Factsheet What`s Hot in Dorm Lighting
What’s Hot in
Whether you are
or purchasing a new
torchiere, you should
be concerned with
lumen output, color
quality and power
A factsheet for facility operators
Many students supplement the general lighting in
their dormitory rooms with halogen torchieres. Since
the mid-1980s, 40 million of these fixtures have been
sold. Estimates of student-owned, halogen torchieres
in the nation’s dorms range from 600,000 to 1 million.
These fixtures are attractive, portable, dimmable,
and inexpensive to purchase. They provide high
quality, bright light, without the glare of standard
ceiling mounted fixtures. And, they are often marketed as energy efficient. But
many schools banned halogen lamps, and some give students incentives to choose
alternatives. Why? The halogen torchieres cause three major problems:
• Fire danger
• Energy costs
• Environmental costs
The number one reason for banning halogen torchieres is fire danger. The Consumer
Product Safety Commission documented at least 270 fires (some in dormitory rooms),
114 injuries, and 19 deaths related to halogen torchieres since 1992.
Halogen lamps are hot. The lamps operate at 750˚F -1100˚F or higher, much higher than
combustion temperatures of common household materials (350˚F-500˚F). In addition
to accidental contact with items such as bedding and draperies, some fires have started
from unintended uses of the heat produced by these lamps, such as drying clothes or
even cooking. Exposure to high heat over time can reduce the combustion temperature of
wall and ceiling components, allowing them to ignite at much lower temperatures than
would be previously possible.
The design of the torchiere fixture contributes to the danger of using halogen lamps. The
upturned, bowl-shaped reflector easily catches objects and funnels them toward the lamp.
The torchieres are also top-heavy and tip easily.
A halogen lamp is a small, pressurized, gas-filled, quartz tube that can be easily damaged in
handling. If contaminated by skin oils in handling, a lamp may prematurely fail, sometimes
even explode. Tensor Corporation participated in a voluntary recall of their Chinese-made
500 watt lamps in December 1996 (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Release
#97-38), after becoming aware of 281 bulb-shattering incidents where molten quartz traveled
many feet from the fixture, causing injuries and fires. Lamps most likely to suffer this problem
What’s Hot in Dorm Lighting
Concerned about alarming
energy use, the Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory
collaborated with Stanford
University and lighting manufacturer Emess, Inc. on a
program to remove and replace
halogen torchieres from some
In 1997, the university
purchased 500 torchiere fixtures
that use specially designed compact fluorescent lamps (cfls). The
lamps consume only 67 watts,
yet produce light output equal
to 300-watt halogen lamps. Not
only do the cfl lamps consume
less than 1/4 of the energy of
the halogens that they replaced,
their operating temperature is
a cool 1000F, that is 9000 less
than a 300-watt halogen!
Although the fixtures were
priced at $140 each, the
university offered them free to
students willing to trade in their
halogen torchieres. According to
David Frost, Stanford’s Energy
Manager at the time, the university expected the energy savings
to recoup their investment.
“The estimate of $50/yr/lamp in
energy costs with the halogens
may even be low-the lamps were
used a lot.” He reported that in
the year of the trade-out “the
university experienced a drop
in their utility bill of $150,000,
despite the fact that during that
year they added a new building
housing 250 additional students
and experienced a utility rate
increase.” Halogen torchiere
lamps were subsequently
banned from campus and fines
imposed on violators.
have been the unbranded lamps usually found in the least expensive
lamp fixtures, or purchased for replacements.
The electrical load of many high wattage lamps may be too much for the
wiring of older buildings, causing overheating.
The newest halogen fixtures are improved with switches that turn off if
tipped over, and built-in protective cages to limit contact between the
lamp and foreign objects. However, the lamps continue to burn at the
same high temperatures and have high energy consumption.
Energy Costs... Efficiency is a Myth
Incandescent lamps, of which halogen is one type, are inefficient producers of light they produce about 90 percent heat and 10 percent light.
Contrary to advertising claims, research found halogen torchieres to typically be less than 50 percent as efficient as standard incandescent lamps
(Calwell, 1997).1 Each halogen lamp typically consumes 300-500 watts
each. A single 500-watt halogen lamp uses as much energy as 15 fourfoot T8 fluorescent lamps – enough for 7.5 dorm rooms. One 300-watt
halogen uses as much energy as 15-20 typical compact fluorescent lamps
(cfl). Calculations of the operating cost of a 300- watt halogen lamp
versus a 65-watt cfl model show that the cfl will save $16.92- $24.36 per
year in the Pacific Northwest.2 Your electric bills may also include a “demand charge,” and the load of many high wattage lamps will contribute
to higher demand charges.
Students are isolated from the energy costs and often leave lamps on
when they are not needed. One study (Marr and Abernathy, 1996) found
halogen lamps operating an average of 39 hours/week, and other estimates place that even higher in dormitory use, consuming 300-500
watts each. This represents a large energy cost, and may comprise as
much as 25 percent of the lighting load of the dormitory building. See
the sidebar “Stanford University’s Experiment” for an example of one
university’s savings from replacing halogen lamps in dormitories.
Replacing halogen lamps with compact fluorescent lamps (cfls) could
substantially reduce the mercury and greenhouse gases produced in the
generation of electricity from fossil fuels. One estimate calculated that
if homeowners replaced one-third of their lighting with cfls, it would
half the electricity used for lighting in the United States. In the Pacific
Northwest most (but not all) of the electricity is produced from hydropower, not fossil fuels. However, the less electricity we use, the more
available for sale to other regions that otherwise rely on fossil or nuclear
powered generation. With hydropower, there is also the issue of salmon
preservation/restoration to consider.
Lamp efficiency is expressed as “efficacy”, which measures the light output in lumens (lm), against
the energy consumed, in watts (w). In tests performed by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the cheapest,
unlabeled lamps dramatically under-performed in light output compared to brand name lamps. (Page,
Based on electricity cost of $0.050-0.058 kWh
What’s Hot in Dorm Lighting
To eliminate halogen lamps from their campuses,
some schools have taken the path of installing better dormitory lighting that is appealing to the occupants. Contact the EnergyIdeas Clearinghouse
at [email protected] for information on lighting upgrades. Large-scale upgrades should be considered in
the school’s long-term plans, yet the need for better
lighting is now.
An alternative may be for the school to provide
supplemental lighting that uses compact fluorescent
technology. The Environmental Protection Agency’s
EnergyStar label appears on a variety of models of
compact fluorescent lamp torchieres. Some schools
include them as part of the furnishings; some offer rebates or buy down cost of student-purchased
lighting. The Energy Star torchiere floor lamp uses
82 percent less electricity than the standard halogen
torchiere and operates at much cooler temperatures,
eliminating the extreme fire hazard found in halogen
units (Energy Star torchieres reach only 100˚F). In addition, Energy Star torchiere floor lamps typically last
10,000 hours, reducing costs associated with disposing of fixtures with burned out halogen lamps.
Another solution is to ban the halogen torchiere
lamps and suggest the standard incandescent versions, greatly reducing the fire hazard and cutting the
energy use (and light output) in half, but this could
potentially increase the number of lamps in use in
Enforcement associated with campus bans ranged
from confiscation of lamps to fines, some quite
substantial. One school requires violators to attend
Are Better Lamps Expensive?
With energy consuming appliances, it is typical for
the cost of operating the product (over its lifetime)
to exceed the purchase price. Using life cycle costs
rather than first cost is important when determining
the actual cost of a product. Choosing an expensive,
but more efficient, product can cost less in the long
run. The embedded cost of products (the energy and
resources used to produce and distribute them) is
another cost not often considered by consumers, but
an expense to our environment.
Two somewhat hidden costs are also associated with
First, because the lamps can be difficult to change,
and expensive to replace, owners have been known
to simply discard the entire torchiere fixture when
the lamp fails, replacing it with a new fixture. This
adds to solid waste disposal burdens and requires additional energy and resources to manufacture another
Second, halogen lamps can cause harmonic distortion on the electrical circuits (especially when
dimmed), that can damage sensitive equipment such
as computers. When halogen lamps are dimmed,
their already low efficacy of 9.9-14.4 lm/w plummets
to 1.7-3.2 lm/w.
The availability of torchiere fixtures using cfls is increasing while the cost is dropping. Some utility programs like the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance’s
Residential Lighting program www.nwalliance.org/
projects/projectoverview.asp?PID=38 have bought down
the price of cfl lamps and fixtures. EPA’s EnergyStar™
program is promoting energy efficient appliances
including, but not limited to lamps, computers,
televisions, and VCR’s. www.energystar.gov/
You can also check with your local utility company
or the EnergyIdeas Clearinghouse to identify cfl
A recent survey of stores in the Puget Sound region
found “improved” 300-watt halogen torchieres priced
at $59, while 30-55-watt cfl versions ranged from
$27-$35. The “improvements” on the halogen fixtures were a wire cage installed over the lamp and an
automatic cut-off switch (in case it tips over), but no
energy improvements. Of course, more costly versions of each are available.
Using the LightSite website’s energy calculation program www.lightsite.net
www.lightsite.net, we calculated the payback in
operating costs of switching from halogen torchieres
to compact fluorescent torchieres3. Based on average energy costs,4 the cfls paid for themselves in as
short as 17 months in Montana, and in 20 months in
Idaho, Washington, and Oregon.
How do I Choose a Lamp?
Whether you are retrofitting an incandescent fixture
or purchasing a new compact fluorescent torchiere,
you should be concerned with lumen output, color
quality and power quality. Size becomes an issue
Calculations are based on a halogen fixture costing $20, with replacement
lamps costing $6 (to last as long as the 10,000-hour life of a cfl, five 2,000-hourlife halogen lamps are required). Cost of the cfl torchiere is estimated at $70.
Energy costs were averaged at $0.050 kWh in Idaho, Washington and Oregon,
and $0.058 in Montana.
What’s Hot in Dorm Lighting
with retrofits, although the new sub-compact fluorescents are quite close in size to standard incandescent
lamps. Burn position is also a retrofit issue, as lamps
intended for only base-down operation may suffer
performance and lamp life degradation if used in
Where Can I Find Out More?
All lamps now are labeled with their lumen output. A
rough rule of thumb is to buy a compact fluorescent
lamp with lumen output similar to the incandescent
it is replacing. The wattage will be about 1/4 to 1/3
of an equivalent incandescent lamp. Until you are
satisfied with the output, retain all packaging and
receipts; some packaging is overly optimistic about
output. The receipts and packaging are also good to
keep should you need to exercise the warranty. Note
the date of installation near, or on, the fixture; this is
a good way to measure how long the lamps actually
last. Remember that compact fluorescent lamps may
take up to ten minutes to reach full brightness. They
perform best in applications of long, continuous use,
rather than infrequent, short operations.
The color rendering of fluorescent lamps has long
been a complaint of those using them. The new technology made lamps with high color rendering index
(CRI) possible. If CRI numbers are provided, look
for those in the 1980s or 1990’s for the best color
(standard incandescents are rated at 100), or one that
says “high CRI.” Lower CRI lamps are on the market,
generally for less cost, and can be used for less critical applications like porch lights; while they may be
adequate to see by, they may have a bluish or greenish cast.
The ballasts in fluorescent lamps are actually transformers, and transformers (and motors) on electrical
circuits affect power quality. In small numbers, such
as a residence, this is generally not a problem, but
in large numbers, like in dormitories, there can be
a negative impact on power quality (halogen lamps
also impact this), which if not remedied may cause
problems for computers on the same circuits. Lamps
that have “high power factor” can avoid this problem.
Lamps with electronic ballasts eliminate a major
complaint about standard fluorescent lamps noise
and flicker. They also tend to be smaller and lighter
than traditional magnetic ballasts, but both are on
The EnergyIdeas Clearinghouse is available to help
answer specific questions on halogen torchieres or
other energy-related questions. (800) 872-3568 or
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance
www.nwalliance.org also sponsors the following
programs in the Pacific Northwest:
ENERGY STAR™ Residential Lighting, www.north
westenergystar.com/index.php?cID=136. This program
promotes ENERGY STAR-qualified lighting products
to consumers in the Northwest. Products carrying the
ENERGY STAR symbol, which use less energy than
competing goods, save money on monthly energy
bills and help protect the environment.
The Lighting Design Lab, http://lightingdesignlab.com/
index.html brings useful lighting resources to commercial customers, like universities. This Lab in Seattle provides assistance to commercial lighting designers seeking the most efficient lighting technologies
and strategies. Includes mock-up facility, daylighting
lab, product demonstrations, and consultations:
The Lighting Research Center at www.lrc.rpi.edu/
offers many useful resources including "Alternatives to
Halogen Torchieres," www.lrc.rpi.edu/publicationdetails.
Other Related Links:
The Brown University website: www.brown.edu/
Halogen Torchieres and Their Alternatives,
Ecos Consulting. Of particular interest, the
survey of college and university residence halls:
What’s Hot in Dorm Lighting
Luminaire: A complete lighting unit, consisting of
a lamp or lamps together with the components required to distribute the light, position the lamps, and
connect the lamps to a power supply.
Lawrence Berkeley Labs is researching safe, energy
efficient alternatives to the ubiquitous halogen
torchiere: http://eetd.lbl.gov/. The following publications are available:
• "Campus Lighting-Energy Efficiency-Safety-Loss
• "New Energy Efficient Torchieres Ready for Hot
Torchiere Market" http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/mills/
Calwell, Chris and Kurt Teichert. “The Campus Lighting Efficiency Project: The Halogen Torchiere
Opportunity,” 1997. Page, Erik and Michael Siminovitch. Photometric Assessment of Energy Efficient
Lighting Systems Research Group, Building Technologies Program, Environmental Energy Technologies
Division, Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National
Laboratory, University of California, June 1997.
Marr, Linsey and Dr. Frederick Abernathy. “An Energy Efficient Lamp and Energy Savings at Harvard.”
Engineering Sciences 100 Senior Design Project,
Harvard-Radcliffe College, April 19, 1996.
CCT: Correlated color temperature. Relates the color
appearance of a lamp to that of a reference light
CRI: Color rendering index. A measurement of the
amount of color shift that objects undergo when
lighted by a light source as compared with the color
of those same objects when seen under a reference
light source of comparable color temperature. CRI
values generally range from 0 to 100.
Luminaire Efficiency: The amount of lumens
emitted by a source versus the amount that actually
escape the fixture to be useful light, expressed as a
percentage. Luminous Efficacy of a source of light:
Measurement of the ratio of lumens output per watt
of power consumed. Expressed as lumens per watt
Power Factor: The ratio of active power (watts) to
apparent power (rms volt-amperes). Ranges from 0-1.
When power factor is less than 1, it draws non-work
producing power from the electrical system. Low
power factors require larger electrical supply equipment (circuit conductors, transformers, and switchgear) to carry the additional current. Many utilities
charge a penalty for power factors below .8-.9. Above
.9, a device is considered to have High power factor.
1 Lamp efficiency is expressed as “efficacy”, which
measures the light output in lumens (lm), against the
energy consumed, in watts (w). In tests performed by
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, the cheapest, unlabeled lamps dramatically under-performed in light
output compared to brand name lamps. (Page, Siminovitch, 1997) 2 Based on electricity cost of $0.0500.058 kWh 3 Calculations are based on a halogen
fixture costing $20, with replacement lamps costing
$6 (to last as long as the 10,000-hour life of a cfl, five
2,000-hour-life halogen lamps are required). Cost of
the cfl torchiere is estimated at $70. 4 Energy costs
were averaged at $0.050 kWh in Idaho, Washington
and Oregon, and $0.058 in Montana.
Color Temperature: The absolute temperature of
a blackbody radiator having a chromaticity equal to
that of the light source (see CCT).
Lamp: An electrically energized source of light commonly called a bulb or tube.
Lumen: A measure of the amount of light available
from a light source equivalent to the light emitted by
What’s Hot in Dorm Lighting
Halogen torchiere lamp fixtures introduced, expensive at $100+.
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) starts tracking halogen torchiere fires.
Brown University study confirmed student use of halogen torchiere lamps increased with
dissatisfaction of installed lighting.
First cfl prototype built by recent graduates of Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.
Price of cfl lamps drops below $15, and sales surge.
Hendrix College, Resselaer Polytechnic, and numerous other colleges experience fires due to
halogen torchiere lighting.
Harvard and Stanford collaborate with Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Energy Federation,
Inc., and lighting manufacturer Emess, Inc., to develop the first compact fluorescent
First on-campus research on torchiere usage and rigorous prototype design done by Leslie
Marr and Dr. Frederick Abernathy, Harvard.
Halogen torchiere lamps banned at Brown University.
First Energy Star torchiere is on the market.
Consumer Product Safety Commission, having received reports of 100 fires and 10 deaths,
urges Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to rewrite testing procedures for halogen torchieres.
First systematic research on campus-wide torchiere use at Colby College.
New safety test required by UL, some torchieres feature thermal cut-off switches.
New England Fire Safety Officers Association issues recommendation that halogen
torchieres be banned at all member campuses.
First forum of public demonstration of Energy Star torchieres at Brown University.
Stanford purchases 500 compact fluorescent torchieres for “swap out” with students.
CPSC issues largest recall ever. The recall results in recommendation that free bulb guards be
supplied by manufacturers to reduce danger, but CPSC notes that the lamps remain
Brown University purchases 500 cfl torchiere fixtures for general dorm lighting where no
overhead lighting is installed. University distributes fixtures to students through retail outlet
Rice University purchases 1000 cfl lamps for direct installation in dormitories.
EnergyStar torchieres introduced.
Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, DC, in collaboration with the Alliance to Save Energy,
holds a “swap out” in military housing units. Data loggers are attached to the fixtures to
collect data for one year.
The EnergyIdeas Clearinghouse provides information on a broad range
of energy technologies for customers of Pacific Northwest utilities. The
EnergyIdeas Clearinghouse provides a searchable website and has a team
of energy specialists ready to respond to technical information requests by
phone or email. Funded by the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
© 2002 Washington State University Extension Energy Program. This
publication contains material written and produced for public distribution.
You may reprint this written material, provided you do not use it to endorse
a commercial product. Please reference by title and credit Washington State
University Extension Energy Program and the Northwest Energy Efficiency
WSUEEP02_147 December 2002, Updated October 2004