In 2007, the US Congress passed legislation to address the efficiency of incandescent light bulbs. Many remaining 40 and 60-watt lamps will be phased out by 2014… with some exceptions!
In the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Congress addressed incandescent light bulbs because they’re very inefficient compared to other bulbs – about 10% of the energy they consume is converted to light, the remaining 90% is converted to heat. Don’t assume the Act is an assault focused on light bulbs. It regulates all sorts of energy consumption, from vehicles to buildings.
Some groups, like The Heritage Foundation, have raised concerns that this type of legislation can be used to regulate virtually anything.
Reading some of these articles and their comments shows there’s still questions about what’s actually regulated and|or banned. Hoarding light bulbs, especially decorative bulbs can be expensive.
The Incandescent Lamp Standards and Exclusions
The increased efficiency requirements of the legislation are what effectively ban the incandescent light bulbs because they won’t be able to meet the standards. You may have already noticed that 100-watt incandescent bulbs were phased out in 2012 and 75-watt incandescent bulbs were phased out this year (in 2013) due to the higher efficiency standards.
40 and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs that fail to meet the requirements may not be manufactured or imported beginning January 1st, 2014 so stores will not re-stock them as they run out. Although these general service incandescent bulbs are being removed from the US market, there’s still a need for all sorts of specialty incandescent bulbs that have evolved over decades to fit all kinds of light fixtures.
The federal legislation that phases out incandescent light bulbs was included in the third section (Title III) of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Subtitle B – Lighting Energy Efficiency includes Section 321 where we can find a list of incandescent light bulbs EXCLUDED from the restrictions. The list includes:
(I) An appliance lamp.
(II) A black light lamp.
(III) A bug lamp.
(IV) A colored lamp.
(V) An infrared lamp.
(VI) A left-hand thread lamp.
(VII) A marine lamp.
(VIII) A marine signal service lamp.
(IX) A mine service lamp.
(X) A plant light lamp.
(XI) A reflector lamp.
(XII) A rough service lamp.
(XIII) A shatter-resistant lamp.
(XIV) A sign service lamp.
(XV) A silver bowl lamp.
(XVI) A showcase lamp.
(XVII) A 3-way incandescent lamp.
(XVIII) A traffic signal lamp.
(XIX) A vibration service lamp.
The legislation also includes descriptions of three specially shaped lamps in its list of exclusions.
Appliances lamps (item one) and many other items like twelve, seventeen and nineteen are further defined in the language following the list of exclusions.
What About the Bulbs in Chandeliers?
Section 321 also defines “Candelabra Base Incandescent Lamps” that are commonly used in decorative fixtures like chandeliers and bathroom vanity fixtures. The definition for this term and “Intermediate Base Incandescent Lamp” follow closely after the list of exceptions above (pages 83 and 84).
If you keep reading past the energy conservation standards, you’ll find what appears to be separate energy conservation standards for candelabra base incandescent lights and intermediate base incandescent lights on page 87: “A candelabra base incandescent lamp shall not exceed 60 rated watts.” and “An intermediate base incandescent lamp may not exceed 40 rated watts.”
So, it appears the spirit of the legislation recognizes that there are a huge number of decorative bulbs made for a broad range of fixtures, many historic. Rather than legislating these bulbs out of existence, it appears the tactic is to set an upper limit on their energy consumption (60 watts and 40 watts) so that no new “inefficient” lamps are introduced.
There’s not a ban on incandescent bulbs in the United States. There are restrictions on the (in)efficiency of incandescent bulbs though manufacturers are free to develop incandescent bulbs that are efficient enough to meet the restrictions (like other types of bulbs).
It seems we can keep buying decorative lamps. If you have any concern about whether you can buy and use an incandescent bulb, just be sure there’s a plant close by so you can refer any regulators to item ten in the legislation’s list of exclusions.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. Thanks!