Although they are ridiculously inefficient, incandescent lightbulbs seem to have a huge number of fans. Despite the romance of the glowing filament, many governments are moving to ban the use of incandescent light bulbs in many applications. Here in the United States, the federal government intends to encourage the use of more efficient light bulbs but there is no outright ban.
United States Law Promotes Efficiency, Not a Ban
It’s easy to get people stirred up about “the government”, especially when individual purchasing decisions are involved. Many governments worldwide have already enacted energy efficiency regulations that would effectively outlaw incandescent lightbulbs in many applications. But the United States government has stopped well short of this drastic action.
Enacted in December of 2007, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 does not ban incandescent light bulbs or limit maximum wattage. Instead, EISA sets efficiency standards for bulbs with a light output equivalent to incandescents between 40 and 150 W. The Act does not call for a ban but proposes minimum efficiency about 28% better than current incandescent bulbs.
These efficiency standards would be phased in starting January 1, 2012, with the entire range in place by the end of 2014. But the final 2012 federal budget eliminated funding for enforcement of this measure, delaying it until October. Lighting manufacturers are upset by this delay, since they have been aggressively developing and promoting compliant lightbulbs.
Incandescent Lightbulbs Will Continue to Be Available
Even after the EISA standards go into effect, incandescent light bulbs will continue to be available in United States:
- The law explicitly exempts many classes of lights, including specialty low wattage bulbs, appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, three-way bulbs, colored lamps, stage lighting, and plant lights. In effect, the EISA standards only apply to basic lightbulbs that are easily replaced with CFL’s.
- The efficiency standards specified by EISA were developed in association with the lighting industry, which has already introduced inexpensive incandescent bulbs that meet the new standard. These new high-efficiency bulbs use halogen gas to reduce power consumption by the magic 28%.
In short, incandescent lightbulbs are not banned in general and will continue to be available for quite some time regardless of EISA or the 2012 federal budget. If you love incandescent light bulbs, life will go on.
I love the warm glow of incandescent lights, but I hate the ridiculously low efficiency and cheap build quality of run-of-the-mill bulbs. I’ve already begun replacing the sort of basic light bulbs that would be phased out this year under EISA, and I suspect many others have as well. The fact that tricky specialty bulbs are exempted from these efficiency requirements makes this an eminently practical piece of legislation.