Starting on January 1, 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs will no longer be allowed to be imported into or manufactured in the U.S. These bulbs, which are highly inefficient and waste about 90 percent of their energy giving off heat rather than light, make up over half of all light bulbs purchased in the country.
Over the past two years, 75-watt and 100-watt incandescent bulbs have been phased out as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act enacted in 2007 under the Bush Administration.
According to Noah Horowitz, Senior Scientist and Director of the Center for Energy Efficiency for the Natural Resource Defense Council, once the transition away from inefficient incandescent bulbs is complete Americans will save $13 billion on their annual energy bills.
On his blog Horowitz writes that, “consumers now have three major types of bulbs to choose from:”
“New and improved incandescents that use 28 percent less energy, and CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that provide energy savings of at least 75 percent and last a lot longer.
In fact, these standards requiring improved efficiency have led to more lighting innovation over the past five years than we saw during the 100-plus years since Edison invented the light bulb!”
LED bulbs have dropped in price to about $10 from around $50 as recently as 2012. LED bulbs can save a consumer up to $100 over its lifetime (25 years!) compared to standard incandescent bulbs — in part because they convert about 60 percent of their energy to light, rather than the 10 percent of traditional incandescents. This means an LED bulb only needs 9.5 watts to produce the same amount of light as an old 60-watt bulb.
This can even factor into holiday season budget planning, writes Horowitz in a different article:
“LED holiday lights can last up to 20,000 hours so they’ll also be twinkling for many years to come. A string of 150 small holiday lights costs about $12, or less, at the big box stores, which is a bargain considering how long they last and that they’ll pay for themselves via the energy they save. If you’re the type that enjoys creating outdoor holiday displays so stunning that cars stop to admire your decked-out lawn, you might be able to cut your holiday electric bill by an estimated $100 or more by using LED lights instead of the older incandescent versions.”
These changes reach far beyond household energy consumption. Lighting consumes 19 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, if all of the four billion light bulb sockets in the U.S. contained compact fluorescent or LED lights 30 coal plants’ worth of power could be saved. In this case, “mercury emissions from power plants would drop 60 percent and 100 million tons of carbon would be prevented from entering the atmosphere each year,” writes Sustainable Business.
A survey released this week by lighting company Osram Sylvania found that 59 percent of consumers didn’t know that the popular 40- and 60-watt bulbs will be phased out starting next year. Mark Voykovic, national light bulb merchant for The Home Depot, told The USAToday that he expects The Home Depot to have enough of the old bulbs to last through mid-2014, and that sales are actually up at the moment as stores are running promotions.
Improving energy efficiency while saving money may seem like common sense, but nonetheless the efficiency requirements on light bulbs have been controversial amongst certain politicians and media outlets.
Editorials engaged in fear-mongering, trying to convince consumers that there was a “ban” on incandescent light bulbs that would cost them a lot of money just to keep the lights on. Or that there was cause for alarm that compact fluorescents bulbs might fry skin with UVA radiation.
In 2011 the newly Tea Party-laden Congress voted to defund the money the Department of Energy needed to enforce the lightbulb standards for one year, but the industry had already moved on and it ended up just being an unnecessary bump in the road.
“The American people want less government intrusion into their lives, not more, and that includes staying out of their personal light bulb choices,” Republican House Representative Michele Bachmann said at the time.