I’ve seen numerous reports recently touting the end of incandescent lighting.  Borrowing a line from Mark Twain, the rumor surrounding the death of incandescent bulbs has been greatly exaggerated.

The source for the recent transition to more energy efficient lighting is the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-140 better known as EISA).  The portion of the law impacting “General Purpose Incandescent Lamps” is in TITLE III—ENERGY SAVINGS THROUGH IMPROVED STANDARDS FOR APPLIANCE AND LIGHTING, Subtitle B—Lighting Energy Efficiency, Sections 321 through 325.  EISA does NOT describe a ban on incandescent bulbs, but rather a performance requirement expressed in lumens (i.e., the amount of light generated) and watts (i.e., the amount of electricity consumed).  The “Rated Lumen Ranges” specified in the table that accompanies section 321 of subtitle B are the traditional amounts of light provided by 100-, 75-, 60-, and 40-watt bulbs, respectively.

At the time EISA was adopted, a number of states were already considering efficiency measures for incandescent lighting, one of the foremost being California.  From a manufacturers’ perspective, the notion of a variety of state activities related to the same topic is a less-than-ideal scenario.  In theory, when regulators start to pursue individual performance criteria, a manufacturer could be asked to support dozens of different statutes, depending on how many might claim some form of jurisdiction between state and local authorities.  Every variation, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, creates a burden on manufacturers that ultimately results in some form of operational cost.  With that in mind, it’s not that NEMA members wanted a federally-mandated efficiency standard for incandescent bulbs, but it was a better alternative than a state-by-state patchwork of laws and regulations.

In terms of my personal experience with lighting, I recently had to replace a recessed, incandescent flood lamp in my kitchen.  Given the interest in this topic, I decided to see if I could discern what was happening with the incandescent bulbs in my local home improvement store.  As I approached the incandescent light bulb section, it only took a matter of seconds to figure out what was going on.  Because retailers are still able to sell older-technology bulbs that were manufactured before December 31, 2013, they were on the shelf right next to the newer, more efficient bulbs.

I was able to immediately identify the older-technology incandescents based on the package labeling.  Older bulbs simply state the wattage of the bulb, such as 60 watts, while newer bulbs state both the lighting level (also expressed as 60 watts) along with the power consumption, which in this instance was 43 watts.  This is thanks to labeling requirements described in section III.B.325 of EISA.  In some cases the manufacturers have chosen to use a different color scheme for the newer product packaging design, but other than that, the only way to tell the difference was a slight variation in price.

My expectation is that the angst over 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs will die down fairly quickly.  We’ve seen this previously with the transition of 100-watt bulbs on January 1, 2012, and 75-watt bulbs on January 1, 2013.  For a brief period of time, both varieties of bulbs will appear side-by-side on the shelves and after the existing stock is sold out, only the newer technology will be available.  I believe that by mid-year customers will be purchasing the more efficient incandescent technologies without giving the lighting transition a second thought.


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