Ban on the sale of certain light bulbs starts today in the United States
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Ban on the sale of certain light bulbs starts today in the United States

Sep 06, 2023

Incandescent and halogen bulbs are no longer be available for purchase

Jul. 31, 2023 8:46 pm, Updated: Aug. 1, 2023 8:19 am

As of Tuesday, the sale of incandescent and halogen light bulbs is banned in the United States. The change, which was initiated 15 years ago, has been hotly debated. But some Eastern Iowa retailers said they don’t anticipate most customers will miss the old technology.

The ban, which went into effect Aug. 1, was initiated by former President George W. Bush in 2007 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which called for less efficient light bulbs to be phased out. Under former President Barack Obama, the light bulbs’ sale was to be prohibited. In 2019, the ban was blocked by the Department of Energy under the direction of former President Donald Trump. The Biden administration re-implemented the rules and started the phaseout process earlier this year.

The new rules favor bulbs that are more energy-efficient, with a minimum standard of 45 lumens per watt. Incandescent bulbs average 12 to 18 lumens per watt, halogen lights have 16-24 lumens per watt.

The main difference between LED lights and the bulbs that can no longer be sold is efficiency, said Stratis Giannakouros, director of the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability and the Environment. He said incandescent lights were originally designed to cast off heat, and the light emitted was a “secondary effect.”

Giannakouros said compared to halogen and incandescent bulbs, LED lights last longer and consume significantly less energy, making them more cost effective and sustainable.

There also is a difference in safety, which is rooted in the design of the bulbs, Giannakouros said. Because halogen and incandescent bulbs give off heat, they must be made out of glass, which means the bulbs can break more easily, and can create a safety hazard.

Giannakouros said the heat in and of itself also can be dangerous, potentially burning people who make contact with a bulb that has been on for an extended period of time.

Debate over the phaseout of the light bulbs has become a partisan issue. And while Giannakouros said there is a niche audience htat prefers incandescent bulbs to LED lighting, a majority of Americans have already switched to LED bulbs for practical purposes.

“It's a tiny fraction of the population that still would really want to use an incandescent light bulb because they’re so much more expensive,” Giannakouros said.

Giannakouros also said any previous consumer differences between the quality of LED and incandescent bulbs have since been made void due to scientific advancements in lighting.

“A lot of the complaints early on were that the light was weird or flickery, or it didn't have the same glow or appeal,” Giannakouros said. “I think within recent years, the technology has advanced so much that it's very hard to tell the difference between an old incandescent bulb and newer models of LED bulbs.”

Giannakouros credited resistance to change as being behind much of the recent defense of incandescent lights. He said arguments for keeping incandescent lights are rooted in nostalgia for the older technology, which Giannakouros related to the way people collect vinyl records.

“The technology now, it's gotten so good that those differences are negligible,” he said.

What was once a controversial topic has lost its spark, according to Mike Pitzen, one of the owners of Cabinet Studio and Lighting in Cedar Rapids. Pitzen said his story has seen virtually no demand for anything but LED lighting in recent years.

Pitzen said the installations sold by Cabinet Studio and Lighting are exclusively LED. While there are certain decorative light fixtures that use incandescent bulbs, he said it’s been years since halogen bulbs were prominent in the light industry.

“I wouldn't know how to find anything that's not LED for task or display lighting,” Pitzen said.

Jan Nissen, a department manager at Lenoch & Cilek Ace Hardware on the east side of Iowa City, said she, also, has seen little to no demand for incandescent lights. The store has reduced the price of its incandescent bulbs for the past three to four months in an effort to get rid of stock before Aug. 1. As of Monday, Nissen said they still had about 100 packages of incandescent bulbs.

Despite the phaseout process and the sale, Nissen said the Iowa City store was going to have to throw away a non-negligible portion of inventory before Tuesday.

“There's still lots of ones that we’re not selling, no matter what the price is,” Nissen said.

While the government ban on the sale of incandescent and halogen lights has only gone into effect this week, Nissen said employees at Ace Hardware have been encouraging the use of LED lights for years because they are more practical for consumers.

“In the last few years, we've really encouraged pretty much every customer that's looking at those incandescent bulbs to buy LED,” Nissen said. “They use so much less energy, and don’t create the heat that the incandescent bulbs do.”

While demand has decreased, there are still consumers who use both halogen and incandescent lights. John Danker, who was shopping at Lowe’s in Cedar Rapids on Monday, said he uses a combination of LED, halogen and incandescent bulbs for his lighting needs.

While Danker relies on LED bulbs for light fixtures over counters, he uses halogen bulbs for high-use lights and incandescent bulbs for external and flood lights. Danker said he wasn’t “stocking up” on incandescent and halogen bulbs, but he is unhappy about the ban on their sale.

“I’m not crazy about being forced to change,” Danker said. “I’m never a fan of force.”