The federal government’s ban on incandescent light bulbs took effect on Tuesday, more than a decade and a half after such a rule was first proposed intending to promote energy efficiency.
A federal regulation to ban incandescent light bulbs was initially issued in 2007 following the enactment of the Energy Independence and Security Act during the Bush administration. Implementation of the ban was delayed from its initial date of 2012, then the rule was broadened during the Obama administration before it was reversed by the Trump administration.
The Biden administration in April 2022 moved ahead with a new rule from the Dept. of Energy (DOE) banning incandescent light bulbs starting on August 1, 2023. The rule requires that light bulbs must emit at least 45 lumens per watt (a lumen is a measure of brightness). It also bans the manufacture and sale of non-conforming bulbs – but not their use, so consumers may use such bulbs that they already possess.
The rule effectively bans most incandescent light bulbs because they typically produce about 15 lumens per watt according to Philips, a leading light bulb maker. However, the rule contains exceptions allowing incandescent bulbs to continue to be manufactured and sold if they’re used in things like household appliances or certain types of lamps, including those for bugs, plants, or marine signals, among others.
A regulatory enforcement memo from the DOE issued days after the rule was announced last year indicated that the agency will pursue civil penalties against manufacturers and private labelers that knowingly violate the ban, although it’s unclear from the document what those penalties may entail.
“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,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said last year.
The DOE said in announcing the incandescent bulb regulation that it expects American consumers to save nearly $3 billion on annual utility bills due to the rule and projected that it will cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next 30 years – an amount equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in a year.
A coalition of free market and consumer groups opposed the Biden administration’s rule, arguing in a comment letter to the DOE that “further regulatory interference in the marketplace is unwarranted given that more energy efficient lighting choices, namely light-emitting diode bulbs, are already available for consumers who prefer them over incandescent bulbs.”
The coalition added that the estimated climate benefits of the energy efficiency regulations are “speculative, assumption-driven, and prone to bias in the hands of agencies with a regulatory agenda.”
The ban on most incandescent bulbs is likely to increase consumers’ adoption of light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs, which are more energy efficient and have grown in popularity as the incandescent ban has been in regulatory limbo.
The DOE’s most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey (RECS) found that nearly half of all U.S. households use LED bulbs for all or most of their indoor lighting, with the share of LED bulbs rising from 4% in 2015 to 47% in 2020. The data showed a corresponding decline in the share of incandescent or halogen bulbs from 31% in 2015 to 15% in 2020, and for CFL bulbs, which declined from 32% to 12%. The share of households reporting no predominant bulb type also fell from 33% to 26% in the same timeframe.
The ban on incandescent light bulbs isn’t the only action the Biden administration is planning to take regarding light bulbs and energy efficiency.
In December 2022, the Biden administration and DOE announced a rule to double the minimum light bulb efficiency to more than 120 lumens per watt for bulbs commonly used by consumers – which would effectively ban compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. The rule is expected to take effect before the end of 2024.
FOX Business’ Thomas Catenacci contributed to this report.