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Today in Energy

March 23, 2011

Incandescent bulbs still play a role in the future of lighting

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) mandates longer lasting, more efficient light bulbs for general service. Detailed results from the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 Early Release show that as general service bulbs last longer, fewer new bulbs are purchased for use in households. The projected market share among bulb types also changes, with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescents (CFLs), and more efficient incandescent lights purchased in nearly equal amounts by 2035.

EISA efficiency standards apply to most lighting types, especially general service lamps, such as the light bulbs typically used in table lamps. As the standards start to take effect in 2012, the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 Early Release projects that CFLs and LEDs gain significant market share while manufacturers work to bring the new, efficient incandescent bulbs to market. As the second tier of standards is introduced in 2020, progress in technological efficiency should allow incandescent bulbs to meet the standard, and economies of scale should reduce their cost.

In the first tier, general service bulbs that provide 310 to 2,600 lumens of light are initially required to be about 30% more efficient than today's typical incandescent bulbs. Based on typical incandescent efficiencies, this affects bulbs in the range of about 25 to 150 watts. The initial standards are phased in from 2012 to the end of 2013, with brighter bulbs affected first. All bulbs must be rated to last at least 1,000 hours.

The second tier of efficiency improvements becomes effective in 2020, essentially requiring general service bulbs to be as efficient as today's CFLs. The law does not ban incandescent bulbs, but instead sets a standard level that the typical incandescent bulb cannot currently meet. This is an important distinction, as several lighting manufacturers are seeking to develop cost-competitive, long-lasting, efficient incandescent bulbs that meet the most stringent standards imposed by EISA.