 2011 compared to 30.0% for T12 and 7.6% for T5. According to NEMA, market
shares for each lamp type have remained stable over the previous year.
It appears there remains a large
number of commercial property owners and managers who need to be advised about
the phasing out and dwindling supply of T12 lamps and ballasts. This huge
installed base of aged T12 lighting will eventually require replacement. That
In our next article we’ll look
into the T12 lamps that will be phased out this July.