Trade Resources Industry Knowledge Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Really Illegal?

Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Really Illegal?

Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Really Illegal?

Both of our kids like to sleep with multiple sources of light: a bright incandescent light bulb from a half-open closet, the dim glow of a flower-shaped silicone night light, and the occasional supplemental light from the bathroom or hallway. The oldest asked for a pretty little portable lamp for her bedside table, and the little one even has a cuddly ladybug that illuminates her pink canopy with the stars and the moon. She is so obsessed with sleeping in a well-lit room that we had to unscrew the light bulbs to prevent her from turning on all the lights in the middle of the night. It seems she hasn’t heard that, according to some sources, this kind of behavior could get you arrested in 2013.

Incandescent Light Bulbs: The Controversy

But as is often the case, the truth is less dramatic than the hype. The legislation that has everybody all worked up over incandescent light bulbs actually passed back in 2007, and is known as the Energy Independence & Security Act of 2007. The entire energy act is 822 pages long, and encompasses everything from building regulations to fuel standards, but the section that has generated the most speculation is the one on the simple household light bulb.

Fortunately, unlike what many reputable news sources would lead us to believe, the act doesn’t ban incandescent light bulbs entirely; it merely tightens the standards for energy efficiency and phases out the traditional, less-efficient bulbs. The legislation, even the light bulb portion, is lengthy and full of legalese, but theEPA sums it up this way. The law:

  • does not ban the use or purchase of incandescent bulbs.
  • does not ban the sale or manufacture of ALL incandescent bulbs, just those common household incandescent (and other) bulbs that are not energy-efficient.
  • does not require the use of compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • requires about 25 percent greater efficiency (that is, less energy use) for household light bulbs that have traditionally used between 40 and 100 watts of electricity.
  • exempts many bulbs, including specialty bulbs, three-way bulbs, chandelier bulbs, refrigerator bulbs, plant grow lights and others.

Incandescent Light Bulbs: The Controversy_1

So what does the government have against these harmless looking incandescent light bulbs, anyway? It turns out, they are the household equivalent of a gas-guzzling SUV; they require energy to run, and lots of it. The scientists at Michigan State University explain the process this way: “Incandescent bulbs use heat caused by an electrical current. When electrical current passes through a wire, it causes the wire to heat. The wire, or filament, gets so hot that it glows and gives off light.” All to power a single light bulb.

But you don’t have to scour your home and toss out any offending incandescent bulbs. After all, even the government is giving itself years to phase them out. The process, which actually began in 2008, requires that light bulbs be made more efficient in a series of phases from 2012-2014. The goal: Newer, more energy-saving light bulbs which will still emit the same amount of light. (For example, the newer more energy-efficient bulbs use only 72 watts to generate the same amount of light as a traditional 100 watt light bulb.)

Of course, when you compare light bulbs, other energy-efficient options already exist, including CFL and LED lights. LED lights work differently than incandescent light bulbs, because an LED is a semiconductor diode that glows when voltage is applied. They don’t require heat to create light, and therefore use far less energy. Plus, the light is more focused, safer, and much longer-lasting. Oh, and they’re not being banned or phased out anytime soon, which is a good thing, because now our youngest is asking for a string of flowered LED lights to drape around her headboard. I hope she never gets a look at the Hue LED lights from Philips. The last thing we need is for her to be able to control her lighting from her IPAD Mini.

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Incandescent Light Bulbs: The Controversy
Topics: Lighting