Since the trend started a few years back, more and more nations are jumping into the “ban
incandescent bulb” wagon. The initial opposition did not gain much ground, but now that more and more people are aware about the planned phase out, where will this trend go?
A closer look at the phase out
The proposal to phase out incandescent bulbs in the US started when the federal government released the Energy and Independence Security Act of 2007. The act has set new efficiency
standards for bulbs that effectively phases out the older, less efficient types.
Though widely seen as a move toward eventually banning all types of bulbs, the proponents maintain that manufacturers
could still produce incandescent bulbs as long as they use lesser energy than they used to.
As of January 1 2012, any incandescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 100-watt
bulb but with at least 30% lesser energy consumption is qualified to be sold in the market. By 2013,
this general rule will also cover 75-watt bulbs and by the next year 40- and 60-watt bulbs will be
included. Basically, manufacturers are given time to adjust to the new regulations just as consumers
are expected to eventually adapting to the alternative forms of lighting.
But not all incandescent bulbs are affected by the regulation. Some specialty bulbs are exempt such
as those used for decorative purposes as well as heavy-duty bulbs for industrial use.
Elsewhere in the world, similar regulations have been put into effect to varying degrees.In some
countries, a blanket ban is in place while some are still in the process of drafting regulations while
their own researchers try to find other forms of lighting.
What was overlooked?
Despite the good intentions of the planned phase out, it has become clear that things were rushed.
Not only has the plan been short-sighted, it also overlooked other uses of incandescent bulbs.
One major thing that has been overlooked is the current economics. While we are all for saving the
planet by helping reduce energy consumption, most alternatives take quite a long time for their
cost-effectiveness to be felt.
Take for example LED lights, while they are far more superior in terms of energy and cost-efficiency the initial expense is too much for everyone to deal with. Incandescent bulbs are popular not only for their faithful rendering of colour but also for their affordability. This has been one of the big reasons for those who are against the ban. While CFLs are cheaper than LEDs, recent findings have proven that they also have serious health and environmental risks that were previously unknown. Every CFL contains 3-5mg of mercury necessary for it to work.
While it may seem a small amount, continued exposure to mercury may have an effect on health. Further,
there are no effective policies in place regarding the proper disposal of CFLs. Nearly 90% of used
CFLs go to landfills, and when these are broken open the mercury inside seeps through the ground
and potentially into the water table down to streams and other water sources. Aside from mercury,
CFLs have been known to emit significant levels of UV radiation that may cause migraines and other
So is the ban worth it?
Apparently not. Lighting does account for a significant portion of energy consumption, but unless alternatives to incandescent bulbs are made much cheaper and nearer to the light output that we are all used to, then we can’t expect popular support for the ban.