Changes to mandatory lighting requirements in California’s 2016 Building Energy Efficiency Standards

California’s new residential Building Energy Efficiency Standards take effect on January 1, 2017. The 2016 Standards focus on several key areas to improve the energy efficiency of newly constructed buildings, additions and alterations to existing buildings. The most significant efficiency improvements address attics, walls, water heating and lighting. The California Energy Commission estimates that the 2016 standards will deliver approximately 281 gigawatt-hours of electricity savings annually and reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 160,000 metric tons. This is enough electricity to power 500,000 California homes each year.

These standards represent a major step towards meeting California’s residential Zero Net Energy (ZNE) goal by the year 2020. Updates enhance and simplify previous requirements and lay the foundation for additional efficiency improvements slated for 2019 code. This publication offers an overview of important requirements and major updates to the 2016 residential lighting energy efficiency code.




High Efficacy Lighting

New regulations require that lighting in new homes be high efficacy, while also expanding the types of lighting that qualify as high efficacy. This change eliminates most space by space requirements and ensures that a variety of lighting technologies and techniques are available to builders and contractors. This also removes the need for calculating the wattage of low versus high efficacy luminaires in kitchens.

The definition of “high efficacy luminaires” includes all light sources identified as “efficient” under the 2013 Standards. This includes linear fluorescent, pin based compact fluorescent, GU-24 base CFL, HID, and induction. High efficacy products include any luminaire that contains a JA8-compliant lamp or other light source. In other words, any luminaire can qualify was high efficacy as long as it meets the requirements of Section 150.0 (k) and Joint Appendix JA8. Manufacturers must test their products at an accredited test laboratory and submit the results
to the California Energy Commission to gain JA8 certification. A list of compliant products may be found at


For lamps to qualify as high efficacy under JA8, they must be certified and marked as either JA8-2016 or JA8-2016-E. These markings mean the light source meets the requirements of Joint Appendix JA8, and the product is listed in the Energy Commission product database. Requirements assure lamps and luminaires provide high color quality, have a long life and are energy efficient.

JA8 compliance markings are located on the lamp bulb or base. The marking “JA8-2016-E” indicates that the light source has been tested to provide long life at elevated temperatures in addition to the requirements listed for JA8-2016. Only “JA8-2016-E” lamps may be used in enclosed and recessed luminaires.


Construction & Inspection

The builder must now provide new homeowners with a luminaire schedule that includes a list of installed lamps and luminaries. This ensures that homeowners know what lighting products they are entitled to when they take possession of a new home.

This also makes lighting inspections much more straight forward as all luminaires are high efficacy, and there is a completed luminaire schedule for the owner.


Switching Devices & Controls

Lighting control requirements for indoor spaces are now simpler. Control requirements are based, in nearly all cases, on the type of lamp or luminaire installed. Any JA8-compliant lamp or luminaire must be controlled by a vacancy sensor or dimmer. In practice, this requirement translates to any screw-base luminaire, ceiling recessed downlight, dedicated LED luminaire, or luminaire with an LED lamp. In addition, all undercabinet lighting must be switched separately from other lighting in the home.

Screw-Base Luminaires

Under the 2016 Standards, all luminaires that utilize a screw-based socket, excluding hard-wired ballasted HID, must contain lamps that comply with JA8 high efficacy requirements. All enclosed, screw-base luminaires, must utilize a compliant lamp rated for elevated temperatures. Recessed downlight luminaires with screw based sockets are no longer permitted under the 2016 Standards.


Control Requirements by Space

Most space-specific indoor control requirements have been eliminated with one exception. Now, at least one luminaire in the bathroom, garage, laundry room and utility room must be controlled by a vacancy sensor or dimmer. Preset scene controllers and EMCS can take the place of dimmers as long as the functionality meets code requirements.



All outdoor lighting must now be high efficacy. In addition, for single family homes, lighting mounted
to any building on the lot must be controlled by one of the following combinations:

  1. Photocell and motion sensor
  2. Photocell and time switch
  3. Astronomical time clock
  4. EMCS with features of astronomical time clock, does not allow the luminaire to be ON during the day, and may be programmed to automatically turn lighting OFF at night.

For low-rise, multifamily residential buildings, outdoor lighting for private patios, balconies, entrances, and porches must also meet these requirements or comply with the applicable nonresidential standards. Requirements for carports and parking lots vary based on the number of parking spaces they contain. Carports, parking garages and parking lots with eight or more spaces must comply with the nonresidential standards. Smaller parking areas may comply with either the residential or nonresidential standards.