The US just banned most incandescent light bulbs, and few people even noticed

You can no longer buy most types of incandescent light bulbs in U.S. stores, after an energy efficiency rule from 2007 went into effect on Tuesday, 16 years later. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act, signed by former President George W. Bush, set up standards where light bulbs have to produce at least 45 lumens per watt. 

Traditional incandescent lights produce 15 lumens per watt, CNN reports, citing light bulb maker Philips. Most LED bulbs get you at least 75 lumens per watt. LED bulbs also last much longer — 30,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life, versus 1,000 hours for incandescent bulbs, according to the Energy Department. 

The Energy Department says the rule will save Americans about $3 billion a year on utility bills and cut carbon emissions by 22 million metric tons over the next 30 years. Still, since 2007, “the humble light bulb has become a flashpoint in a cultural squabble between environmental regulatory efforts and the very American impulse to do whatever one wants in one’s domicile,” The New York Times reported.  

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In 2017, when former President Barack Obama’s administration published the energy-efficiency light bulb rules, there was a sizable backlash in conservative media. Former President Donald Trump scrapped Obama’s expanded light bulb rule in 2019, saying, among other things, that LED lights always make him “look orange.” President Biden reinstated the rule in 2022. By the time it took effect on Aug. 1, 2023, “the response to the bulb ban was more of a whimper than a battle cry,” the Times noted. 

“Most major retailers stopped selling the inefficient bulbs months ago, and I don’t think very many people even noticed,” Andrew DeLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, told ABC News. “This transition is saving people money and reducing our climate impact so it’s a win-win.”

LED lights are cheaper, more readily available, and come in a wider variety of shapes than even a few years ago. And Americans are already buying them. In a 2022 survey from the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, fewer than 20% of light bulbs sold were incandescent lights. 

Not all incandescent lights are banned — you can still buy black lights, bug lamps, colored lamps, infrared lamps, plant lights, and flood lights, for example. On the other hand, the DOE has started effectively phasing out compact fluorescent light bulbs by the end of 2024.

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