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Incandescent light bulbs to get switched off in 2023 under new Biden rules

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The Biden administration is pulling the plug on incandescent light bulbs in favor of energy-efficient light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. The phaseout of the old-fashioned bulbs is aimed at reducing utility bills and conserving energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday said it was raising energy efficiency standards for light bulbs, giving manufacturers 75 days to phase out incandescents before an outright ban in July 2023. Incandescent bulbs use a higher wattage than LEDs for the same level of brightness.

The average American family will save $100 a year, or $3 billion collectively, as a result of the rules, which should also reduce energy costs for schools and businesses, the DOE estimates. Further, the rules are projected to reduce carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over 30 years, the equivalent to the emissions generated by 28 million homes in one year, according to the agency.

Bulbs will now have to emit a minimum of 45 lumens — or brightness — per watt, reviving standards that had been set to go into effect in 2020, but which were blocked by the Trump administration. The former president once complained of how he and others appeared in LED lighting. "I always look orange," Trump told the House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Maryland in 2019.

Still, the new rules were decades in the making, and reflect a bi-partisan undertaking. Energy efficiency standards were part of legislation approved during George W. Bush's presidency, and then picked up by the Obama administration. 

"The lighting industry is already embracing more energy-efficient products, and this measure will accelerate progress to deliver the best products to American consumers and build a better and brighter future," Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement

LED savings

Approximately 30% of light bulbs sold across the U.S. in 2020 still involved incandescent or halogen incandescent options. LED bulbs last at least 30,000 to 50,000 hours versus the average 1,000 hours of light cast by incandescent bulbs, according to the DOE.

Swapping out one incandescent bulb for an LED will save $40 to $90 over 10 years, according to the Consumer Federation of American and the National Consumer Law Center. "Using a low estimate of $55 in savings and assuming a household has 45 incandescent bulbs, switching to LEDs translates into $1,000 in net savings over 10 years," they said in a statement.

"We applaud forward-looking retailers such as Ikea who have already pulled inefficient light bulbs from their shelves and are selling only energy-efficient LEDs. We urge other retailers to follow their lead and do the same so consumers can benefit starting with their very next purchase," Richard Eckman, energy advocate at the CFA, said in the release.

Charlie Harak, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, called the switch welcome news for all consumers, but especially for financially struggling households who shoulder "on average, disproportionately higher energy burdens." 

Environmental groups also cheered the DOE's steps. "We are long overdue to phase out inefficient old-fashioned light bulbs," Joe Vukovich, an energy efficiency advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. "LED bulbs, which will replace the old incandescents, use one-sixth the amount of energy to deliver the same amount of light and last at least 10 times longer." 

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