The Future of Incandescent Light Bulbs

In December 2007, a Federal law was passed that will gradually phase out inefficient incandescent light bulbs in an effort to save energy, lower electricity costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The law instead favors more efficient light from halogen, CFL’s (compact fluorescent light), or LED fixtures. Even though incandescent bulbs don’t need to be fully removed from the market until 2014, many manufacturers have already begun to halt production of several varieties, including those for commonly used floodlights. While there is still time to use up the bulbs you may have around the house, it’s important to explore how the phLight Bulbs ase-out will impact the lighting in your home so you can plan accordingly.

Why is the switch necessary?

Believe it or not, ninety percent of the electricity used by incandescent bulbs is wasted as heat, which leaves only ten percent for the desired effect – light. These bulbs also have a very short life span, emitting light for between 750 and 1,000 hours before needing to be replaced. Moving to a more efficient light bulb will save energy, allowing homeowners to save money on electricity bills while significantly reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

What types of bulbs are suitable replacements?

CFL’s and halogen bulbs are both good alternatives to the traditional incandescent bulb. Compact fluorescent lights are far more efficient than traditional bulbs in many ways. They use about 75% less energy, last an average of 10,000 hours, and convert about 40 percent of the electricity used into light. Though these bulbs are more expensive, the money saved through increased lifespan and reduced energy usage outweighs the additional up-front cost. Halogen bulbs are another great alternative to the traditional light bulb. While halogen bulbs rely on the same tungsten filament as incandescent bulbs, they last longer and use less energy than incandescents, while putting out the same amount of light. The difference is the halogen gas inside the bulb combines with the tungsten evaporated from the hot filament to form a compound that is attracted back to the filament, thus extending its life.

What about the “problems” with CFL’s?

CFL’s have come a long way since they were first introduced to the market. Now, with many of the early objectives addressed, they deliver a “lighting experience” that is more comparable to traditional bulbs. They respond faster to being turned on, no longer “buzz,” project a truer light, and are even available in a dimmable version. To select the best CFL for your environment, it’s important to know that the color of the light can vary significantly from manufacturer to manufacturer, just as with incandescent bulbs. Packaging, however, typically includes a Kelvin (K) rating, which corresponds to the temperature scale used to measure light color, and serves as a reliable guide. For a yellowish tint, similar to most incandescent bulbs, look for bulbs marked as 2700-3000K; for a whiter light look for 3500-4100K; and for bluish-white light look for 5000-6500K.


Some incandescent bulbs will not be affected by this law, such as appliance bulbs, three-way bulbs, and those that are made for chandeliers or candelabras. However, for those dimmable lights that will be phased out, it is important that you select a replacement bulb that is specifically labeled for this use in order to minimize the risk of fire. While this transition is happening gradually, it’s important to know whether the light bulbs you currently use will still be available or whether it’s time to search for a replacement. If you have questions about how these changes may affect the lighting in your home, let us know.