Starting next week, Americans won’t be able to buy incandescent light bulbs anymore because a federal ban on the 140-year-old technology will go into effect starting Aug. 1.
It won’t be illegal to own incandescent light bulbs, it just will be illegal for stores to sell those products and for companies to manufacture them in the United States.
In January, the federal government started issuing warnings about the Aug. 1 cutoff date, claiming that a ban on the bulbs would help Americans will save money and will help the environment. Everyone will now have to purchase either LED or compact fluorescent light bulbs instead, according to the new rules.
Earlier this year, the Department of Energy (DOE) said in a news release that “once these light bulb rules are in place, [the] DOE expects consumers to save nearly $3 billion per year on their utility bills.” It added, “In addition to delivering significant cost savings for households, schools, and businesses, these energy efficiency actions also advance President Biden’s climate goals.”
The rules, it claimed, will cut carbon emissions by about 222 million metric tons over 30 years, or the ” equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year. LED lightbulbs also last longer than incandescent bulbs.
The DOE completed its rulemaking last April. However, the full enforcement of the rule is starting Aug. 1, while the department said it has given manufacturers time to comply with its mandate to phase out incandescent bulbs to produce and sell LEDs and fluorescent ones.
Manufacturers who violate the federal rule could face a maximum penalty of $542 per incandescent bulb, according to reports.
The fight over incandescent light bulbs has been going on for years. In the last days of the Obama administration, for example, it took action to finalize bulb efficiency requirements before then-president Donald Trump halted the move; it was revived under Mr. Biden’s agenda.
In 2019, Mr. Trump said that LED bulbs “that we’re being forced to use” are “no good,” joking: “I always look orange. And so do you. The light is the worst.” When the rule was killed by the Trump administration, the DOE said that it would “ensure that the choice of how to light homes and businesses is left to the American people, not the federal government.”
The average cost of an LED bulb ranges from $5–7 each while an incandescent light bulb normally costs from $2–3, according to a LifeHacker report. Officials have stressed that LED bulbs can save people money in the long term because they last longer and require less energy than incandescent ones.
Republicans, meanwhile, have been critical of the move and said that it’s another example of the federal government’s overreach. Earlier this month, Republicans in the House of Representatives held a hearing that highlighted the ban on bulbs and recent regulatory action against gas stoves as well as other appliances.
“I’m happy the Department of Energy is out here, making sure that we can all save money because we’re too dumb to figure out how to do it ourselves,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) told the hearing.
Environmentalist groups cheered the rule when it was announced, saying that LEDs use less energy.
“We are long overdue to phase out inefficient old-fashioned light bulbs,” said Joe Vukovich, an energy efficiency advocate with the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement at the time. “LED bulbs, which will replace the old incandescents, use one-sixth the amount of energy to deliver the same amount of light and last at least 10 times longer.”
And hardware store owners have said that they’ve predicted that a ban on incandescent bulbs would be coming for years now.
“We saw this coming a long time ago, tried to phase them out for a while,” Gary Straus, the owner of Straus Paint & Hardware in New York, told The Hill earlier this year. “It will save energy, and it will be cheaper in the long run,” he claimed.
One lawyer, Daniel Eisenberg, issued a warning that the federal government now “can go after you if you’re a brick-and-mortar store, an online retailer, a distributor, an importer. They can go after anyone in the [supply] chain they want.”
“It’s going to impact a much wider sector of the economy than the typical Department of Energy appliance efficiency standard does,” Mr. Eisenberg, an attorney with Beveridge & Diamond PC, told EENews this week.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), a group that represents retail stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot, told EENews that members are complying with the federal rule.
“The DOE one-year enforcement discretion seems to have been sufficient time for most of our members,” Melissa Murdock, a spokesperson for RILA, told the outlet. “We haven’t heard additional concerns from retailers on this recently.”