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ATEX and IEC Ex Flame-proof Explosion Proof Lighting & Equipment
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12/19/13 Incandescent Bulb Phase Out Not a Light Bulb Ban

Article- December 22, 2013 By Larson

10 Watt LED A19 Style LED Bulb

Larson Electronics LED Light Bulb

First and foremost, it needs to be reiterated that the phase out of incandescent light bulbs is not a ban. Although there is ample information available regarding the new efficiency standards lighting technology must meet in order to comply with federal and international legislation, there are still many who characterize the discontinuation of the incandescent bulb as a ban. The reality is that lighting manufacturers are free to produce incandescent bulbs of any wattage they desire and sell them, the only caveat is that these bulbs must meet minimum efficiency standards in order to be in compliance with federal law. The problem however, is that incandescent lighting technology is mature and has little development potential remaining, leaving manufacturers with the choice of developing new lighting technologies, or pouring money into wringing the last bit of performance out of outdated technology. Thus, for most manufacturers new lighting technologies with their high development potential represent a lucrative new segment of an existing market, and old technologies like the incandescent offer little room for future expansion. Although elevated energy efficiency standards have provided new impetus to lighting technology development, it has been up to the manufacturers and developers of lighting to decide which direction their efforts will take. For them, the choice is clear; engage in development of the fast growing alternative lighting technologies, or attempt to keep alive the old ones with little potential. The result has been of course, the gradual phase out of the incandescent light bulb.

With that aside, it is worthwhile to look at why this discontinuation of the incandescent is taking place, and what we can look forward to replacing it with now and in the future.

President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. This act served to detail legislative changes to lighting efficiency requirements and lay down a phase out process for lighting technologies not meeting these new standards. As a result of this act, efficiency standards for various types of lighting were raised by 25-30%. This meant that for most types of standard lighting, including incandescent and fluorescent lighting systems, any lamps sold after a certain date would have to demonstrate efficiency levels meeting these higher standards. Any bulbs not meeting these new efficiency levels would thus no longer be legal for sale, importation, or manufacture in the United States. The EISA was designed to enact in stages, with 100 watt incandescent bulbs being targeted first in 2011. By mid 2012, reflector flood and spotlights along with 4 foot and 8 foot T5, T8, and T12 linear fluorescent lamps would be included as well as magnetic ballasts for fluorescent lamps.

By January 1st of 2014, 40 watt and 60 watt bulbs would be included as well.
Although there was some pushback against this phase out, the process has continued unabated. Despite the United States Congress’ defunding enforcement of the phase out portion of the EISA, lighting manufacturers had already taken heed of what the new act meant for the lighting industry and refocused and retooled their efforts in order to develop and exploit more effective lighting alternatives. Since incandescent and fluorescent lighting technologies can be considered matured due to their long history of development and limited future potential, the logical direction for lighting manufacturers to take has been one of developing new technologies such as compact fluorescent bulbs and LEDs. Although these newer technologies will represent the dominant forms of standard lighting in the future, the incandescent bulb will not be totally absent.  Exempt from the new efficiency standards are what can be considered specialty bulbs which see limited use and application. Some examples of this include 3-Way bulbs, 40 watt maximum appliance bulbs, rough service bulbs, some decorative bulbs 60 watts or less, and specialty T8 fluorescent tubes 40 watts or less.  

When 100 watt incandescent bulbs were first phased out starting in 2011, the rush to begin providing alternatives to not only the 100 watt, but 75, 60 and 40 watt bulbs as well began in earnest. At the time effective alternatives to the incandescent bulb were far and few between, and since it would take time to further develop these alternatives, lighting manufacturers focused on the then most viable alternatives and put less emphasis on less developed ones. This meant the CFL with its already established technology was first to gain prominence as an incandescent alternative, with LEDs given less importance due to their more limited development. The results were somewhat mixed, with CFL and LED alternatives being promoted before they had reached performance levels high enough to be acceptable to the general public. CFL bulbs with poor color quality and erratic operation and LEDs with poor color quality and unable to produce adequate output were less than impressive and served to fuel the public’s resistance to incandescent alternatives.

Fortunately, in a rather short period of time manufacturers were able to develop CFLs of greatly improved quality, and LEDs began appearing that were capable mimicking almost exactly the color and output of standard incandescent lamps. These later versions greatly improved the reputation of these respective lighting alternatives, and to date the biggest obstacle to their full acceptance by the public has been their higher cost. This too is changing rapidly as development of LEDs continues, and it is now possible to purchase LED bulbs that although still more expensive than incandescent bulbs, will provide a positive return in the form of energy and replacement cost savings in as little as one or two years. Add in that LEDs will last on average 50,000 hours or more, and everything after this initial investment return is pure savings.

Currently, CFL’s are dropping out of the limelight due to their less versatile nature and the presence of mercury within their construction. LEDs on the other hand have seen explosive growth and are now considered the likely form of dominant lighting in the near future. For residential use, CFLs still remain the most cost effective option due to their lower initial purchase price. However, for commercial and industrial use, LEDs present significant advantages that make them a wiser choice for large scale applications where long term results are more critical. The cost of an LED bulb though is dropping quickly, and as development continues and the supply of incandescent bulbs dwindles, LEDs can be expected to become the most effective and cost efficient alternative period.

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