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You may have heard that incandescent lamps are banned, which is partially true. Although new standards don't outlaw incandescents specifically, new efficiency requirements effectively do.

New bulbs for sale must generate a minimum of 45 lumens per watt, while incandescent bulbs emit between 12 and 18 lumens per watt. Unless the technology sees some big changes, Thomas Edison's invention as we know it will soon be a thing of the past.

Lighting standards developed over years

In 2007, Congress enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act, which planned to phase out inefficient lightbulbs in two stages. Stage one required bulbs to be 25% more efficient. That meant stores could no longer buy and sell 100-watt incandescents from manufacturers as of 2012. In 2013, 75-watt incandescents were next on the chopping block, and 60- and 40-watt bulbs were also out by 2014.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) set a "backstop" standard that required bulbs to emit at least 45 lumens per watt. The federal government later blocked that standard from taking effect, but in April 2022, the DOE reinstated the guidelines and officially adopted two new rules when it comes to bulbs, or general service lamps (GSLs):

  1. The definition of GSLs was updated to include general service incandescent lamps (GSILs), compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), general service light-emitting diodes (LEDs), organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), and other lamps that serve the same purpose.
  2. A minimum standard of 45 lumens per watt is required for bulbs that meet the revised definition.

The rule change allowed imports through January 2023 and permitted stores to sell their remaining stock of bulbs that did not meet the new standards through July 2023.

What it means for your home

Just as stores could continue to sell their remaining stock, you can keep incandescents currently in use in your house. This standard only applies to the sale of new bulbs, though there are a few exceptions to the rule. Christmas lights, chandelier bulbs, flood lights, plant lights and other specialty bulbs aren’t affected, but their days could be numbered, too.

A rule proposed at the end of 2022 would raise the minimum lightbulb efficiency level from 45 lumens per watt to over 120 lumens per watt for the most common bulbs in 2024. That jump would effectively ban CFLs, which emit between 50 and 70 lumens per watt.

The bottom line

You can prepare yourself and your home for the future by choosing LEDs on your next shopping trip. LEDs have and will continue to meet stricter efficiency standards, so now is a great time to make the switch. These advanced bulbs provide the same or better light as those they replace, run a lot cooler and they last 10 to 25 times longer.