New Light for a New Year

California petitioned Congress to be able to implement new, more efficient light-bulb standards two years before the rest of the country. Photo Credit: Alvimann/Morguefile

California First to Phase Out the Incandescent Bulb

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Light bulb! Here’s an idea – experts say Californians can save money and energy by choosing Light Emitting Diode (LED) or Compact Fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.

And starting Jan. 1, the incandescent bulbs that have been around since Edison’s time will be illegal to manufacture in the Golden State.

California is the first state in the nation to implement the new standards laid out in the 2007 energy bill signed by President George W. Bush.

Noah Horowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says any bulbs produced for sale in California starting in 2018 will have to produce about three times more brightness per watt of energy.

He points out that “LEDs are a far superior product. They give off the same light that an incandescent does, but it doesn’t waste energy.”

Horowitz adds, “In addition, LEDs last up to 25 years, where with an incandescent, you had to change the bulb almost once a year, which was a real hassle.”

Opponents of the phase-out say the new bulbs, which are a bit more expensive, impose an unnecessary cost on businesses and consumers. However, the cost of LEDs has moderated – it used to be as high as $20 per bulb, but are now $2 to $3 apiece when purchased in multi-packs, and they last for decades. So over the lifetime of each bulb, the user saves $50 to $150.

California has an estimated 250 million screw-in light sockets that are covered by the regulation, and once they’re all switched over, it is estimated the savings will be up to a billion dollars a year. Horowitz says switching to energy efficient bulbs on a mass scale also goes a long way in the fight against climate change.

“People need to remember that, when you flick the switch and turn your light on, that electricity comes from somewhere and often, it’s from power plants that are operated by fossil fuel,” he says, “and burning fossil fuels is what causes climate change.”

The new standards go into effect in the rest of the country in two years. Businesses will still be allowed to sell out their remaining stock of incandescent bulbs.