- The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday finalized a pair of rules that will phase out older incandescent light bulbs in favor of more efficient LEDs and compact fluorescent lighting. The agency estimates families will save about $100 annually — or almost $3 billion, collectively, when the new rules are fully implemented.
- Efficiency advocates cheered the move, though they also pointed out that the new rules will allow for older-style bulbs to stay on store shelves for more than a year. Companies can continue to import less-efficient bulbs until January 2023 and retailers can sell them until July.
- "Responsible chains ought to get them off their shelves as soon as possible and certainly by the end of this year," Appliance Standards Awareness Project Executive Director Andrew deLaski said in a statement.
New efficiency standards for light bulbs had been set to go into effect in 2020, but the Trump administration blocked stricter requirements at the request of manufacturers. The rules finalized Tuesday implement a minimum standard of 45 lumens per watt, as well as expand the types of bulbs covered.
DOE's new rules will cover most types of bulbs, including globe-shaped, reflector and candle-shaped, with a few uncommon types not covered.
“This is a victory for consumers and for the climate, one that’s been a long time coming,” American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Executive Director Steven Nadel said in a statement. “LEDs have become so inexpensive that there’s no good reason for manufacturers to keep selling" incandescent bulbs.
The new general service lamp definitions finalized by DOE will go into effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register, and implementation of the new efficiency requirements will become effective 75 days after publication. But the rules include "a period of enforcement leniency and a period of progressive enforcement with an emphasis on transitioning production first," the agency noted in its announcement.
Enforcement for retailers will trail manufacturers and importers by seven months, DOE said, meaning warning notices will begin going out to distributors and retailers in January 2023, followed by reduced penalties two months later.
“The lighting industry is already embracing more energy efficient products, and this measure will accelerate progress to deliver the best products to American consumers," Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.
Light bulb manufacturers represented by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association had asked for a two-year phaseout to ease the transition and reduce unsold inventory. The association "appreciates the administration’s recognition of the challenges industry faces in complying with the rule and the adoption of a more manageable compliance timeframe,” NEMA Vice President of Public Affairs Spencer Pederson said in an email.
LED lighting innovations "have been an unqualified success," Pederson added.
Despite those advancements, efficiency advocates say in 2020 about 30% of light bulbs sold in the United States were still of the incandescent variety, which turn most of the energy they use into heat rather than light.
The Biden administration's decision was "long overdue," said NRDC energy efficiency advocate Joe Vukovich, adding that LED bulbs use about one-sixth of the energy of the light bulbs being phased out. According to the DOE, LED bulbs also last 25 to 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
DOE projects the new rules will reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next three decades, roughly equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year. The agency plans to host a webinar May 4, to discuss enforcement of the new efficiency standard with regulated entities.