On the Topic of the Edison Bulb Ban

It’s baffling that the light bulb provision in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (“EISA”) has become such a hot-button topic.  This week, members of the House are expected to debate and perhaps vote on repealing the provision, which is technically a technology-neutral law.  It doesn’t mandate CFLs over incandescent lights, as suggested by some; it merely requires that certain lights be roughly 25% more efficient with about the same brightness and rated life.

In other words, pursuant to EISA, the 100-watt bulb will use 72 watts or less (by Jan. 1, 2012), the 75-watt bulb will use 53 watts or less (By Jan. 1, 2013), the 60-watt bulb will use 43 watts or less (by Jan. 1, 2014), and the 40-watt bulb will use 29 watts or less (by Jan. 1, 2014).

This is a performance standard — not a ban — that will result in a shift towards CFL and LED lighting, among other technologies.  Indeed, I prefer the new LEDs and old-fashioned daylighting, if available, but people will still be able to buy energy-saving incandescent lights.  These use halogen technology.

Considering the fact that about 11-12% of energy use in the average household is attributable to lighting, the standard will have a dramatic impact on energy use in the US.  Overall, consumers will save about $6 billion a year from the EISA standard, according to Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu.

But it’s not just that consumers will save money.  Manufacturers widely support EISA, so it must be good for business, too.

In an blog published on Energy.gov, Chu continued: “The standards help us meet America’s energy needs while also saving people money. It’s a win-win approach that just makes sense.”  He compares the standard to energy-saving improvements applied to refrigerator technology.  Fridge improvements save families about $150 per year, he says.

But what’s your perspective?  Let the market decide?  Set a minimum standard?  Will the repeal of EISA light bulb provisions stall innovation?  Or hurt US businesses?  Is this a matter of choice?  Or how energy is used?

[+] Understand the various EISA-compliant lighting options.


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  • gerrr!

    Yes, the more efficient incandescent bulbs are known as halogen / tungsten-halogen.

    But frankly, I think we should have had an federal efficiency tax, instead of performance standards limitations.  The less efficient your bulb is, the more you’ll pay in taxes, to offset those who adopt the most-efficient bulbs…and let people choose which they want.  Scale the tax up slowly, and you effortlessly push people towards greater efficiency.  And you prevent the sort of loophole laws that Texas is seeking.

  • Tom

    A performance standard that eliminates the current cheapest technolgy is in fact a ban. The hot button has been pushed because this is another example of the government meddling in the marketplace.
    Why wouldn’t manufacturers be on board, the fed just guaranteed them a captive market? Love to see how much lobbying money was spent by the manufacturers.

    I love LED technology, I think everybody should use it when it makes good fiscal sense. But it’s should be my choice to decide. I’d sooner spend $4 on 4 bulbs that burn for an hour a year in my attic than $20-80 on bulbs that will outlive my grandkids. What’s the ROI on this scenario? 400+ years?

    • http://www.jetsongreen.com Preston

      I appreciate your perspective and see what you’re saying.  Let’s take LEDs and CFLs out of the mix.  There’s still the halogen incandescents that meet your needs at an affordable price.  Where’s the concern? 

      Plus, life is all about minimum standards.  You don’t hold yourself to a reasonable person standard, you’re negligent.  You have lead in your paint, you’re banned.  You don’t build a house to code, you’re fined or you might have to tear out work. 

      We have minimum standards for tons of things and the minimum, by its nature, excludes something.  That something is typically deemed to be harmful or unsafe in some way.  In this case, it’s not that the government cares what bulb you use or don’t use — it’s that it cares how much energy is provided to the bulb. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/Spatial.Architect Tj Stevens

        I think the issue really stems from the fact that the standards you mentioned are health or safety related.  The bulb ban has little to do with health or safety; I have even seen the argument made that it increases the risk to our heath due to the mercury in CFLs.  The counter-argument would be looking into the future at the greater good, and trying to curb the energy load to help avoid any kind of energy crisis. 

        My personal stance is in agreement with gerrr!, I think an efficiency tax would be a much more socially accepted way to achieve the goal.  I don’t disagree with the “bulb ban”, but I understand why people are opposed to it from a political standpoint.  It has to do with overstep of authority; if the Federal Government has the right to say which bulbs we buy, then they have a right to say what food we buy, etc…

  • mod

    Amen Preston!  Furthermore, I take offense when the issue of “it’s my choice” is used as an argument against minimum standards.  I can certainly stand behind choice as part of freedom or whatever, but not when it is hurting others.
    There is reason for speed limits is school zones…so people don’t run down school children.
    In this case, energy standards need to be raised in order for our world to sustain itself and not hurt each other using inefficient lightbulbs (or whatever) with rising energy prices from environmentally unsensitive energy sources.

  • http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/norcimradiocontrol/ Norcimguy

    Energy saving light bulbs have cost us all in the UK one billion pounds and they dont work!
    see ‘the energy saving light bulb Myth by norcimguy’

  • Jim

    I like to use dim switches, it saves energy and makes for a cozy ambiance. (and desk lamps for when need to read etc). I do this because I want to help save energy and it’s plain cool looking and cozy feeling.

    I would much rather save energy by having dim lights of a good quality light than those super bright ugly bulbs that they’re trying to make us buy!

  • Jim

    That’s a good idea to dim lights. Also, shine light strategically where it’s needed, and turn off lights etc not in use. I personally love LED’s, and they last a long time too. But I just hate the spectrum of light of those compact fluorescent bulbs!

  • Jim

    Grrr and those CFLs (compact fluorescent bulbs) contain mercury too!

  • Mark

    Right now in terms
    of energy savings halogen light bulbs are the best. More energy efficient than
    current standard incandescent light bulbs, cheap, reliable and last for
    freaking ever, and most importantly, unlike those compact fluorescents you can
    dim halogen bulbs! In terms of saving energy I would MUCH rather have a dimmed
    cozy halogen light than an ugly super bright CFL! More than anything out there
    LED’s seem most promising (if not some other new technology), but must improve
    problems such as quality of spectrum of light, price, and other technical
    problems (such as manufacturing, and in bright LED’s needs a cooling fan that
    would wear out before the ‘bulb’, etc)

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