Incandescent Lamp Ban?

What This Means, How to Handle It

(New file 8/24/2008, minor updates 1/2 & 1/11 2012, & 11/23/2014)

This article is in reference to USA Federal legislation that will ban *SOME* *but not all* household incandescent lamps in stages from 2012 through 2014.

UPDATE 1/2 and 1/11 2012: There is a temporary defunding of one government agency for enforcement of this ban in a short term spending bill, HR 2055.

The good news is that the USA Federal 2012-2014 ban has many exemptions.

The portion of the ban scheduled to go into effect in 2012 affects household lightbulbs with light output around that of 100 watt ordinary "standard" incandescents, and on the low side of output typical of 150 watt ones.

The portion of the ban scheduled to take effect on 1/1/2013 affects light bulbs with light output around that of usual 75 watt ones.

The portion of the ban scheduled to go in effect 1/1/2014 affects light bulbs with output typical or on the low side of usual for ones of 40 and 60 watts.

The ban is on manufacture within USA and importation into USA. Posession and sale of affected products within USA is not to be banned by this.


1. Light Bulbs for Designed Usage at Voltages Over 130 or Less Than 110 Volts:

2. Light Bulbs Outside a Certain Range of Light Output

3. Light Bulbs Achieving or Exceeding an Energy Efficiency Standard

Updated 5/31/2011 - the numbers to meet or exceed are a little lower than I previously thought. Also, this includes a minimum design life expectancy of 1,000 hours, while many North American "general service" incandescents 75 to 300 watts have design life expectancy of 750 hours.

Incandescent lamps that meet this energy efficiency standard are already on the market. These include Philips "Halogena Energy Saver" clear and frosted ones available at Home Depot, GE clear and "soft white" ones available at Target, and Sylvania clear ones available at Lowes.

All of these halogen models have 2-3 times the life expectancy of "standard" incandescents.

4. Ones With Bases Other Than E26/E27 "Medium Screw"/"Edison Screw"

This exemption from the ban includes most projector lamps, exit sign bulbs, and many decorative and low voltage bulbs and indicator lamps, whether or not they are excluded from the ban for other reasons. Most light bulbs for microwave ovens, sewing machines, vacuum cleaners, night lights, nearly all halogen ones without an outer bulb, and "xenon" under-cabinet bulbs are exempted from the 2012/2014 USA Federal ban on this basis, in addition to mostly also being exempted on basis of light output or design voltage.

UPDATE 11/23/2014: C7 and C9 holiday light bulbs of historically-usual kinds, with candelabra bases and consuming 5-10 watts of power, are exempt on the base type basis and also on basis of light output being below 310 lumens. Colored ones have a third basis for exemption.

The 40 watt "intermediate screw" "high intensity" bulb that is about the size of a ping pong ball is also excluded on this basis.

MR11 and MR16 pin-base units are exempted on this basis, whether or not they qualify for exemption on basis of low voltage or "specialty lamp".

UPDATE 3/5/2011: NOT EXEMPTED ON THIS BASIS - oddball proprietary screw bases of sizes not listed in the Wikipedia article on "Edison Screw Base".

FURTHER QUALIFICATION: Candelabra base is not exempt above 60 watts and intermediate base is not exempt above 40 watts. However, I have yet to see such screw bases used in wattages above these limits.

5. Many Specialty Types

Specifically *NOT EXEMPTED* from the ban on "specialty lamp" basis:

Exempted from the ban on "Specialty Lamp" basis:

Credit To:

Paul Eldridge, for posting most of this in a January 18 2008 posting in the Usenet newsgroup, in article (message ID) <>

UPDATE 3/5/2011: Further info, sources:

FACT SHEET: General Service Incandescent Lamp Provisions Contained in EISA 2007

Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007

Sections 321-322 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (pages 82 to 98) are the relevant ones for light bulbs. There are additional requirements taking place after 2014 that I have yet to mention, but I don't find them significant yet.

How this ban expands in 2020

In 2020, this ban is scheduled to expand mainly in two ways:

1) The exemption on range of light output ends.

2) The exemption on basis of energy efficiency gets tightened, to require energy efficiency of at least 45 lumens per watt. And, this applies to "general service" bulbs of all technologies, not only incandescent.

What to do about this

Where you use incandescents of types unaffected by this due to any or any combination of the above exemptions, you usually do not need to make any changes.

Exempted incandescents similar to about-to-be-banned ones may come in short supply, especially yellow "bug bulbs". CFL "bug bulbs" already exist and they work well.

Where CFLs can be used, use CFLs. For some hints, look in my CFL Top Page.

One hint: CFLs with outer bulbs tend to start dimmer and take longer to warm up than bare spiral CFLs.

RECESSED CEILING FIXTURES - Those are especially difficult to achieve satisfactory CFL operation in. The CFLs that are most optically suitable for those tend to have outer bulbs, meaning likely starting very dim and taking 2 minutes to warm up. Heat buildup in these fixtures often shortens the life of the electronic ballasts inside screw base CFLs.

Thankfully, the 2012-2014 ban does not affect most reflector flood incandescents used in such fixtures.

There are already LED replacements for some recessed ceiling fixtures, notably Cree's LRM4. The entire fixture is replaced with the LED unit. One specific example is Cree LMR040-0700-27F9-10100TW, available from Digi-Key for $60 plus tax and shipping. It consumes 12 watts and produces 700 lumens, roughly the output of a 60-65 watt reflector floodlamp. This is of Cree's better "True White" series, with color rendering index of 90.

As for getting incandescents in other applications where CFLs are not acceptable and suitable LED lightbulbs are not yet available:

First, I would not worry much about the mercury in CFLs, since on average replacement of incandescents 60 watts or more with CFLs reduces mercury pollution. This is because most mercury pollution comes from burning coal to generate electricity. Also, on average, CFLs have about 12% as much mercury as 4-foot fluorescent lamps had as recently as the 1980's.

UPDATE 1/2/2012: LED bulbs are becoming more feasible to replace non-directional incandescents. Philips has some 40, 60, and 75 watt equivalent LED ones with a nice warm color, available at Home Depot. They should not be used in small enclosed fixtures, and the 60 and 75 watt equivalent ones should not be used base-up in recessed fixtures. They can be used with the usual type of dimmers. The yellow color of the bulb is not the color of the light produced - the light has color about that of a 40W 120V 1500 hour soft white incandescent.

If you need an incandescent anyway, there are the many exemptions above, such as rough service, vibration service, shatter resistant, and traffic signal. Sadly, these tend to have lower energy efficiency than the incandescents that are about to be banned.

UPDATE 1/2/2012 Availability of incandescents that are exempt on basis of energy efficiency has improved. These are available at Lowes, Home Depot and Target.

After 2014, the Department of Energy may issue regulations that expand the banning of incandescents, depending on advancement of technology and change in sales rates of exempted incandescents.

However, 12 volt versions appear to me less-affected. There are 12 volt 50 watt incandescents that produce as much light as 60 watt 120V ones, with no compromise in life expectancy. (There are a couple of economies of scale where a shorter, thicker filament favors greater efficiency of producing light.) 12 volt 50W light bulbs are available at some auto parts stores. There is a wide variety of 12 volt transformers and "transformers" available for powering the already-somewhat-widely-used 12 volt MR16 halogen lamps - which are exempted on both design voltage and base style.

Dimmable CFLs: One obstacle to use of CFLs is the fact that most CFLs are incompatible with usual-type dimmers. However, CFLs that are compatible with these dimmers have been becoming increasingly available in the past year or two. These have been available at Target at least since early 2010.

Dimmable CFLs don't dim as well as incandescents do. However, dimmable CFLs are rated for being safe to use with dimmers. Other CFLs have increased risk of burning out in a bad way or burning out a dimmer if used with dimmers.

Written by Don Klipstein.

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