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Lighting Changes Coming in 2012 with Government Ban

Posted: February 18, 2011

Law will ban manufacture and use of incandescent bulbs

Get ready for some mandated changes in lighting. Effective January 1, 2012, it will be a federal offense for any company or organization or individual in the U.S. to manufacture or import 100-watt incandescent light bulbs for general-use lighting.  California has already banned the 100-watt incandescents starting the beginning of this year. The reason for the ban is because there are other lighting alternatives today that consume considerably less electricity than the incandescent bulbs. 

You can continue using your 100-watt bulbs incandescent bulbs next year and you can replace those bulbs with other 100-watt incandescents that you may have in inventory. But you will be unable to purchase the bulbs after January 1, 2012. In fact, you may not be able to find them in stores during the last few months of 2011. Other sizes of incandescent bulbs for general use will also be banned at later dates. Effective January 1, 2013, 75-watt incandescent bulbs will face a similar ban; the 60-watt and 40-watt incandescents will be banned effective January 1, 2014.

Specialty incandescent bulbs will not be facing these bans.  Specialty bulbs include 3-way bulbs, appliance lights, “bug lights”, colored bulbs, vibration-service and rough-service bulbs, and bulbs used for marine and mining applications.

What are your lighting alternatives? When searching for an alternative for incandescent bulbs, look for lighting efficiency, expressed as lumens per watt. As shown in the figure below, the wattage rating of a bulb merely indicates the wattage of electricity required for input to the bulb.

incadescent bulbs

The light output is measured in lumens. Thus the lighting efficiency is lumens per watt. See the table below for the efficiency ratings of some of the more common lights used today.

Lighting Efficiencies

Note that the compact fluorescent light (CFL) is about four times more efficient than the incandescent. In addition, the CFL has a life span of about 10,000 hours versus 1,000 hours for a typical incandescent. A disadvantage of the CFL is that the bulb contains both mercury and lead – potentially hazardous heavy metals. Although these bulbs contain significantly less mercury and lead than they did a decade ago, the bulbs still must be handled in a responsible manner for disposal. Most “big box” home improvement stores now have drop-off sites for proper disposal of the burned-out CFL bulbs.

The LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs are even more efficient than the CFL and the life of an LED is longer than the cfl. LEDs are both mercury and lead free. I do not recommend LEDs today simply because they are still too expensive, although the prices have become lower in recent years. I anticipate significant reductions in the price of LEDs within the next five years or so and then they may be feasible lighting alternatives. 

Dennis Buffington, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering