Biden bans traditional lightbulbs in the US: What the new rules mean

Rule will undo Trump-era policy on incandescent bulbs

Ethan Freedman
Climate Reporter, New York
Thursday 28 April 2022 00:27
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Trump complains new light bulbs make him look orange

The Biden administration has adopted two new rules on light bulb efficiency this week that spell the end of traditional incandescent bulbs.

The action will undo Trump-era guidelines on the bulbs, and go into effect this summer with full enforcement next year.

The Department of Energy estimates that the new rules will help users save $3billion every year.

The energy department also estimates that the rules will prevent the equivalent of 222 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years. The US currently emits the equivalent of approximately 6 billion metric tons of CO2 annually.

In 2007, President George W Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which started to phase out many incandescent bulbs by 2012. These bulbs can be replaced by LED and compact fluorescent bulbs, which are much more energy efficient.

But the law exempted some special incandescents, such as those shaped like candle flames and so-called three-way bulbs that can emit light at three different brightness levels.

In January 2017, the Obama administration expanded the definition of the light bulbs regulated under the 2007 law to include these specialty bulbs. The rule would have gone into effect in 2020 — except the Trump administration rescinded the new definitions in 2019.

President Trump had expressed his disapointment with the ban on incandescents, including claiming that newer bulbs are more expensive and don’t “make you look as good.”

The rules issued this week by the Biden administration restores the 2017 parameters and ban the sale of any of these bulbs that don’t get at least 45 lumens per watt - a determination of how much light a bulb emits per unit of electricity used.

Conventional incandescent and halogen (a form of incandescent) bulbs get around 15-20 lumens per watt, placing them below the threshold. Similar LED bulbs, on the other hand, can often get often get upwards of 80 lumens per watt.

With less wattage needed to operate the bulbs, these more efficient bulbs can lead to lower electricity bill costs and fewer emissions from electricity generation. In addition, as the Department of Energy points out in their announcement of the new rules, LED bulbs last much longer than traditional incandescents.

LED bulbs are also now available in many different light colours, ranging from blue-ish and bright “daylight” bulbs to much dimmer, more yellow bulbs that mimic the appearance of incandescents.

The 2007 law does not ban individuals using or buying non-compliant bulbs, just the sale and manufacture of said bulbs. But as current supplies of incandescents dwindle, sockets across the country will have to switch over to more efficient lighting units.

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