We’ve been covering the impending 2012 light bulb regulations since they were first voted into law. Earlier this month, however, Congress passed a last-minute budget deal that included a block on enforcement of the standards until October – leaving some to wonder what’s changed.
The short answer is “not much.” Originally, the standards would have required 100-watt bulbs to be more energy-efficient starting on New Year’s Day 2012. The rules, under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, require bulbs that emit light equal to that of a traditional 100-watt bulb draw only 72 watts of power, according to the Associated Press. Standards for 75, 60 and 40-watt bulbs will go into effect January 2013 and January 2014.
The provision in Congress’s vote this month pushes enforcement on 100-watt bulbs back to October. But Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association, says the vote won’t change much. Light bulb manufacturers have been planning for the shift for four years, so they are likely to get energy-efficient bulbs onto shelves in high quantities and to quickly phase out traditional bulbs.
The New York Times said that the approach of the new standards, along with similar rules in Europe, Australia, Brazil and China, has already transformed what types of bulbs are available. At the same time, retailers will be able to keep selling 100-watt incandescents until they run out.
California, meanwhile, has placed itself one year ahead of the federal schedule. The state this year brought in regulations similar to the federal 100-watt rule, and in 2012 it’s requiring that bulbs with a light output equal to that of a traditional 75-watt bulb draw 53 watts or less, Central Valley Business Times reports.
But merchants in California stockpiled large quantities of 100-watt bulbs, and these continue to be available for sale.
Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the delay in enforcement a “speed bump” and said, “Incandescent light bulbs are not going away due to the standard, they are just getting better.”
But the regulations have encountered public opposition from those who see it as a government intrusion into personal choice, and those who say the color of alternatives such as fluorescents can’t match the warm glow of an incandescent.
While fluorescents are the cheapest alternative, light-emitting diodes are better at mimicking incandescents and also last longer, the New York Times said. Peter Soares, director of consumer marketing at Philips, said LEDs would soon make up 10 percent of bulbs sold by value.
This may be the year that LEDs comes of age, according to Doug Bailey, vice president of marketing at integrated circuit manufacturer Power Integrations.
An Energy Savers guide to types of lighting is available here.
A Consumers’ Union guide to making the switch is here.
Picture credit: Angela Mabray.