New federal rules that ban the manufacture and sale of the traditional incandescent light bulb are being enforced starting this month, completing the transition to more energy-efficient LED light bulbs.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced the new rules last year and set up a schedule for progressively enforcing the ban. The new rules banned the manufacture or importation of incandescent bulbs as of Jan. 1 and prohibited retailers from selling them starting in July. Full enforcement has now been implemented, meaning that incandescent bulbs can no longer be sold in stores.
The new rules will accelerate the trend toward using compact fluorescent and LED bulbs that last 25 to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use less energy. The phase-out had been in progress for years under a 2007 law and was set to take effect in 2020, but the Trump administration slowed that effort.
The Biden administration moved ahead with mandates for more energy-efficient bulbs to be used as part of its effort to transition the U.S. to more energy-efficient products and clean energy sources.
The switch to LED bulbs is expected to save $3 billion a year in energy costs, and will also help the U.S. meet its climate goals by cutting carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years - an amount equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year, the DOE said.
Incandescent lights work by heating a filament in the bulb until it glows. LED bulbs use electricity passing through a semiconductor, which illuminates tiny light sources called light-emitting diodes. LED bulbs use about 75 percent less energy, emit less heat, and last longer than incandescent bulbs.
About 30 percent of the light bulbs sold in the U.S. in 2020 were incandescent, as LED bulb technology has improved and they have become cheaper to produce.
The new rules expanded energy efficiency requirements on light bulbs, requiring them to produce 45 lumens per watt. Lumens are a measure of light, while watts are a measure of energy they use. Most incandescent bulbs can’t meet the efficiency standard, but a few types were exempted, including those for outdoor signs, as well as the dimmest bulbs.
Full enforcement began in January for manufacturers and distributors, but that now extends to distributors and retailers. The rules authorize penalties of up to $542 per unit in violation.