Ask Waste Watchers: Will incandescent light bulbs disappear from stores? |

Ask Waste Watchers: Will incandescent light bulbs disappear from stores?

Joseph Walls

As an electrician, I am frequently asked if regular incandescent light bulbs will continue to be sold in 2012. Could you shed some light on this subject?

Ernie in Minturn

Thanks for the great question, Ernie.

The “light bulb legislation” that is likely prompting your questions is part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The primary goal of this legislation is to improve national security by reducing our dependence on foreign energy.

Aside from improving lighting standards, the legislation also addresses alternative fuels, automobile fuel efficiency standards, and making public buildings more energy efficient.

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It is my understanding that incandescent bulbs are not going to disappear from the shelves overnight come January. The intent of the law is to gradually phase out the majority of these types of bulbs over a three year period, starting in 2012.

There are a variety of specialty incandescent bulbs that are exempt from the ban. Bulbs that are less than 40 watts or greater than 150 watts are exempt. Colored bulbs, candelabra, three-way, appliance bulbs, plant lights, and other specialty bulbs will also be exempt. However, the lighting in your home and the lighting aisle at your local retailer will probably look very different in 2015.

If you observe the incandescent bulbs that you currently have in your home, I suspect most of them will fall into the 40 watt to 150 watt range. These are the exact bulbs that this legislation is aiming to end the usage of, and for good reason.

Based on technology that is at least a century old, incandescent bulbs are extremely inefficient. In comparison, compact fluorescent lighting bulbs use 25 percent less energy, last roughly 10 times longer and generate 75 percent less heat than comparable incandescent bulbs.

By some estimates (, roughly 20 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States is for lighting. If all incandescent bulbs were swapped for more energy-efficient lighting, approximately $18 billion would be saved annually. The amount of energy saved would be equal to what is generated by 80 coal-fired power plants.

Compared to other industrialized countries, the United States is slightly behind in the phasing out of these types of bulbs. The European Union and Australia started to phase out the bulbs in 2009. Venezuela and Brazil began phasing them out in 2005. Russia, Canada and Argentina each have scheduled their phase out for 2012 ( By the end of 2014, the United States will have effectively banned the import, production and sale of most incandescent bulbs.

Joseph Walls is hazardous-waste specialist at the Eagle County Household Hazardous Waste facility, located at the landfill in Wolcott. The facility is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Call 970-328-3468 or visit for information.

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