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Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Illegal?

Friday, October 5th, 2012 by | Filed Under: I've Always Wanted To Know...

I’ve Always Wanted To Know:

Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Illegal Now? What’s the truth?


You may of heard someone tell you that owning an incandescent light bulb after a certain date was illegal and that a SWAT team was going to invade your house and shoot your dog ChowChow if you still had one. Well… IT’S ALL TRUE!!!!!!… ok… maybe not all true but like all crazy rumors there is a tiny bit of truth to this one.

The US congress passed a law in 2007 which began the phase out of production or importation of incandescence light bulbs starting in 2012 with the 100 watt bulb and going down to the 40 watt bulb in 2014. At the very end of 2011 congress passed an extension to delay implementation from January 2012 to October 2012.

This law doesn’t apply to special stage lightning, 3 way lightning, plant lights, 150w or greater bulbs and appliance lamps. This law also does not forbid merchants from selling existing inventory or for people to own these types of bulbs or continue to use them.

So why was it done? If you’ve paid an electric bill recently you know energy is expensive and since most of our energy comes from non-renewable resources (such as coal & oil) there was a need to look at how to save energy without requiring dramatic changes to peoples lives.

Is it a big difference? Let’s compare the 100 watt bulb which has a light output of about 1750 lumen to a a CFL (compact florescent light bulb), the twist style bulb design, outputting the same 1750 lumen uses roughly 27 watts of power. You could light 3.7 homes using CFL light bulbs versus just one home on incandescent lights.

Now that may not seem like much but let’s look at America as a whole. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration residential lightning consumed 202 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity which made up 14% of all residential electricity use. According to the US EIA an average nuclear power plant produces about 12.2 billion kilowatt/hours and in coal electricity plants (47% of our power comes from coal) it takes 1 pound of coal to produce 1 kilowatt/hour of electricity.

If we could lower home lighting costs by half that would be over 8 nuclear power plants that wouldn’t need to produce power for lighting or 51 million tons of coal that wouldn’t need to be used. We could re-purpose all of that energy for other uses or lower the speed we need to build power plants to keep up with population growth.

CFL light bulbs fit into existing lighting fixtures and will tell you the equivalent incandescent wattage on the package and can be found at most super markets, local hardware stores and of course online.


P.S. Most CFL bulbs today rated energy star feature quick on (1 second or shorter warm-up times) and last much longer then incandescent bulbs making them cheaper in the long run. CFL’s are also offered in daylight (a very cool white light) warm (more of a yellow white light) and standard/unmarked (somewhere in between) so you can choose what color of light you prefer.

Do you have a general technology or electronics question you always wanted to know like “How does a Microwave work?” or “Why do LED’s last so long?” Write me at and your question may be answered in an upcoming “I Always Wanted To Know.” For specific computer support questions ask our writers by clicking here.

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5 Responses to “Are Incandescent Light Bulbs Illegal?”

  1. Hedley Grenfell-Banks says:

    Phasing out incandescent bulbs is all very well, but what about those of us who have been saving by using dimmers? CFL bulbs don’t dim.

  2. Paul R. Duncan says:

    I just pulled a box of 3 GE energy smart bulbs off the shelf and it states on the back “Do NOT use with devices that are controlled by dimmer switches. So where does that leave all of the people, myself included, who use the standard bulb as we know it now, in ceiling fan lights on dimmers or any light now on dimmer switches? The 2 at my pc desk have been on incandescent for years. There are times I don’t want or need the full 40 watts, which is currently installed. So how does the Government, who seems to be in charge of this program, intend to satisfy the hundreds of thousands currently using either dimmer switches or 3-way fixtures?

  3. Tim says:

    Dimable CFL bulbs are now available at most major hardware stores/big box stores and online.

  4. Jenny says:

    I have tried most of the new bulbs on the market and haven’t found one that actually gives out enough light to read by. Yes, my eyes are getting old! Any suggestions?

  5. Good article! We will be linking to this great article on our website.
    Keep up the good writing.

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