The United States Will Phase Out Incandescent Light Bulbs

Officials estimate this will cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over 30 years and will save Americans $3 million per year on utility bills

Incandescent light bulbs with one energy-efficient lightbulb glowing
Light bulbs sold in the U.S. must have a minimum efficiency of 45 lumens per watt by July 2023. Jenner Images via Getty Images

This week, the Department of Energy announced new rules to phase incandescent light bulbs out of production and sale in the United States before a ban takes effect in 2023. 

The department’s rules state bulbs must have a minimum efficiency of 45 lumens per watt—a measurement of how much light is produced for a unit of electricity. The average incandescent bulb produces 15 lumens per watt, reports Gizmodo’s Kevin Hurler. LED lighting efficacy ranges up to 150 lumens per watt, per the DOE

The rules also “expand energy-efficiency requirements to more types of light bulbs,” writes Mark Lennihan for the Associated Press

The move should cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years and will save consumers $3 million per year on utility bills, per a statement from the DOE. Good-quality LED products last 30,000 to 50,000 hours or longer, while an incandescent lamp only lasts about 1,000 hours, per the department

“By raising energy efficiency standards for lightbulbs, we’re putting $3 billion back in the pockets of American consumers every year and substantially reducing domestic carbon emissions,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm says in the statement. “The lighting industry is already embracing more energy efficient products, and this measure will accelerate progress to deliver the best products to American consumers and build a better and brighter future.”

Congress and past presidential administrations pushed for years to ban inefficient light bulbs, but in 2019, the Trump administration slowed the phaseout, saying “what’s saved is not worth it,” per the AP. 

LED lighting has been on the rise in the U.S. over the past five years. In 2020, nearly half of American households reported using LED lights for most or all of their indoor lighting, compared to only 4 percent in 2015.

The New York Times’ Hiroko Tabuchi reports light bulb manufacturers say pivoting away from incandescent bulbs too quickly would damage their bottom line and already-manufactured bulbs would presumably be destined for landfills. 

But environmental groups praise the move, saying incandescent bulbs waste energy and harm the environment. 

“LEDs have become so inexpensive that there’s no good reason for manufacturers to keep selling 19th-century technology that just isn’t very good at turning electrical energy into light,” Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, says in a statement. “This is a victory for consumers and for the climate — one that’s been a long time coming.” 

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