As of Tuesday, it is now illegal to purchase or manufacture incandescent light bulbs in the United States. This controversial legislation, implemented by the Biden administration, is aimed at both saving money and protecting the environment.
The new rule specifically targets “general service lamps,” which are light bulbs that are screwed into lamps and ceiling fixtures. These bulbs are now required to produce a minimum of 45 lumens of light per watt of power. In comparison, traditional incandescent bulbs only produce 15 lumens per watt, according to manufacturer Philips.
Supporters of the measure argue that it does not mandate the use of LED bulbs and leaves room for incandescent manufacturers to simply increase the efficiency of their products. However, critics believe this is unrealistic. It is important to note that the rule primarily affects residential bulb use and does not impact the manufacture or sale of incandescent lights used in traffic signals, floodlights, showcase lamps, appliance lights, and other specialty purposes.
These new efficiency standards were originally formulated in 2007 and were originally planned to take effect in 2020. However, they were sidelined by former President Donald Trump. They were finally approved by the Department of Energy in April of this year. While it is still legal to own incandescent bulbs, those who continue to manufacture or sell them can face fines of up to $542 per bulb.
LED lightbulbs are being touted as a more energy-efficient alternative to incandescent bulbs. They last 25 to 50 times longer and use 75% less electricity, according to the Department of Energy. The Natural Resources Defense Council goes a step further, claiming that LED bulbs use one sixth the energy of incandescent bulbs and last at least 10 times longer.
The Department of Energy predicts that the switch to LED bulbs will save families an average of $100 per year. However, it is worth noting that LED bulbs are on average $3 to $4 more expensive than incandescent bulbs. Nevertheless, this transition is estimated to result in nationwide savings of $3 billion annually and reduce carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years.
Critics of the Biden administration argue that these measures infringe upon personal choice and represent unconstitutional restrictions on consumer freedom. In addition to the bulb ban, the administration has proposed a ban on gas stoves, further fueling these accusations.
The Department of Energy has been active in implementing new efficiency standards for various appliances, including stoves, washing machines, refrigerators, dishwashers, water heaters, and air conditioners. The agency also plans to introduce additional rules regarding furnaces, pool equipment, ceiling fans, battery chargers, and dehumidifiers.
Looking ahead, the Department of Energy announced plans in December to increase the minimum bulb efficiency requirement even further, to 120 lumens per watt. This move would effectively render compact fluorescent bulbs obsolete.
Overall, the ban on incandescent light bulbs is part of a wider effort to promote energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. While it has sparked controversy, its proponents argue that it is a necessary step towards a more sustainable future.