If you had asked us a couple of months ago, we thought we would be writing about new light bulb restrictions that could potentially phase out incandescent light bulbs. New energy efficiency standards for light bulbs were set to go into effect on January 1, 2020.
EISA (Energy Independence and Security Act) would have required everyday light bulbs to use 65 percent less energy than the traditional incandescent light bulbs, but still deliver the same amount of light. By those standards, consumers would not be able to purchase much more than LED or fluorescent light bulbs.
But things changed… again.
In September 2019, the current administration weakened EISA. The move upset environmental groups and several states and districts who sued in response.
California decided to move ahead with EISA restrictions, essentially eliminating most incandescent lighting products in the state starting January 2020.
So what’s next? And how did we get here? Was there ever really a ban on incandescent light bulbs? Those are some of the questions we’ll be addressing. Click below to jump ahead.
- Incandescent light bulb ban
- Can you still buy incandescent light bulbs?
- What incandescent light bulbs are still available?
- Incandescent bulbs vs. CFLs
- Incandescent bulbs vs. LEDs
Incandescent light bulb ban
Former President George W. Bush signed EISA in 2007. The first tier of standards took effect between 2012 and 2014 and officially phased out 60-watt incandescent bulbs.
The media ran wild with the “light bulb law”, with CNN even publishing an obituary for incandescent bulbs. The public was in a tizzy, angry that the government was taking away their basic 25-cent incandescent bulbs.
However, what was not addressed was which incandescent light bulbs you could actually still buy. There are still plenty of incandescent light bulbs available for purchase (again, unless you live in California).
Can you still buy incandescent light bulbs?
The short answer is yes.
In spite of some bad reporting a few years back, the government did not ban light bulbs using incandescent lighting technology.
The reality is manufacturers had to stop making any lamp that failed to meet the energy standards outlined by EISA. Those lamps were, for the most part, tungsten-filament incandescent bulbs.
An FAQs document put out by Energy Star in 2011 explained the new light bulb manufacturing restrictions in this way:
“The standards are technology neutral, which means any type of bulb can be sold as long as it meets the efficiency requirements. Common household light bulbs that traditionally use between 40 and 100 watts will use at least 27% less energy by 2014.”
Manufacturers stepped up to the challenge. Today’s incandescent light bulbs are, on average, doubly as efficient as they were when EISA was signed into law. Some of this is thanks to advancement in halogen technology — part of the incandescent family.
That brings us to today. We know the next round of restrictions outlined in EISA will not happen in 2020, but that doesn’t stop them from going into effect at some point.
State and municipalities are also starting to implement their own restrictions. For example, California moved forward with the proposed 2020 EISA restrictions in 2018. As we mentioned, the state will also move ahead with further restrictions starting January 1, 2020. You can read more about that in this blog.
In the meantime, most light bulbs are well beyond minimum energy efficiency requirements, especially CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LEDs.
What incandescent bulbs are still available?
If you visit the incandescent section of our online store, we have more than 600 incandescent light bulbs for sale. Obviously, there is no shortage.
Here is the difference: the incandescent light bulbs available for purchase today have wattages reduced by about 30 percent, but with a similar light output (lumens in technical lighting terms).
If you live in California, and you need help finding the right replacement for incandescent or other restricted light bulbs, please do not hesitate to contact us.
For example, the equivalent of an old 60-watt A19 incandescent uses 43 watts, on average. The equivalent of a 100-watt A19 incandescent, meanwhile, uses 72 watts for the same lumen output.
There are a couple of caveats that should be noted here. For one, some aren’t happy with the light color (or color temperature) of modern-day halogen-based incandescent bulbs, as halogen tends to emit cooler colors. Pre-EISA incandescent bulbs might have had a Kelvin temperature of 2400K or 2700K while today’s incandescent bulbs will often have a color of 3000+ K.
Secondly, as mentioned above, there are a few exceptions, or loopholes, in the EISA-standard incandescent bulbs. Light bulbs for certain applications — like heat lamps, for example — do not need to meet the new standards.
Incandescent bulbs vs. CFLs
Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were the first lamps to really barge into the market and gain a foothold against incandescent light bulbs. They’ve always been much more energy efficient but have a handful of cons that most businesses and consumers like to weigh into their decision-making process.
- CFLs contain mercury – a toxic metal which is bad for the environment and people. This means they must be recycled properly.
- A lot of CFLs don’t dim, making them incompatible with dimmable fixtures you might have in your building or home.
- When compared with an incandescent, the color rendering index (CRI) of a CFL is quite limited.
- Many CFLs come in a spiral shape, causing a lot of people to opt for a traditional bulb-shaped lamp to preserve certain aesthetics.
Are you looking for LED replacements for pin-based compact fluorescents? Or perhaps you're looking into adapters as a CFL to LED retrofit solution?
Comparing average household lamps – Incandescent vs. CFL
|Old incandescent||New (halogen) incandescent||CFL|
|Lumens (light output)||780||780||780|
|Wattage (energy usage)||60||42||10|
|Lumens per watt||13||18.5||78|
Incandescent bulbs vs. LEDs
LEDs continue to carve out a bigger territory in the lighting world. A significant part of that trend is tied to the technology’s drop in price, making them immensely more competitive. The other part of that? Energy efficiency, of course. The long lifespans of LEDs combined with their incredibly low energy usage rate give them a corner on the energy efficient lighting market. There is simply no comparison to LEDs in terms of energy efficiency alone.
But if you’re familiar with the calling card of LEDs — energy efficiency — you’re probably equally as familiar with their Achilles heel: cost. LEDs used to cost as much as 40 times more than modern incandescent light bulbs. But, as mentioned above, they’ve come down in price big time.
Today’s LEDs are maybe five or seven times more expensive than a comparably bright incandescent. But the flip-side of this is the massive energy savings. In most cases, LED light bulbs pay for themselves in a matter of months when replacing LEDs.
Comparing average household lamps – Incandescent vs. LED
|Old incandescent||New (halogen) incandescent||LED|
|Lumens (light output)||780||780||780|
|Wattage (energy usage)||60||42||5|
|Lumens per watt||13||18.5||156|
Questions about incandescent light bulbs
There you have it – all the facts.
Were all incandescent bulbs strictly banned by the federal government? No, they were made dramatically more energy efficient (unless you live in California).
Are incandescent bulbs on the verge of being pushed out of the market? It depends on the next set of regulations.
Can you still purchase incandescent bulbs? We have them here, with certain restrictions if you live in California.
Are you looking to upgrade to more efficient LED bulbs? We have those, too.
Researchers at MIT recently discovered an innovation which could make incandescent bulbs 80 percent more efficient – greater than the efficiency levels of most of today's LEDs. We’ll keep you posted on any advancements as they come.