New rules begin for light bulbs

| by Teena Hammond
New rules begin for light bulbs

The new year is also the start of a new standard for light bulbs. After 131 years, Thomas Edison's creation is being brought into the 21st century through new energy efficiency requirements.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 required that household light bulbs had to become at least 25 percent more efficient within five years or they couldn't be manufactured or imported in the U.S. As a result, the bulbs will be phased out and replaced with more energy efficient bulbs.

To prepare for the change, manufacturers have spent years investing in engineering alternatives such as halogen light bulbs, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes) bulbs. Halogen bulbs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but are the least efficient of the new alternatives, with CFLs a step up in efficiency, and LEDs the most efficient.

All traditional incandescent bulbs will not disappear from store shelves at the same time. The first bulb being replaced is the incandescent 100-watt bulb:

  • 100 watt bulb — phase out date Jan. 1, 2012
  • 75-watt bulb — phase out date Jan. 1, 2013
  • 60-watt bulb — phase out date Jan. 1, 2014
  • 40-watt bulb — phase out date Jan. 1, 2014

At the end of the phase-out in 2014, incandescent light bulbs will no longer be available. This will create opportunities for more efficient lighting technologies, such as halogen bulbs as well as LEDs and CFLs, which last longer than traditional bulbs and use less energy.

Existing bulbs will still be sold, until the supply runs out, but new bulbs will not be imported or manufactured in the U.S.

The 2007 law is intended to save energy as consumers to switch over to more energy-efficient bulbs.

In December, Congress decided to delay enforcement of the new rules until October 2012, with no penalties for retailers who import or buy new 100-watt incandescent bulbs. However, most major retailers such as Lowe's and Home Depot have said they will comply with the law.

Energy-efficient bulbs can cost substantially more than traditional incandescent bulbs, depending on the type of bulb chosen. But the average lifespan for an incandescent bulb is between 750 and 1,500 hours, while CFLs can last for 8,000 hours and draw less energy when lit.

Another new energy-efficiency provision is a requirement by the Federal Trade Commission that bulb manufacturers include on the packaging of their products the amount of brightness given off by a bulb, as well as the wattage, life expectancy of the bulb and anticipated energy costs.

According to the DOE, lighting represents about 20 percent of the average home electricity bill. Switching from incandescent bulbs to Energy Star qualified bulbs saves energy and the environment.

Types of bulbs

Incandescent —

Cost is approximately $1 for a 100-watt bulb

Lifespan is about 750 to 1,500 hours


Compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) —

Cost is approximately $6.50 for one 26-watt bulb (equivalent to 100-watt incandescent)

Lifespan is about 8,000 hours


LED (light emitting diode) —

Cost is approximately $40 for one 5-watt bulb

Lifespan varies, up to 50 times longer than incandescents and 10 times longer than CFLs


Halogen —

Cost is approximately $1.50 for a 72-watt bulb (equivalent to 100-watt incandescent)

Lifespan is about 2,000 hours

Topics: Lighting

Companies: U.S. Department of Energy

Teena Hammond
Teena Hammond has published more than 2,000 articles in People and W magazines, Women's Wear Daily, and in dozens of newspapers and books. She also wrote a home improvement, remodeling and decor column that ran in Gannett newspapers nationwide. She's interested in all things green and would love to hear from you with your story ideas.

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