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  • The Incandescent Bulb Ban: Another Regulatory Overreach

    Is the modern incandescent light bulb ready to retire from society and find its final resting place in the halls of the American History Museum? Politicians seem to think so, but consumer behavior indicates otherwise. According to an article in The New York Times,

    Despite a decade of campaigns by the government and utilities to persuade people to switch to energy-saving compact fluorescents, incandescent bulbs still occupy an estimated 90 percent of household sockets in the United States. Aside from the aesthetic and practical objections to fluorescents, old-style incandescents have the advantage of being remarkably cheap.

    The government solution to replace incandescent bulbs is to regulate them out of the marketplace and forcefully restrict consumer choice. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 placed stringent efficiency requirements on incandescent bulbs in an attempt to phase them out between 2012 and 2014 and replace them with more expensive but more energy-efficient bulbs, the most popular being compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).

    Critics of CFL bulbs argue that exposure to mercury vapor is dangerous if the bulbs are broken, and others complained about CFL bulbs causing migraines and epilepsy attacks, resulting in medical groups asking for exemptions for those with health problems. Proponents of CFL bulbs argue that the increased energy efficiency will offset the higher sticker price, but critics argue it will take an exceptionally long time where people use lights infrequently, such as closets and attics.

    In effort to meet tougher regulations, the new incandescent light bulbs are also selling at record rates, but also at record prices. A new bulb presented by Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers is selling at 20 times the price of a standard bulb ($5 compared to 25 cents)—an immense price increase for a 30 percent efficiency improvement. However, the new bulbs last three times as long as a standard bulb, bringing the price ratio down to less than seven times the price of a standard bulb.

    Although this law could mean the end of a century-old industry and all the jobs that go with it, bulb manufacturers are demonstrating a remarkable resilience against needless regulations through market innovation. Yet there is only so much that the industry can do to stay a step ahead of legislation, and whether incandescent bulbs will survive the government’s regulatory whip remains to be seen. A few dollars more here and there may not seem like much, but CFLs sell at around $1 each. Although fluorescent bulbs are currently not favored by households, they could soon become the chosen bulb, an unnatural leaning that will create false information for the light bulb market.

    If consumers truly preferred fluorescents to incandescents, they would purchase them without any legal incentive. Yet they do not. Many prefer the soft yellow lighting of incandescents to the unnaturally white light of fluorescents. More might prefer the simple affordability of incandescents. Demand for cheap incandescent light bulbs is not going to change because of legislation (and, in fact, could lead to hoarding), so the only option left to environmentalists is to remove the incandescent light bulb from the market altogether and make it impossible for consumers to light their houses inexpensively.

    This is one example of the absurdity of federal regulations and how bureaucrats pointlessly try to change human behavior. The regulatory burden grew tremendously during President George W. Bush’s tenure and is only getting worse under President Obama’s. It is a trend that restricts freedom and choice in the marketplace and costs taxpayers billions of dollars. It is a trend that the government should reverse.

    Kelsey Huber co-authored this post.

    Posted in Energy [slideshow_deploy]

    41 Responses to The Incandescent Bulb Ban: Another Regulatory Overreach

    1. Billie says:

      …just another future crisis. The government is setting us up for health problems leading to death, mandating poisonous bulbs. The American government is now dangerous and defiant to the American people.

      We need rescue from government intrusion. If you look at all Obama has done and continues to allow and do, one thing leads to the collapse or crisis of another. If members of congress truly had a conscience for the country that has given them the freedom being taken away from us, they will impeach.

    2. Bobbie says:

      …just another future crisis. The government is setting us up for health problems leading to death, mandating poisonous bulbs. The American government is now dangerous and defiant to the American people.

      We need rescue from government intrusion. If you look at all Obama has done and continues to allow and do, one thing leads to the collapse or crisis of another. If members of congress truly had a conscience for the country that has given them the freedom being taken away from us, they will impeach.

    3. Larry, Fargo, ND says:

      Note to self, Stock up on more bulbs especially 75 and 100 watt.

    4. Eugene Pilcher, Rock says:

      In my house, ALL the non-closet light switches are Lutron dimmers. Dimmable CFL's exist but are not widely available and cost a whopping $18 each. I have 28 of them.

    5. Pingback: Virginia Right! News Hound for 8/14/2010 | Virginia Right!

    6. Ron Derry NH says:

      The problem with this ban is that it doesn't take into consideration cold temps. My shop has zero degree ballasts for the overhead lights so I can light the shop but the tool lights are incandescent because they will work when it is cold unlike cfls, and with me keeping the temps down to ease the oil usage I need the incandescent.

      Same in my house I have florescent where I can use them but incandescent at work stations where lights are for intermittent usage and my house is about 50-55 degrees at times in the winter when I get home to start the stoves.

      This BAN is so un-american and so idiotic only a communist fascist inexperienced ideologue could have come up with it and thought it was a good idea.

      I even have back up gas lighting because of power outages that happens so often in the country, but CFL have limited use for me, as I use the light switches to save electricity..

    7. MJF, CT says:

      Another example of an out of touch government mandating to the People with biased information from stupid, know nothings who insist that they have all the answers.

    8. BSC, NJ says:

      The hazard that occurs when one of these cfls get broken in the kitchen or bathroom obviously has not been considered. These cfls have more mercury in them than a conventional flourescent bulb. You will probably need to call in hazmet to do the cleanup.

    9. Patrick says:

      The government has no use for the free market anymore. People aren't choosing things the way that they want them to choose. Whether it's light bulbs, automobiles, refrigerators, or home windows it doesn't matter. This administration seems to think that the way to 'correct' American behavior is to punish them for being 'incorrect.'

      Let the market decide. CFL's aren't going to go away if nobody buys them, they will become cheaper as more sit on the shelf at the hardware store. Like Ron Derry said above, the government is placing bans, taxes, regulations on things that people still need. Take a look at coal and oil with cap and trade. The government wants us to stop using cars and trucks that run on gasoline, but they don't take into consideration that you need those vehicles to transport your food and other goods from one place to another. So what sense does it make to raise the prices on those things when people are already struggling to get by?

    10. Corey Johnson, PA says:

      I too feel that an outright ban on incandescent lamps is ridiculous. Nonetheless, the discounting of the benefits of fluorescent lighting and energy conservation that "conservatives" tend to throw in along with their disapproval of the ban is a bit annoying and foolish.

      The fact of that matter is that we need to pick to correct light for the application. People need to become more aware of how the world around them works, which includes light bulbs. Consumers of products tend to be quick to buy something, use it improperly, and then blame the product/company/engineer/etc. for producing a substandard product.

      Marketers of products make the same mistakes – calling their product a cure-all solution to everything when it is not.

      Fluorescent lamps are wonderful as long as they are correctly used. I too often see people using the "wrong" color temperature e.g. a 6500 K "daylight" lamp in place of an incandescent (and they wonder why it seems so white and harsh at night?), too small of a CFL for the replacement, or using a CFL in a light fixture that is turned off/on very often, which is not good for the bulb life and therefore not a good application for a CFL. The bulb burns out prematurely, and people blame the technology and those promoting it instead of their own failing to understand is correct applications, benefits, and limitations. Don't ever believe what advertisers tell you. Do the research, get the proper light bulb for the application, and conserve both joules and jewels in the end.

    11. Pingback: Virginia Right! News Hound for 8/15/2010 | Virginia Right!

    12. The Elephant's says:

      Going through my house, I have such a range of different bulbs. The bulbs in appliance (oven, refrigerator, sewing machine) are specialized incandescent. Ceilings have small floods in recessed fixtures. 3-ways for every reading light, spots in some places in ceiling track lights. Many fixtures are enclosed, where you supposedly cannot use CFLs. Besides that, the CFLs are all made in China. Does this kill the light-fixture industry as well?

      And the reason for all this is to eliminate the carbon dioxide emitted by power plants –because? CO2 is a building block of life — no CO2, no life. It is not the cause of global warming, and despite the silliness of the EPA, it is not in any way, a pollutant.

      The EPA is an out-of-control menace to society, and should be eliminated.

    13. Ron Stevens Point says:

      We have stock piled bulbs. Tried a few of the CSL’s and they burned up. I consider them to be a fire hazard as well as a chemical hazard. By the way, has anyone thought of your oven, microwave and refrigerator lights? LED’s will work fine for some applications but will not fit all. CFL’s are Mercury Vapor lamps that should tell it all. Another big government regulation that is not thought out well. I guess the energy saved with CFL’s will go to charge electric car batteries.

    14. Robert G says:

      Not a problem. I have stocked up on enough incandescent light bulbs to last my life time and still have enough to sell on Ebay. The government can take the CFL bulbs and use them to light where the sun doesn't shine.

    15. Stubborn Conservativ says:

      I have been bothered by headached due to fluorescent lighting all my life and have also stockpiled engough incandencent bulbs to hopefully last my lifetime. I also remember to pack lightbulbs when I travel as all the hotels I've stayed at lately have those horrible, bright CFLs…and I immediately switch them out then put them back before check out.

      This infringement on our liberties is preposterous!

    16. GM says:

      "Demand for cheap incandescent light bulbs is not going to change because of legislation (and, in fact, could lead to hoarding),"

      Could lead to hoarding? More like HAS lead to hoarding. I am one of them.

      My goal? I will have enough to last me the rest of my life.

      Another thing about CFLs that many people do not know about – they emit RF noise. Not a good thing for Amateur Radio Operators, and Short Wave Listeners.

      The electric company in my area of rural MN sends me a report every month showing me how my electricity usage compares to my neighbors. My use is quite low compared to most of my neighbors. But this practice makes me sick! I want the freedom to buy as much energy as I want or need. I don't like being compared to my neighbors. It is no one's business how much electricity I use. The fact is, I use as much as I NEED. Many people in my area have livestock. I use heat lamps to raise baby chickens. It keeps them alive. Will they ban me from using heat lamps too?

      This country is clearly in decline. More and more people are beginning to accept the communist/socialist agenda that has been coming out of the White House in recent years.


    17. KevinC, Central Squa says:

      Have CFLs in rooms that are lit for most of the day, but that's it. I also have lamp shades for these lights that add a soft, yellow hue to counteract the crappy color of these screwball lamps. I am stockpiling incandescents despite Walmart's reduction in stock of the old bulbs.

    18. Dr. Sherman Yacher says:

      I am a ham radio operator and have been for almost 60 years. The compact florescents create electrical noise which can be heard in a radio receiver. This noise is referred to as hash. The bulbs add to the noise level on the receiving frequencies that I use to receive the Military Radio Auxiliary System (MARS) nets. I am net control on seven MARS Transcontinental Nets (with cover the continental US and Puerto Rico) and net control on three regional AF MARS Nets (Region VII). I have to turn off all the compact florescent lights in the house to get the noise levels down to a manageable level on my receiver so I can receive the other stations in the nets and not have their signals covered up by electrical noise.

    19. SongDog, Texas says:

      CFLs have their uses, and I have probably 2 dozen in use around my home, mostly in places where a dim light is OK and burns most of the night, However, they are next to useless when firing up from the cold and you need a quick light. LEDs are better for this type of use but really expensive (how about $20 per bulb?) and the technology is not quite there yet in all respects. Neither type can give you a bright, 360 degress of light instantly when that's what you need.

      Banning incandescents at this stage is a really bad idea and I expect teh ban to be relaxed unless CFLs and LEDs get a lot better very soon.

    20. Dayle, Puyallup says:

      No wonder I was so angry when the apartment complex where we live said it was mandatory that our bulbs be changed out! I felt almost "violated" when they knocked on my door and said it was "required"! Now I understand what's going on…

    21. Carol Bee, Salt Lake says:

      Besides the environmental and health challenge faced when one of the new light bulbs break, there are many light fixtures that cannot handle them. If people have to replace their lighting fixtures to accommodate the bulbs, they are not saving any money. Why doesn't the government stay out of our lives?

    22. IWO V 26 says:

      In my home, wIth the exception of the family room and the kitchen, ALL other lights are turned on only for short intervals and therefore are not good candidates for the new bulbs. Also – cannot stand reading by the new bulbs. But not to worry – luckily the standard bulbs are so cheep I am set for the rest of my life for every type of bulb in the house.

    23. John - Austin Texas says:


      Please know this, there is an EXEMPTION for Incandescent bulbs (in the USA at least) at it is known as the "rough service" bulb. Check it out, google "rough service light bulb"

      One of the better brands and not too costly is:


      I have verified with them that the US energy regulations do not affect their production of "rough service" (or "rought duty") bulbs.

      They are not always the same lumen output for same wattage but at least you will not be prevented from purchasing them at any time in the future.


      On a separate note, a lot of the majors are ALREADY shutting down incandescent production (well before the 2012 and later deadlines)..so if there is a brand you like, stock up, I have!

    24. Ernest S. Cowell, Lo says:

      This article is so much BS it's sickening. As an architectual Lighting designer and consultant I found the article(s) highly inaccurate and full of "grandmothers' tales."

      I would suggest U do background and accuracy checks before you publish.

    25. sue,cortland says:

      how manyin government have a stake in companies manufacturing the cfls? i work at a farm in upstate ny and thay replaced the our lights with clfs. in case you don't relize it below 0 is our normal temp in winter and the barn is not heated. in the morning you can not see with these lights…they will not come on. since work starts about 3 hours before sunup this presents a problem. national grid solution? heat an entire barn. the inmates have taken over the asylum and will not be satisfied until we are down to a 3rd world level of living so we're all"equal" when will iit stop?

    26. pittsburgh pa says:

      the new energy saving bulbs fail to last even as long as a standard old style bulb…..i used new style bulbs in my home and now i am back to the regular bulbs.

      the new bulbs cost a small fortune and it was money wasted.$$$$$$$$4

    27. Billie says:

      Seems odd the EPA has no concerns of this poison to the earth and the way it has to be disposed?

      It isn't practical. We use fluorescent light in our kitchen and desk, as they can be on for hours. Every other room is on and off per use if needed and the bulbs last for years! GE USED TO MAKE GREAT ONES!

    28. Norbert, Ohio says:

      There are many problems with CFL's that the buying public do not realize. One you can't use standard CFL's with dimmer switches. Two, how do dispose of all these CFL's. Many are making it into your local landfill which could potentially poison local ground water. Three, how are they going to replace special purpose light bulbs like those for chandeliers. They don't make CFL's small enough. This is typical of politicians, they pass these laws without considering all of their ramifications. Just wait until Obamacare really takes effect.

    29. Freddel, Walnut Creek, CA says:

      I have purchased ten of the energy efficient bulbs in the past two years. None has lasted anywhere close to the claimed life of the new bulbs. The 3-way bulbs quickly reverted to only one light output setting. Others have simply stopped working and had to be disposed of in their special way so that the mercury doesn’t leak out into the environment. I have tried returning some of the failed bulbs along with the proof of purchase (a difficult chore), but have been unsuccessful in obtaining even one new bulb from retailers, If these new bulbs don’t last the claimed useful life, then the mandate to convert is a huge ripoff for American consumers.

    30. Mike, Wichita Falls says:

      “…the only option left to environmentalists is to remove the incandescent light bulb from the market altogether…”

      Hey, Nick, don’t give ‘em any ideas. I know what you mean though.

      I wonder if those who hoard them now will sell them later on the black market. Sounds like a good idea. I’m sure someone is already planning to do so.

      Try as they may, government just cannot stop the capitalistic spirit. It will always find a way.

    31. Tim - Dallas, TX says:

      I’m in the alternative energy business; I only recommend CF bulbs where a person can actual benefit from them. Closets, attics and cold garages will not benefit from CFs neither would an individuals favorite reading lamp. CF bulbs flicker and have harsh color. If someone wants to “save the planet”, fine they can buy CF bulbs for the rest it’s called free enterprise! Something that this country was founded on, something we’ve lost under the RINOs and Liberal Dems…
      PS: I refuse to take any government money for my business – if people want alternative energy products, they will buy them – I can’t stand tree hugging liberals that want to force us all to buy or do things we don’t need or want! Wake up America, time is running out and Obonehead is on the loose!

    32. Pingback: Global Warming Hoax Weekly Round-Up, Aug 19th 2010 « The Daily Bayonet

    33. Bobbie says:

      Be sure all the hazardous concerns were considered, that’s why they’re being mandated.

    34. Julie K. says:

      Everything needs to be improved from time to time; the electricity power grid, incandescent bulbs, etc. We have to look further. This change can (and it will) brings new jobs opportunities. It is all about how we can accept the progress and changes that are coming with it…

    35. Brad Buscher, VaporL says:

      As rising energy costs and environmental concerns become increasingly important factors in consumers’ and businesses’ purchasing selections, fluorescent lamps and CFLs have increased in popularity. However, these lights are fragile and, upon breaking, they release mercury vapor that can be detrimental to handlers' health—from those involved with handling new bulbs to people involved with storing, packaging and shipping used lamps.

      While a variety of containers are marketed for transportation of fluorescent lamps and CFLs, many don't provide sufficient protection against mercury vapor emitted from broken lamps. Using a proven packaging design is vital to ensuring the safety of people who handle these lamps, as well as maintaining their green benefits. Read about a recent study that tested several packaging configurations at vaporlok.blogspot.com/2010/05/layers-of-protection-packaging-used.html

    36. Bobby says:

      The 3-way bulbs are almost like tenpin bowling. In 1841, a ban on 9-pin bowling in Connecticut led to the development of the modern game we know.

      The 2007 energy act in question was passed by Speaker Pelosi and her veto-proof supermajority. This was one of the first parts of the troubling regulations passed under her watch that has devastated this country. This ban was part of the entire energy law that all but destroyed the United States Auto Industry, which showed the Cloward-Piven strategy working for Obama.

    37. Pingback: » Daily Dose – September 13, 2010

    38. ray says:

      cfl's and led's would be great if they made the dimmable ones more readly available and cheaper so that we wouldnt have to spend 10.00 per lamp at the rate of at least 3 or 4 lamps per fixture. which would you choose the pack of 4 at 2-3.00 or 1 cfl at 1.00 non dimmable or 10.00 for the dimmable led, 1 dimmable cfl for 4-5.00. till the more energy efficent lummanarys are readly available in dimmable ill choose the "energy hogs".

    39. Scott, San Deigo says:

      A great big second and third whammy will be that municipal government also will be forced to go to the CFL lamp at a great cost to their municipal constituencies, who are already over-taxed. The cost of replacement of city street light fixtures, building lighting fixtures to accomodate will be one of the biggest governmental Boon-Doggles in American history….You are going to pay for that, Not the Governement entities who have mandated these changes….

      Watch out Here it comes…. ssands1@san.rr.com

    40. Sherry Miami says:

      What can we do to stop this? I cannot see without incandescent bulbs! I hate, hate, hate, hate! flourescent. Seems unconstitutional at the very least, If not actually dangerous.

    41. Joe, California says:

      The idea that the bulbs are "cheap" is incorrect. They have an initial cost that is cheaper. However, just the fact that CFLs last 10 times as long, and do NOT cost 10 times as much means they're cheaper alone. Plus the energy savings making them a fraction of total ownership cost of traditional bulbs.

      Plus, it is not an outright ban on incandescents. It is merely a charge to make incandescents more efficient, which they have done. As of the end of the this year, you'll still be able to buy incandescent lightbulbs, just as you can now, but they'll just use less energy, while giving off the same amount and quality of light.

      The law is not a mandate to ban incandescents. It's a mandate to make them more efficient and let the market decide how they carry that out. Many American companies have already risen to the challenge, creating American jobs, and Americans will be able to do so without sending jobs overseas, and, if they so wish, without buying a single curly light bulb.

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