Dec. 19 2007: The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 was signed into law. For the original text, go to p83 here:

This law progressively outlaws low-efficiency lighting (e.g., most incandescent bulbs) for "general service" lighting (310-2600 lumens, or approximately what you'd call a 30-150W incandescent bulb in a normal socket.)

There are special purpose bulbs that are exempted, but the bill appears to try its best to prevent exemptions. Notably excluded are 3-way incandescent lamps and reflectors, but there's quite a lot of provisions: if the sale of one of the types doubles, they'll make an effort to outlaw it, fast.

I have some concerns and comments:
  1. This law would be appear to me much better with a progressive tax on energy-expensive sorts of lighting, so people can gradually migrate to new form factors. I tend to dislike "prohibit the sale of X by date Y." There are always exceptions not granted by a law like this, and an economic solution would be much more appropriate. This is heavy-handed.
  2. It's not clear that the technology is appropriate to the problem (and let's hope the intervening years help it somewhat). For example, the bill specifies a minimum of 80CRI. This is rather insufficient for lighting high-quality artwork and photography (where 90+CRI is preferable). While high-CRI fixtures like these are available for purchase, it isn't clear to me that they will be available to the average consumer. (Incandescents are 100 CRI, which means that they represent all colors well, not just some.)
  3. Directional applications are not well covered by CFLs, as they do not have both compact and high-output configurations. A powerful CFL is a very large CFL.
  4. Low-intensity dimming is also not well covered by low-energy light sources today, and the warm candle-lit 1800 Kelvin output of an incandescent when dimmed may be replaced by the sort of sickly flicker that CFL's give at the same intensity. Dimming generally is not a strength of CFLs.

At home, we have replaced most of our "general" lighting in the house with CFLs. But it's the exceptions that make the place feel like home. We have very warm lights (yes, incandescents) in the bedroom that make you feel like sleeping. There are special lights for displaying artwork, and there are dimmers.

As I recall, most energy expenditure and CO2 emissions today come from heating and cooling (primarily heating), not from household lighting.

I've even been having the following thought this past few months: is it possible that the "waste" heat from Halogens and Incandescents actually cancel out lower heating bills, when used in cool climates?

It's nice to see some movement in this direction, but I wish in many ways that it weren't so heavy-handed. There are many market forces that would make this happen regardless: price, cost, etc. It makes so much more sense to me to find an economic solution.

I don't really want the "Attorney General" involved in "prohibiting the sale" of certain devices: they're not munitions and not imminently dangerous. The problem is solvable by great technology and prices in the market. The exceptions in life make it enjoyable, and I hope this bill spurs research in lighting to develop new solutions to many of these problems.


  1. Good post and coverage on the issue. There are two other concerns:
    The hazards of the new bulbs given the addition of mercury (in some). I don't want a superfund site if I drop a bulb - let alone handle disposal.
    There is a noise build up post transformers (i.e gets worse for homes in series) that can interfere with products that use current amplification communication. Most people see this in increased noise of baby monitors but it can affect other things (like well pumps that use a powered communication unit).
    Great blog though!

  2. I too like to use CFLs in most places, but not everywhere.

    In your post you said:

    "I've even been having the following thought this past few months: is it possible that the "waste" heat from Halogens and Incandescents actually cancel out lower heating bills, when used in cool climates?"

    Generally speaking, the answer would be yes if the heating was provided by electrical resistance heating, or an electric furnace, or by natural gas (at times when the energy cost of natural gas is about equal to the energy cost of electricity). On the other hand if heating is provided by a heat pump, a heat pump can produce more than 1 watt of heat from 1 watt of electricity.

    Also consider that in the summer, the additional heat load from the light bulbs has to be carried away by air conditioning.