One of the least energy efficient products in modern history, the incandescent light bulb dating back to the days of Thomas Edison, is about to be permanently retired in California as of Jan. 1, 2018, and in 2020 for the rest of the nation. California is demonstrating its environmental leadership once again by being the first state in the nation to move forward with improved energy efficiency standards for the everyday screw-based light bulb.

With around 250 million sockets in California that still contain inefficient bulbs, the savings really add up. Once all of these sockets switch over to a more efficient alternative – CFL or LED light bulbs – California consumers and businesses will save an estimated $1 billion every year on their electric bills.

The new standards are part of a gradual transition from the old incandescent bulbs, which had remained essentially the same since Edison created the first commercially available bulb in 1879, to today’s lighting technology. Manufacturers and retailers have known about the changes for more than 10 years and responded to the challenge by offering a complete suite of new energy-saving light bulbs that meet the new standards.


How do the standards work?

The California standards cover the common light bulbs we use in our homes and require bulbs manufactured on or after January 1, 2018, and offered for sale in the state to achieve a minimum efficiency level of 45 lumens per watt, which is three times more efficient than the old incandescent. (Note: Lumens measure the amount of light a bulb produces and watts measure the amount of power it consumes.)

Given that no incandescent or halogen bulb on the market comes close to meeting these levels, consumers will be choosing between energy-saving CFL and LED light bulbs. LED bulbs deliver superior performance relative to CFLs so they are likely to be the bulb of choice going forward. In California, retailers are allowed to sell through their inventories of inefficient light bulbs manufactured prior to January 1, 2018. For more details on the standards, including information on which bulbs are covered and which are exempt, see this new fact sheet.

This article was reprinted with permission from NRDC.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons, Shawn Harquail