New Light Bulb Rules: LEDs vs. Incandescent Bulbs

After lighting up the country’s homes and businesses more than a centurytransforming the design of buildings and even lengthening the average working day, incandescent light bulbs are finally becoming a thing of the past.

The Biden administration adopted on Tuesday two new rules which set stricter energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. These standards will effectively end the sale of most new incandescent light bulbs — pear-shaped spheres with glowing wires in the center — in 2023.

Much of the country is already lit by LED bulbs, which the Department of Energy estimates last 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs and consume only a fraction of the electricity. This revolutionary shift has already reduced the demand for electricity in American homes, saving consumers money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“The lighting industry is already using more energy efficient products and this measure will accelerate progress,” Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said in a statement.

Once the new rules go into effect, Americans will collectively be saving $3 billion a year on their utility bills, the ministry said, while higher energy costs are squeezing household finances. The stricter standards will also cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions by about 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years, the equivalent of emissions from 28 million homes a year, the department added.

The phase-out was supposed to start earlier, in 2019. But the Trump administration, succumbing to pressure from some of the world’s largest incandescent light bulb manufacturers, has put the effort on hold. By contrast, in the European Union, the same companies are phasing out incandescent light bulbs.

President Biden is currently working to reinstate many of the environmental regulations his predecessor overturned as part of the administration’s push for bolder action to curb climate change. These regulatory changes may end up bearing much of the weight of Biden’s climate agenda, with much of that effort now stalled in Congress.

Light bulb manufacturers argue that moving away from incandescent bulbs too soon will hurt their bottom line and lead to a surplus of unused inventory — in other words, already produced bulbs that can no longer be sold — that will end up in landfills. unused.

For manufacturers, the rate of return for incandescent lamps is significantly higher than for LEDs, in part because investment in incandescent lamp manufacturing equipment has long paid off and there is relatively little competition among incandescent lamp manufacturers. On the other hand, the LED market has attracted new manufacturers and has become much more competitive.

Environmental protection and energy efficiency groups welcomed the new rules, but said the regulatory timeline gives manufacturers too much time to abandon a technology for which a replacement is already widely available.

“LEDs have become so cheap that there is no good reason for manufacturers to continue to sell 19th-century technology that is simply not very good at turning electrical energy into light,” said Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council on Energy Efficiency. Economy

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association, a trade group for light bulb manufacturers, said the transition to LED lighting, which has already begun, has been “an unqualified success.” The group is “thankful to the administration for recognizing the challenges the industry faces in complying with the rule and for adopting more manageable compliance deadlines,” said Spencer Pederson, its vice president of communications.

Research has shown that lower-end retailers, such as dollar stores or convenience stores that serve low-income communities, stock their shelves with traditional or halogen incandescent light bulbs, while stores serving richer communities have shifted to exclusively selling much more. efficient LEDs. One study in Michiganfor example, found that LED bulbs were not only less affordable in poorer neighborhoods, but also tended to cost an average of $2.50 more per bulb than in richer communities.

“Many energy-hungry light bulbs have labels claiming they save energy, which is infuriating,” said Andrew de Lasky, executive director of the Home Appliance Standards Awareness Project. “Responsible chains should remove them from their shelves as soon as possible and definitely by the end of this year.”