On August 1, new rules went into effect in the United States that make it against the law to sell most incandescent light bulbs. These are older-style light bulbs that create light by heating a wire. The law is expected to save energy and help the environment.
Incandescent light bulbs are the kind that people are most familiar with. They use electricity to create light by heating a metal wire, which glows. If you’ve ever seen a cartoon of a light bulb, it was probably an incandescent bulb.
Incandescent light bulbs have been common since the late 1800s. Though they’re well-known, they’re not great lights. Over 90% of the electricity used by the bulbs goes into making heat – not light.
Since 2005, countries around the world have been either banning incandescent bulbs, or working in other ways to encourage people to use newer styles of bulbs that use far less power.
That’s what’s happening in the US. The new rules don’t actually make incandescent bulbs illegal. They just say that light bulbs that are sold must be able to create a certain amount of light (45 lumens) with a certain amount of energy (1 watt). Most incandescent bulbs can only create about 15 lumens with 1 watt, so they don’t meet the guidelines.
These days, the best way to replace incandescent bulbs is with LED* light bulbs. These bulbs can create about 75 lumens with 1 watt of electricity. And they can last 25 or more times longer than incandescent bulbs. LED bulbs can also be made to give off many different colors of light.
Though the rule just took effect at the beginning of August, it was first created in 2007. Since then, the rule has been delayed many times, usually for political reasons.
In the early 2000s, LED bulbs cost more money than they do today, and weren’t nearly as good. At the time, the most common replacement was a compact fluorescent (CF) bulb. Many people didn’t like the way the light from CF bulbs looked.
But in recent years, people have been switching over to LED lights, even without the rule. The lights have become more and more popular, since they use less energy and save people money by lasting longer. The US Department of Energy says switching over to LED bulbs will save Americans about $3 billion every year.
The new rules will also help the environment. Over the next 30 years, LED bulbs are expected to help prevent a huge amount of pollution in the US – about as much as would be used by 28 million homes in one year. That will be an important step in tackling the climate crisis.
Many other countries around the world have already ended or nearly ended the use of incandescent light bulbs. Several countries took this action 10 or more years ago.
Still, not everyone is happy about the new rule. Some people believe the government shouldn’t be telling people what kind of light bulbs they can buy.
Did You Know…?
In the coming years, many places, including the US and the European Union, will be getting rid of CF bulbs. That’s because they contain a small amount of mercury, a dangerous metal. They also use more energy than LED bulbs.
* LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode.