As of January 1, traditional 75-watt incandescent light bulbs can no longer be manufactured in the United States, continuing a national transition to more efficient lighting by 2014.

The first phase of the new federal light bulb standards, as set forth in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, went into effect last January with traditional 100-watt bulbs being phased out (though Congress de-funded the enforcement of those standards at the end of 2011). Under the regulations, all bulbs must be 27 percent more efficient. (See related post: “LED Holiday Lights Boost the Season’s Energy Efficiency.”) That means a bulb that used to use 75 watts must now use fewer than 53.

Conventional incandescent light bulbs tend to cost less up front, but waste more money and energy over the long haul. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) notes that incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of the electricity they use through emitted heat. On the cost front, Consumer Reports found, for example, that a $40 Philips AmbientLED bulb can save $160 in electricity and replacement bulbs when used in place of a 75-watt incandescent.

Shoppers in the U.S. are learning, via product labeling and public information efforts, to look for lumens (a measure of brightness) rather than watts (how much power the bulb uses) when buying light bulbs. (See related quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Energy-Efficient Lighting.“) The equivalent of an old 75-watt bulb produces a minimum of 1,100 lumens.

The EPA notes in a fact sheet that incandescents aren’t going away completely. Many halogen bulbs, which are incandescent, meet the new regulations (but they won’t last as long as LEDs and CFLs). To get a sense of the impact you can make by replacing traditional light bulbs with more efficient ones in your home, check out the Light Bulb Savings Calculator.


  1. Pat
    January 11, 2013, 12:06 am

    I agree with Joe B. Incandescents only waste heat in warm weather — when we don’t use them much. Replacing them with short-lived, mercury-laden fluorescents is a big step backwards. I’m hoping my stock of 100W’s lasts me until they learn to make good LED lamps.
    Or perhaps I’ll just learn to make 100W bulbs myself…

  2. Patrick
    January 8, 2013, 8:43 pm

    I don’t know what kind of CFLs you guys are all buying that only last weeks or up to 6 months. Mine last years. The light isn’t quite as bright as the old standard bulbs, but it’s still not bad. I know they contain mercury – that’s my main problem with them. I plan on switching to LEDs in the future as I need to start replacing my CFLs. CFLs and especially LEDs may cost more up front, but they end up costing as much when you count how often you have to change the old standard bulbs compared to CFLs and LEDs, and the savings in electricity end up saving me in the long run.

  3. JoeB
    North Dakota
    January 8, 2013, 12:43 pm

    One of the arguments against the incandescent bulb was that they produce waste heat. At this latitude, during the height of summer we have nearly 16 hours of daylight. Unless you live in a cave, you seldom need artificial illumination, but in the winter, we have nearly 16 hours of darkness, and no heat is wasted in a North Dakota Winter. Ironically, that heat was concentrated in the rooms in use, instead of heating the entire house. Just turn out the lights when you leave.
    CFLs do not respond well in cold weather, and the ones I have used burn out fast–more quickly than a rough usage incandescent.
    What I really want to know, is where Congress gets the Constitutional authority to regulate light bulbs, toilets, etc. when they can’t even pass a budget.

  4. Kit
    east of Sacramento
    January 8, 2013, 12:41 pm

    How can flourescent light bulbs be more cost efficient if they also burn out after 2-4 months (yes, that is months). No lightbulb I buy lasts longer than 6 months. It will not save me money and where I live there is no where to properly dispose of them, so they will end up at the dump. I am all in favor of conservation, but I may end up using candles. (Old apartment buildings tend to have very poor electrical circuitry which is why my computer and other electronis are on expensive b/up batteries to help smooth out the current).

  5. Wolfgang Von Zubaz
    Toronto, Canada
    January 8, 2013, 12:14 pm

    This won’t save any energy in the long run according to Jevons Paradox. Jevons Paradox predicts that any increase in efficiency usage will go up.

    Hybrid cars are an example of this. Hybrid drivers average 25% more mileage than other drivers. Cars have become 50% more efficient in the last half century and we drive double the mileage we did back then.

  6. Graeme
    January 8, 2013, 5:10 am

    It has been YEARS since we could buy incandescent globes!
    They were phased out in favour of the CFL.
    They are pitiful!
    If you can, jump straight to LED globes.
    They are BRIGHT, INSTANT and if you shop carefully CHEAP.
    Go for the corncob type, 86 SMD LEDs and they are BRILLIANT!

  7. AJ
    January 7, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Tyrone is correct, the CFL lights are of very poor quality, I use them and they do not last very long.

    Is it really in the interests of a bulb manufacturer to build a bulb that will last 5 – 10 years as claimed on the side of the package?

    We need stronger standards otherwise we are going to end up with landfills full of mercury.

  8. eduardo1928
    January 5, 2013, 7:28 pm

    the profits are for the chinese

    most of the cfl and led lamps come from china

  9. Tyrone
    January 4, 2013, 8:26 pm

    I am all for conservation, but my experience has been that the newer bulbs are not as bright, (lumens be damned), and don’t last a long while, (weeks–not months or years). The cost is not worth the “savings”, and the difficulties disposing of the mercury laden product makes them too much of a pain in the retina to endorse.

  10. x
    January 3, 2013, 3:23 am

    robert – you are a hypocrite. Your comment is just as childish as the one by the person you are criticizing.