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U.S. Energy Bill Phases Out Incandescent Light Bulb

The energy bill, which passed the Senate last week and which the U.S. House could pass as early as today, will phase out incandescent light bulbs in the next four to 12 years in favor of compact fluorescents, halogens, and LEDs, USA Today reports.

Under the measure, all light bulbs must use 25 percent to 30 percent less energy than today’s products by 2012 to 2014. The phase-in will start with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014. By 2020, bulbs must be 70 percent more efficient.

“The amount of energy that’s being saved by the light-bulb standard alone is more than has been achieved since 1986 for all appliances combined,” Earl Jones, senior counsel for General Electric, said in a Bloomberg article. GE recently announced that it was restructuring its lighting business to help the company respond to demands for more energy-efficient products, directly affecting the companies ability to manufacture incandescent light bulbs.

With the phase out, the U.S. would cut light bulb electricity use by 60 percent by 2020. The light bulb standard alone will cut Americans’ electric bills up to $18 billion annually, according to Philips Electronics North America estimates.

Ireland will ban incandescent light bulbs in favor of energy-saving alternatives from 2009, making it the first country to take specific steps towards implementing a European Union pledge to switch to energy-efficient lighting by the end of the decade.

Over the next 10 years, China, which makes 70 percent of the world’s lightbulbs, has agreed to phase out incandescent bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient ones.

Australia has announced it would phase out incandescents and Greenpeace has asked India to follow Australia’s lead.

14 thoughts on “U.S. Energy Bill Phases Out Incandescent Light Bulb

  1. Most high school physics students used to be able to tell you that all of the electric energy consumed by any light bulb is ultimately converted into heat energy that is absorbed in its surrounding environment. The only energy loss in lighting a room is the trivial amount of energy that escapes as light through the windows and that is the same regardless of the light source.

    Therefore, essentially all of the energy used by interior lighting ends up heating the inside of a home; and where most people live, most of the time, that reduces the amount of heat required from the central heating system by the amount supplied by the lights. I will leave the math to you, but the answer is zero energy savings indoors and we get to deal with mercury every time we break a CFB.

  2. Gives me an excuse to stockpile hundreds of incandescent light bulbs. Just another example of our government meddling in the lives of ordinary people. Thinkformyself got it right too…a broken CFB gives us the headache of dealing with mercury. Wonder how long it’ll take for the CFB to be banned in favor of returning to the use of the incandescent light bulb.

  3. I’m doing everything I can to improve the energy efficiency of my home, but this provision of the energy bill troubles me. I have a variety of exposed bulbs in my house–flame-shaped in chandelier-type fixtures, round over bathroom medicine cabinets, and small round bulbs in ceiling fans. What kind of lights will I be able to use in these fixtures? CFLs don’t, so far as I know, come in these speciality shapes. Plus, I have a number of ceiling fixtures on dimmer switches. So far, although CFLs now exist that work with dimmers, the resulting light leaves a great deal to be desired. Yet another problem: I use three-way bulbs in several table and floor lamps which, like the dimmers, allows me to adjust the light level according to need. We’ve already switched one of our three-way lamps over to a CFL, and now have a higher level of light when we would prefer a lower light level (we can’t go to a lower wattage because we sometimes must have the higher light level). Then there are the lights where we have extremely low wattage bulbs–in one case, 10 watts and the other 15. Will we be forced to move up to 40 watt bulbs? Our porch light and our garage light are used in extremely cold temperatures in the winter–CFLs do not work well in the cold. Plus, the porch light is one of those very low wattage bulbs that I mentioned; the low light level is exactly what we need and want but will I still be able to buy low-wattage bulbs or will I be forced to purchase 40-watt bulbs? And, finally, what about the light fixtures that are switched on for just a few minutes at a time repeatedly during the course of the day? CFLs do not last as long as incadescents when used in this way, so replacing incadescents with CFLs is not going to save me, the homeowner, money; rather, it will cost me money, but any savings to the nation’s energy use will be, at best, negligible. And, oh, yeah, I basically agree about the additional heat issue, although in the summer, of course, additional heat increases the need for air conditioning in warmer climates, so that seems to be something of a trade-off.

  4. The murcury in CFL’s isn’t only a problem if someone breaks a CFL by accident in their house. Regulating the disposal of these lamps will be a large problem. It may just be impossible to get everyone to pay to dispose of flourecent lamps as now is the common practice, and even if the fee is removed, many people will just toss the lamps in a dumpster or a trash can instead of taking the time to drive to the disposal center. The murcury is not the only drawback to CFL’s to concider. Flourecent lamps can cause a wide range of medical problems ranging from depression to headaches to epilepsy. If congress wants to truly make a difference in the environment, encourage and subsidize efforts to develop incandecents which match the efficiency of CFL’s. GE has already started on such a project.

  5. I totally agree with all these comments by others. In my small 1200 sq. ft. house I have a track fixture in my kitchen which uses incandescents and the standard bathroom fixtures with exposed incandescent bulbs along with a couple of special order lights that use exposed incandescent bulbs as part of the design of the fixture. So this means that not only will I have to buy all new fixtures (here comes the profit for Phillips etc) but I will have a few thousand dollar bill from my electrician to retrofit my whole house with this IDIOTIC idea passed by our IDIOTIC lawmakers. I hate the light put out by these CFL’s and it should be my choice if I want to use them. Give us MORE energy, not less. This country is going backwards, not forwards. Yeah, lets follow the lead in the countries with dictators!

  6. A bill in California proposed to ban incandescents last year, but was modified [1] when critics, citing the GE high-efficiency incandescent project (see link in Related Stories section above), pointed out how foolishly counterproductive it was to ban a specific technology rather than establish technology-neutral efficiency standards and let the market figure out the best way to meet them.

    Was no one in congress paying attention to what the California legislature learned from that experience?

    [1] http://www.sacbee.com/111/story/226737.html

  7. Though all of the electric energy consumed by any light bulb is ultimately converted into heat energy that is absorbed in its surrounding environment, the energy efficient bulbs use less energy to produce the same amount of visible light. For example a 25 watt CFL produces the same amount of visible light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb, but the CFL is only using 25 watts of electricity instead of 100 watts of electricity. It is thus ultimately producing one-fourth the amount of heat. While the heat from either bulb might be useful on cold days (and thus no energy savings on those days since the central heating systmem would be used more on those days than on warm days), there are energy savings on the hot days when air conditioning is used. As as result there are substantial savings in energy on those days when the home needs no or little heating from the central heating system. Some brands of CFLs now have a protective shell over the twisty fluorescent tube, thus reducing breakage. When screwing and unscrewing the twisty type of CFLs, one should do so at the base of the bulb rather than on the twisty glass, since the twisty shape of the glass is more fragile than the bulb shaped glass of the incandescent bulbs.

  8. WTF?! Does Al Gore know about the mercury in the bulbs?? All I can think of right now is him saying, “Just one bulb…” I am mostly concerned with the pollution to our land fills and fresh water sources!

  9. It’s ironic, that since I’ve phased out incandescent bulbs ten years ago, for all CFL bulbs, my electric bill has done nothing but go way UP.
    Electric companies, when faced with reduced demand, will RAISE energy rates. You won’t save a penny. But your local landfill will be full of mercury-laiden CFL bulbs which don’t even last as long as the incandescent bulbs. Mine keep burning out every six months or so. What a joke these bulbs are.

  10. this might not be as good an idea as it first seems, since CFL’s contain mercury and a large proportion of them will end up in landfull…. and then groundwater

  11. I wish the federal government would stop micromanaging in our life’s and let us pick what light bulbs we want to use in our homes.

  12. You people need to read better or to educate yourselves more. The energy bill does NOT tell everyone to use CFL bulbs. The energy bill DOES require all light bulbs to be more energy-efficient than the current incandescent. There are high efficient halogen incandescent bulbs that would qualify under the new energy bill. There are also LED bulbs that are even more efficient than CFLs and have no mercury and they too would qualify under the new energy bill. There is no mandate to switch to CFLs, just to switch to more energy efficent bulbs.

    Also, the energy saved from switching to CFL from incandescent would actually decrease the amount of mercury in the environment. About half of all US households get their enrgy from coal, and coal is a huge emitter of mercury. So switching to energy saving CFLs would decrease the amount of coal needed and thus reduce the amount of mercury in the environment. And throwing away hundreds of CFLs in the dump is less mercury than one mercury thermometer.

    Switching to LEDs bulbs is more energy efficient than anything else and there is no mercury. This is the smartest switch to make and LED bulbs are manufactured in the US so it would create more US manufacturing jobs.

    Finally for the guy who talked about how the heat from the bulb would help with heating the house, that’s fine for the winter when you want the heat but how about summer when you are running your AC to cool the house down and the light bulbs continue to heat it up. 90% of the energy used in the incandescent bulb is lost to heat generation rather than light – that’s why they use incandescent bulbs to keep food warm at fast-food restaurants.

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