While it is widely believed that new federal regulations will ban the sale of the standard 100-watt bulb and other traditional incandescent lights, the truth is a little more complicated. New lighting efficiency regulations, which take effect starting in 2012, do not ban incandescents or any other type of bulb. They do require, however, that common light bulbs use about 25% less energy (measured in watts) for the amount of light produced (measured in lumens).
Currently available 100-watt incandescent bulbs produce about 1,600 lumens. Under the new regulations, bulbs with this level of brightness must have a maximum wattage rating of 72. Most incandescent products currently on the market do not meet these requirements and will no longer be manufactured or imported for sale in the United States after January 1, 2012.
Energy-Saving Replacement Options
What does this mean for your household? While homeowners are not required to upgrade to products that meet the new regulations, the standard 100-watt bulbs will soon disappear from store shelves following the January 1 deadline. Fortunately, a variety of energy-saving alternative technologies are available that still provide the light quality that homeowners have come to expect.
Halogen incandescents have a capsule inside that holds gas around a filament to increase bulb efficiency. These lights are 25% more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and last up to three times longer. They are available in a wide range of shapes and colors, and can be used with dimmers.
Compact-Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)
An ENERGY STAR qualified CFL is 75% more efficient and lasts up to 10 times longer than a comparable incandescent bulb. CFLs are available in cool white or warm yellow tones and some are encased in a cover to diffuse the light and provide an appearance similar to traditional bulbs. Dimmable CFL bulbs are also available. CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury and should be properly recycled at the end of their life. For more information, see Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs)
LEDs are made from a coated semiconductor material that produces light when exposed to an electric current. They are one of the most energy-efficient and rapidly developing technologies in today’s market. An ENERGY STAR qualified LED bulb is 75% to 80% more efficient than an incandescent bulb and lasts up to 25 times longer. Although the technology is still evolving, LEDs are commonly used in recessed fixtures and small track lights. While LEDs are more expensive to purchase, their low energy use and durability can save money over the life of the bulb.
The new regulations apply only to conventional 100-watt bulbs; three-way and other specialty lighting products are not affected. New efficiency standards for 75-watt incandescent bulbs will take effect starting on January 1, 2013, while those covering 60- and 40-watt bulbs will begin on January 1, 2014.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that compliance with the new regulations will save consumers about $6 billion in energy costs by 2015. In a typical home, replacing 15 traditional incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient alternatives will save an estimated $50 per year.
This article previously appeared in the PSE&G EnergeLink newsletter, and is used with permission.