Yes, it’s true. Some light bulbs and lighting products are considered illegal in certain states.
But that's where any common ground ends. The laws vary by state. There is not much consistency over what can and cannot be sold. These restrictions are also changing almost as quickly as they are put into place.
That can lead to a lot of confusion if you are looking for certain products or if you have businesses or franchises in several different states.
We’re going to explain the laws for every state with a restriction. First, let’s take a look at how we got here.
State light bulb bans: How we got here
EISA impacts more than just light bulbs, but the guidelines outline rules for general service lamps (GSLs).
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is tasked with updating these rules. In January 2017, the DOE passed an expansion of the definition for GSLs.
This new definition required GSLs to meet a minimum efficacy of 45 lumens per watt.
Without all the jargon, that meant that certain lighting products, like most incandescent and halogen light bulbs, would be considered illegal. The restrictions were supposed to go into effect for ALL states on January 1, 2020.
But just a few months before that – in October 2019 – the Department on Energy (DOE) withdrew the new federal definitions for a general service lamp. Because of this, the definition for a GSL reverted back to old standards.
The DOE's actions triggered a lawsuit from dozens of states and cities across the country. Right now, that lawsuit is in Second Circuit Court. There could be a decision on this case in 2021, possibly around May.
Also at the end of 2019, the DOE made a final determination not to adopt the standards because, “amended energy conservation standards for GSILs (general service incandescent lamps) would not be economically justified.”
So where are we now? We are waiting on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to hear the lawsuit between states and the DOE.
In the meantime, the DOE decided to preempt (or stop) ALL states from enacting standards related to GSLs outlined in EISA.
Some states have decided to move forward with the restrictions anyway. Other states have decided to ban lighting products NOT outlined in EISA (like high-CRI linear fluorescents).
Clear as mud, right?
For now, we can divide the states into three different categories:
- States with restrictions on GSLs
- States with restrictions on high-CRI linear fluorescents
- States with pending legislation or proposed legislation
Here are the states with current restrictions on general service lamps (GSLs):
These states all have different standards for GSLs. To read more on general service lamps, click here.
Here are the states with current restrictions on high-CRI linear fluorescents:
These states are banning linear fluorescent tubes with a CRI of 87 or higher. These products are not included in EISA, so the states can create their own restrictions. For more information on what's behind this ban, click here.
There are even more states and districts with pending legislation or who have discussed legislation:
California has led the way on energy efficiency for the last decade. The state was the first to implement a 45 lumen per watt restriction on A-shape GSLs (general service lamps) in 2018.
Now, all GSLs in the state must have a minimum efficacy of 45 lumens per watt. Here is a summary of California's ruling.
Without all the jargon, the 45 lumens per watt standard means light bulbs must provide more light with less power, or they cannot legally be sold in the listed states. The products also have to go through specific testing measures.
How can California move forward with these restrictions? The DOE preempted all states, but in short, California fought in court to be able to keep the ban on these lighting products in place.
California's restrictions are outlined in what the state calls Title 20. We have a blog post explaining Title 20 more in detail.
If you're looking for Title 20 compliant products, click here to use our online store's filter.
Nevada's ban on some lighting products began January 1, 2021.
Like California, the DOE preempted the state from enforcing these restrictions, but the state decided to go ahead and move forward with its law.
The law states that certain general service lamps must meet a minimum efficacy of 45 lumens per watt to be sold in Nevada.
The new standard essentially stops the sale of light bulbs with a medium, intermediate, and candelabra base, including the following:
- Halogen A19 lamps
- Incandescent reflector lamps
- Candelabra base and intermediate base lamps >310 lumens
- Rough service, vibration service, and shatter resistant lamps
- 3-way incandescent lamps
- Several types of decorative lamps including G16.5s, and G30s
- <40W B10 candelabra base lamps can be sold through 2022
Other lamps like MR16s are exempt from the 45 lumen per watt requirement.
Washington state is also moving forward with restrictions on certain lighting products, despite the preemption from the Department of Energy.
The state's Department of Commerce sent out a Regulatory Advisory in March 2020 acknowledging the lawsuit but saying it will begin to enforce restrictions on certain lamp types.
According to the advisory, the state is now restricting the following products:
- Medium screw base bulbs with shapes B, BA, CA, F, G-16½, G-25, G-30, S, and M- 14 rated at less than or equal to 40 watts
- Medium screw base T shape bulbs rated at less than or equal to 40 watts or having a length of more than 10 inches
- 3-way incandescent lamps
- Incandescent lamps with an output of 2,600 – 3,300 lumens
- Incandescent reflector lamps of 50 watts or less that are ER30, BR30, BR40, or ER40 lamps
- Incandescent reflector lamps rated at 65 watts that are BR30, BR40, or ER40 lamps
- R20 incandescent reflector lamps rated 45 watts or less
- Reflector lamps that are less than 2.25 inches in diameter
Washington state is also set to implement a ban on high-CRI linear fluorescent lamps beginning in 2023.
Colorado currently has a ban on high-CRI fluorescents. This was effective January 1, 2021.
All linear fluorescents with a CRI of 87 or higher cannot be legally sold. Read more about why states are restricting high-CRI linear fluorescents here.
Colorado is one of the states who filed a lawsuit against the DOE over the decision to roll back restrictions on general service lamps. Right now, the ban on GSLs is pending the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
We will continue watching the lawsuit and update this article based on the outcome.
Hawaii banned high CRI fluorescents starting January 1, 2021.
Any linear fluorescent with a CRI greater than 87 is now considered illegal. Read more about what's behind the ban on high-CRI linear fluorescents here.
Vermont was the first state to enforce a ban on high-CRI linear fluorescents, which began on July 1, 2020. We explain the ban on linear fluorescent products here.
Vermont is also waiting on the results from the Second Circuit Court regarding general service lamps.
If the outcome of the lawsuit is in the state’s favor, Vermont will require a minimum efficacy of 45 lumens per watt for GSLs.
We will continue to monitor the changes in Vermont and update this article based on the outcome.
Washington, DC voted on restrictions that could become law beginning February 2021.
The district’s ban involves both high-CRI linear fluorescents and general service lamps (GSLs).
Here are the specifics if the law goes into effect:
- No high-CRI linear fluorescent lamps (87 CRI or higher)
- No impact-resistant linear fluorescent lamps
- No GSLs with a medium screw base
- <=50W ER30, BR30, BR40 or ER40
- 65W BR30, BR40 or ER40
- <=45W R20
- B, BA, CA, F, and G shape lamps >=200 lumens, <=40W
- No A and C shaped lamps between 200 – 310 lumens
- No shatter resistant lamps
- No 3-way lamps
Washington, DC also joined more than a dozen other states and cities in the lawsuit against the Department of Energy.
Connecticut lawmakers considered a ban on certain lighting products, but the bill died in committee in the 2020 legislative session.
Connecticut is also one of the states who filed the lawsuit against the Department of Energy.
We will see if the lawmakers introduce a similar bill in the next legislative session or if changes are made based on the outcome of the lawsuit.
In Maine, a ban on general service lamps (GSLs) has been introduced several times.
For now, the bill is carried over to 2021 and could be part of a special session.
Massachusetts lawmakers introduced a new bill with a proposed ban on lighting products in January 2021, just days after the governor vetoed a similar bill.
The new bill will restrict some general services lamps and high-CRI linear fluorescents.
Massachusetts is also part of the pending lawsuit against the Department of Energy. We will continue to monitor changes and update as we get them.
A new bill on lighting restrictions was just introduced in New Jersey. They are following Washington, DC’s lead, so if passed the state would restrict some general service lamps, high-CRI linear fluorescents, and impact-resistant linear fluorescents.
New Jersey is also part of the lawsuit against the Department of Energy.
We will keep you updated on what happens in the state legislature and with the pending lawsuit.
New York introduced legislation that would ban certain lighting products used in state buildings.
The state is considering restricting general service lamps that do not meet a minimum efficacy of 50 lumens per watt.
If the legislation passes, a phase out approach for other lamp types would begin in 2024.
Meanwhile, New York City is requiring large commercial buildings to switch to LEDs by 2025. You can read more on that in this article.
Oregon’s state legislature considered a ban on certain lighting products, but a vote on the bill was boycotted in 2020.
We will see if lawmakers re-introduce legislation in 2021.
A plan to restrict certain lighting products died in the 2020 legislative session in Pennsylvania.
The state house and senate had different versions of the bill, but they were considering both general service lamp and high-CRI restrictions.
Rhode Island introduced legislation banning certain lighting products, but it’s currently held in committee for further study.
What’s next for state bulb bans?
Right now, several states are waiting on the decision from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. They are hearing the lawsuit between dozens of states and cities against the Department of Energy.
The attorneys general who filed the lawsuit said the efficiency standards that would have gone into effect “could save over $580 billion in energy costs and avoid over two billion metric tons of CO2 emissions by the year 2050.”
The DOE is currently working on new rules for general service lamps. These are expected to go into effect around 2025. This could create a standard that all states will follow.
What is a GSL (general service lamp)?
A general service lamp is traditionally an incandescent or halogen light bulb that is used in general lighting applications but can now include fluorescent and LED light bulbs.
Here is the DOE's official definition:
"General Service Lamps (GSLs) include general service incandescent lamps (GSILs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), general service light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) lamps, and any other lamps that are used to satisfy lighting applications traditionally served by GSILs. GSLs are used in general lighting applications and account for the majority of installed lighting in the residential sector."
What is lumens per watt?
Lumens per watt (LPW) is a unit of efficacy, or the rate at which a lamp is able to convert power (watts) into light (lumens).
A watt is a unit of power. You can think of it as how much energy a light bulb is consuming.
A lumen is the amount of visible light output, or the amount of light produced by a light bulb.
When you bought a traditional incandescent light bulb, many people paid attention to wattage as a measurement of how bright a light bulb would be.
Now, especially with a large amount of LED products on the market, the focus is on lumens. Light bulbs can now produce more light (lumens) with less energy (wattage). Lumens per watt is becoming a more common measurement in the move towards more energy-efficient lighting.
What’s behind the CRI restrictions?
CRI stands for color rendering index. It determines how accurately a light source portrays color.
High CRI linear fluorescent lamps were excluded from EISA, so states are able to restrict them if they want.
The change mainly eliminates T12s with a CRI of 87 or higher, but may also exclude some T8s. T12s are mostly phased out already.
This change is still consistent with a push to become more energy efficient. T12s consume more energy than other linear fluorescent tubes like T8s and T5s. LEDs consume even less energy with more advanced technology.
What is EISA?
The first round of EISA restrictions rolled out between 2012 - 2014. That officially eliminated the 60 watt incandescent light bulb.
A second round of EISA restrictions was supposed to take effect on January 1, 2020. It would have required everyday light bulbs to use 65 percent less energy than traditional incandescent light bulbs, but still deliver the same amount of light.
However, the Department of Energy (DOE) rolled back the requirement by changing the definition of a GSL in December 2019. Click here for the DOE's ruling.
Questions about incandescent light bulbs
If you have any questions about which products about which incandescent or halogen light bulbs are restricted in your state, please do not hesitate to contact us.