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Governments around the world have passed measures to phase out incandescent light bulbs for general lighting in favor of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives. Phase-out regulations effectively ban the manufacture, importation or sale of current incandescent light bulbs for general lighting. The regulations would allow sale of future versions of incandescent bulbs if they are sufficiently energy efficient.
Brazil and Venezuela started the phase-out in 2005, and the European Union, Switzerland, and Australia started to phase them out in 2009. Likewise, other nations are implementing new energy standards or have scheduled phase-outs: Argentina, and Russia in 2012, and the United States, Canada, Malaysia and South Korea in 2014.
Objections to replacement of incandescent lamps for general lighting include the higher purchase cost of efficient replacements, the different quality of light produced by phosphor-based lamps compared to incandescent lamps, and that compact fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, which is especially dangerous to children and pregnant women. Compact fluorescent lamps start poorly when very cold, and most types cannot be dimmed. A few specialist applications are unsuitable for CFLs.
Resistance can also arise because some say that the free market is preferable to regulation, while others say that only government intervention will improve energy efficiency. There are also environmental concerns about mercury contamination with CFLs.
To mitigate the effects of these concerns, various programs have been put in place ranging from subsidies for lamps to improved standards for measurement of performance and for labelling products. Manufacturers develop fluoresent lamps with reduced mercury content compared to original designs, and recycling programs are intended to prevent mercury release. New lamp types offer improved starting characteristics, and dimmable types are available.
The light from an incandescent source is similar in character to that from a "black body" in the amount of energy radiated in the different color components of the light (the "spectral distribution"). Alternative light sources use phosphors or combinations of mono-chromatic LEDs (red, blue, green) to produce "white" light, giving significantly irregular spectral distributions which can result in color casts in photography and differences of color matching when compared to incandescent light or daylight.
Widely available replacements for traditional tungsten incandescent light bulbs are Halogen and compact fluorescent lamps. Light-emitting diode lamps (which were initially quite expensive) have gradually become more affordable, with lower-wattage units (60W equivalent and below) dropping below $10 (USD) as of 2013.
Halogen lamps are a type of incandescent lamp with improved efficiency over regular (rare earth gas-filled or partial vacuum) incandescent lamps. Though not as energy efficient as other alternatives, they are up to 40 percent more efficient than standard incandescent lamps designed for a 2000 hour life. Depending on size, voltage, and designed life, small low-voltage halogen lamps can have 70% higher efficacy than large line-voltage lamps. The high operating temperature of halogen bulbs may be a safety hazard in some applications.
A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) uses a fluorescent lamp tube which is curved or folded to fit into the space of an incandescent bulb and contains a compact electronic ballast in the base of the lamp. Compared to general-service incandescent lamps giving the same amount of visible light, CFLs use one-fifth to one-third the electric power, and may last eight to fifteen times longer. Newer phosphor formulations have improved the perceived color with "soft white" CFLs judged subjectively similar to standard incandescent lamps.
Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps are used for both general and special-purpose lighting. Compared to fluorescent bulbs, advantages are that they contain no mercury, they turn on instantly at any temperature, their extremely long lifetime is unaffected by cycling on and off, they have no glass to break, they don't emit UV rays that fade, they can emit unsaturated colored light without need of filters, and can shine uni-directionally without reflectors. Disadvantages include diminished color shades, supporting electronic circuitry failure and with traffic lights in snow prone areas they fail to melt the accumulated snow due to the low heat output.
China will ban imports and sales of certain incandescent light bulbs starting October 2012 to encourage the use of alternative lighting sources such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), with a 5-year plan of phasing-out incandescent light bulbs over 100 watts starting 1 October 2012, and gradually extend the ban to those over 15 watts on 1 October 2016. Another source, however, has indicated that by 1 October 2016, all incandescent light bulbs will be banned. According to this source, 1 November 2011 to 30 September 2012 will be a transitional period and as of 1 October 2012, imports and sales of ordinary incandescent bulbs of 100 watts or more will be prohibited. The first phase will be followed by a ban on 60-watt-and-higher incandescent light bulbs starting in October 2014. By October 2016, all incandescent light bulbs will be banned in China. The final phase may be the adjusted according to the results of interim assessment from October 2015 to October 2016.
While not a complete ban, the plan was to replace 400 million incandescent light bulbs with CFLs by 2012. The energy savings and resultant carbon emissions savings is expected to be around 55 million tonnes per year.
The states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka in India have banned the use of incandescent bulbs in government departments, public sector undertakings, various boards, cooperative institutions, local bodies, and institutions running on government aid.
In February 2008, president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo called for a ban of incandescent light bulbs by 2010 in favor of more energy-efficient fluorescent globes to help cut greenhouse gas emissions and household costs during her closing remarks at the Philippine Energy Summit. Once put in effect, the country will be the first in Asia to do so.
The Government will stop all production, import and sales of incandescent light bulbs by or before January 2014, as part of efforts to save power and to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Phase out of 60W and over incandescent light bulbs has been implemented from 1 January 2012. As a measure to increase awareness a national awareness campaign has been initiated by the Ministry of Energy where three CFLs will be sold at a subsidized price to the public.
The UK government announced in 2007 that incandescent bulbs would be phased out by 2011. In 2008, the Irish government announced a phase-out of the sale of any light bulbs with a luminous efficiency of less than 16 lumens per watt. Shortly afterwards, all member states of the EU agreed to a progressive phase-out of incandescent light bulbs by 2012. The initial Europe wide ban only applied to general-purpose, non-directional incandescent bulbs, so did not affect any bulbs with reflective surfaces (e.g. spotlights and halogen down lighters) or special purpose bulbs including those used in devices such as household appliances, traffic lights, and infrared lamps. The sale of the most inefficient bulbs was phased out. The first types to go were non-clear (frosted) bulbs, which were taken off the market in September 2009. Also from September 2009 clear bulbs over 100W were made of more efficient types. This limit was moved down to lower wattages, and the efficiency levels raised by the end of 2012.
In practice, some manufacturers and retailers have found a loophole in the new rules so that some incandescents are still available, marketed as "rough-service" or "shock-resistant" bulbs for industrial use only. Since first bans were introduced however, prices of these bulbs have risen by 20–25%.
Norway has implemented the EU directive for the Phase-out of incandescent light bulbs and has followed the same phase out route as the EU. There was a half year delay in implementing the directive compared to the rest of the EU, but the phase out occurred at the same time since the affected light bulbs were no longer available from European sources.
Switzerland banned the sale of all light bulbs of the Energy Efficiency Class F and G, which affects a few types of incandescent light bulbs. Most normal light bulbs are of Energy Efficiency Class E, and the Swiss regulation has exceptions for various kinds of special-purpose and decorative bulbs.
In April 2007, Ontario's Minister of Energy Dwight Duncan announced the provincial government's intention to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs by 2012. Later in April, the federal government announced that it would ban the sale of inefficient incandescent light bulbs nation-wide by 2012 as part of a plan to cut down on emissions of greenhouse gases. On 9 Nov 2011, the federal government approved a proposal to delay new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs until 1 Jan 2014, when it will become illegal to import inefficient incandescent lighting across the country. In Dec 2011, Ontario Energy Minister [Chris Bentley] confirmed that Ontario is scrapping the five-year-old plan "to avoid confusing consumers".
The Energy Star program, in which Natural Resources Canada is a partner, in March 2008 established rules for labelling lamps that meet a set of standards for efficiency, starting time, life expectancy, colour, and consistency of performance. The intent of the program is to reduce consumer concerns about efficient light bulbs due to variable quality of products. Those CFLs with a recent Energy Star certification start in less than one second and do not flicker.
In January 2011, the province of British Columbia banned retailers from ordering 75- or 100-watt incandescent bulbs.
The nation's Energy Efficiency Regulations are published on the Natural Resources Canada website.
On 1 January 2014 the Canadian federal government will ban the import of 75 and 100 watt incandescent bulbs. On 31 December 2014 the import of 40 and 60 watt bulbs will also be banned. Retailers will be allowed to sell their existing inventories imported before the bans took place.
Cuba exchanged all incandescent light bulbs for CFLs, and banned the sale and import of them in 2005.
California will phase out the use of incandescent bulbs by 2018 as part of bill by California State Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-Santa Rosa) that was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on 12 October 2007. The bill aims to establish a minimum standard of twenty-five lumens per watt by 2013 and sixty lumens per watt by 2018.
New Jersey Assemblyman Larry Chatzidakis introduced a bill on 8 February 2007 that calls for the state to eliminate incandescent bulbs in government buildings over the next three years. Chatzidakis said, "The light bulb was invented a long time ago and a lot of things have changed since then. I obviously respect the memory of Thomas Edison, but what we're looking at here is using less energy."
In December 2007, the federal government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which contains maximum wattage requirements for all general service incandescent lamps producing from 310–2600 lumens of light.
The efficiency standards will start with 100-watt bulbs and end with 40-watt bulbs. The timeline for these standards was to start in January 2012, but on 16 December 2011, the U.S. House passed the final 2012 budget legislation, which effectively delayed the implementation until October 2012.
Light bulbs outside of this range are exempt from the restrictions. Also exempt are several classes of specialty lights, including appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, stage lighting, plant lights, candelabra lights under 60 watts, outdoor post lights less than 100 watts, nightlights and shatter resistant bulbs.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program in March 2008 established rules for labeling lamps that meet a set of standards for efficiency, starting time, life expectancy, color, and consistency of performance. The intent of the program is to reduce consumer concerns about efficient light bulbs due to variable quality of products. Those CFLs with a recent Energy Star certification start in less than one second and do not flicker. Energy Star Light Bulbs for Consumers is a resource for finding and comparing Energy Star qualified lamps.
By 2020, a second tier of restrictions would become effective, which requires all general-purpose bulbs to produce at least 45 lumens per watt (similar to current CFLs). Exemptions from the Act include reflector flood, 3-way, candelabra, colored, and other specialty bulbs.
In 2011, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas and 14 other Republicans joined to introduce the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act or BULB Act (H.R. 91), which would have repealed Subtitle B of Title III of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Barton was opposed to regulation, while Rep. Michael Burgess pointed to jobs purportedly lost to China and voiced a fear of mercury problems resulting from CFL use. On 12 July 2011, H.R. 2417 failed to pass as an uncontroversial measure in the U.S. House; the vote required a two-thirds majority.
In February 2007, Australia enacted a law that will, in effect, by legislating efficiency standards, disallow most sales of incandescent light bulbs by 2010. The Australian Federal Government announced minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for lighting products. The new minimum standard efficiency level is 15 lumens per watt (lm/W). From November 2008, no non-compliant lighting (including some incandescent globes) were imported into Australia, and from November 2009, the retail sale of non-compliant lighting was banned.
According to the current proposal, all regular light bulbs and some other kinds of light bulbs sold from October 2009 have to meet the new minimum energy performance standards. Incandescent light bulbs that meet the new standards, for example high-efficiency halogen bulbs, continue to be available.
There have been some initiatives to encourage people to switch to compact fluorescent lamps ahead of the phase out.
In February 2007, then Climate Change Minister David Parker, Labour party, announced a similar proposal to the one in Australia, except that importation for personal use would have been allowed. However, this proposal was scrapped by the new government in December 2008.
In Argentina, selling and importing incandescent light bulbs has been forbidden since 31 December 2010.
As specified in Interministerial Ordinance 1,007 of 31 December 2010, incandescent light bulbs must perform according to certain levels of luminous efficacy in order to be produced, imported and sold in Brazil. Non-conforming light bulbs are being gradually phased out. As of July 2013, bulbs ranging from 61 to 100 Watts which do not perform accordingly can no longer be produced nor imported, but until mid-2014 they can still be sold
As part of its electricity conservation program, Venezuela has a light bulb exchange program, which aims to replace millions of incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents.
The Republic of Molossia has banned the import of incandescent light bulbs.
As part of global efforts to promote efficient lighting, United Nations Environment Programme with the support of the GEF Earth Fund, Philips Lighting and OSRAM GmbH has established the en.lighten initiative. The initiative seeks to accelerate global commercialization and market transformation of efficient lighting technologies by working at the global level and providing support to countries. In doing so it aims at promoting high performance efficient technologies, phasing out inefficient lighting technologies, and substituting traditional fuel-based lighting with modern, efficient alternatives, with consideration for environmentally sound technologies (including mercury-free).
The phase out has been referred to as "light bulb socialism". The consumer preference for light bulbs in the EU is for incandescent bulbs, with many complaining about what was described as the ugliness or the cold, flat, unnatural, dull light emanating from CFLs. Objection has also been raised to being forced to adopt CFLs.
Bulk purchasing of incandescent bulbs was reported ahead of the EU lightbulb ban. Many retailers in Britain, Poland, Austria, Germany and Hungary have reported bulk purchasing, and in Germany, sales rose by up to 150% in 2009 in comparison to 2008. Two-thirds of Austrians surveyed stated they believe the phase-out to be "nonsensical", with 53.6% believing their health to be at risk of mercury poisoning. 72% of Americans believe the government has no right to dictate which light bulb they may use. The Czech Republic President, Vaclav Klaus, urged people to stockpile enough incandescent bulbs to last their lifetime.
Museums and individuals have been stockpiling incandescent lightbulbs in Europe, owing to CFLs' inferior colour representation. The European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation has called for a speedy reduction of the mercury levels contained within CFLs from the current 5mg limit to 1 mg. The European Consumers' Organisation, BEUC, said that phasing out incandescent bulbs will be detrimental for people suffering light-related health issues, and called for the continued availability of incandescent bulbs:
"The EU Regulation falls short of the needs of some consumers who need to use the old-style light bulbs for health-related reasons such as light sensitivity. We call on the European Commission to take immediate measures to ensure that people who rely on incandescent light bulbs will be able to buy these bulbs until suitable alternative lighting technologies are available. There are also concerns about the risks to health from the high mercury content of the new bulbs."
A campaign group called SPECTRUM was formed by the charities Lupus UK, Eclipse Support Group, ES-UK, XP Support Group and The Skin Care Campaign as an "alliance for light sensitivity" to oppose "UK and EU plans to phase out incandescent lightbulbs". Their campaign has been picked up and amplified by the British Association of Dermatologists, calling for access to incandescent light bulbs for those who are medically sensitive to CFLs and other non-incandescent bulbs, and the charity Migraine Action, stating that its members still suffer adverse effects from CFLs despite protestations from the light bulb industry.
In the United States, one supporter of the incandescent light bulb is the lighting designer Howard Brandston, a fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers. He has attempted to raise awareness of what he believes are negative effects of the phase out through media outlets and industry forums, and he was invited as one of six experts to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on 11 March 2011.
CFLs, like all fluorescent lamps, contain small amounts of mercury, as both vapor and droplets inside the glass tubing, averaging 4.0 mg per bulb. The inclusion of liquid mercury is specifically prohibited from other domestic products in some jurisdictions, notably Europe. Safe cleanup of broken compact fluorescent lamps is different from cleanup of conventional broken glass or incandescent bulbs. After a proper cleanup, any potential short term exposure offers no significant health risks to adults, including pregnant women, or to children. If all electricity was generated by a coal power plant (which produce about half the electricity the U.S. consumes) and fluorescent light bulbs were all recycled with no mercury being lost, nearly 75% less mercury could be released in power plant emissions if incandescent bulbs were replaced by fluorescents, and with significantly less total mercury release even if no recycling occurred. However, a concern is that broken bulbs will introduce the mercury directly into a populated indoor area. Though more recent analysis indicates that the concerns about mercury release from broken bulbs may be overstated, and can be ameliorated by taking a few simple steps.
No mercury is used in the manufacturing of LED lamps, a different technology replacement for incandescent lamps. In addition, LED lamps do not require warmup time in cold weather, and in fact, perform better in colder temperatures, making them an excellent choice for use in cold locations, such as refrigeration units. LED lighting also better matches the wavelengths of light to which the human eye is most sensitive in low-light conditions, providing a low energy lighting option for street lighting, outdoor floodlighting, etc.
The cost of CFLs and LEDs are higher than incandescent light bulbs. Typically this extra cost is repaid in the long-term, as both use less energy and have longer operating lives than incandescent bulbs. However there are some areas where the extra cost of a CFL may never be repaid, typically where bulbs are used relatively infrequently such as in little-used closets and attics.
Some CFLs may not be compatible with existing dimming circuits, although more dimmable CFLs are expected to become available as the phase-outs continue. Mains voltage halogen bulbs provide a more efficient dimmable alternative to common incandescent bulbs and are readily available.
Dimmable LED lamps are available from several vendors, although not all LED lamps are compatible with dimmers and their color temperature may not lower, as it does with incandescents.
While the excessive heat produced by incandescent light bulbs is frequently seen as a drawback, in certain applications it is seen as an advantage. For example, automotive applications in cold climates have traditionally benefitted from the radiated heat to melt potentially visually-obstructive snow and ice on taillights and halogen emergency vehicle lighting. Additionally, the heat is used to melt the wax inside lava lamps.
Depending on the climate, the energy savings from the phase-out of inefficient lighting may vary. In warmer climates, efficient lighting has the additional energy saving effect of reducing the amount of cooling required. In cooler climates increased heating energy demand may offset some of the lighting energy saved with efficient lighting.