A rule banning the sale of common incandescent bulbs has gone into effect throughout the country as of today. While not a specific ban on incandescent bulbs, the new rule passed by the Department of Energy (DoE), sets a minimum efficiency for light bulbs at 45 lumens per watt. This effectively outlaws most incandescent light bulbs, as a traditional incandescent emits only 15 lumens per watt.
By contrast, most LED bulbs emit 75 lumens per watt or more, depending on the manufacturer.
The current rule serves as the culmination of a bipartisan effort to phase out inefficient light bulbs that started back in 2007 under the Bush administration and was ultimately implemented during the Obama administration before being rolled back under the Trump administration in 2019. The original rule put forward was to have all commercially available light bulbs have 25% greater efficiency.
Under the new ruling, the DoE estimates that US consumers will save close to $3 billion on their utility bills. The move is also expected to cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years.
The ban on incandescent bulbs has not been without controversy as many free-market proponents have decried the current administration for overstepping its boundaries and directly influencing the market through current policy.
Others, meanwhile, have argued that the rule will ultimately be beneficial for consumers and the economy, as well as the environment, as the rule is expected to save American businesses roughly $12.5 billion in energy costs.
For integrators, the new ruling is of particular note, as it effectively solidifies LED lighting fixtures the standard in all homes moving forward. Whether or not this will lead to new opportunities in the current lighting market is to be determined. According to a residential lighting survey conducted by the DoE back in 2020 roughly half of all homes in the US currently use LED fixtures for their indoor lighting.
“The slow death of incandescent bulbs will likely affect the decorative lighting market more than the performance architectural lighting market, as most quality downlights and strips are already LED,” says David Warfel, Chief Evangelist of Light for the lighting design firm, Light Can Help You.
“There may be more headaches for integrators ahead from poorly manufactured LEDs in chandeliers that flicker when dimmed, but that also may provide an opportunity for dealers to provide a better product. If the custom integrator can make it easy to buy a good-quality LED that lasts- something that is all too difficult today- they may find themselves making a lot of new friends.”
It should be noted that the ban relates only to the manufacture and sale of these products and not the use of said products. However, a spokesman with the DoE, who was not authorized to speak publicly, has been recorded as saying that the retailers and distributors should contact the agency regarding “flexibilities with their inventory.”
It should also be noted that several exemptions have been provided by the DoE, such as incandescent light bulbs used in appliances and bug lamps.
Additionally, a proposal from December 2022 outlines the DoE’s plans following this ruling, with a new rule that could effectively ban compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs planned to go into effect at the end of 2024. This rule would ramp up the minimum light bulb efficiency level to 120 lumens per watt, though how current LEDs will fit into this ruling has not been discussed.
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