President Biden aims to pull the plug on incandescent light bulbs by July 2023. This planned phase-out favors shifting to energy-efficient options like LED lighting to reduce overall energy spending. Although the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) set the ban in motion in 2020, it was blocked by the Trump administration.
The incandescent light ban exudes the promise of an energy-efficient evolution for the lighting industry, but it has potential downfalls for certain communities. How will this new policy affect neighborhoods nationwide, and what precedent does it set when looking at the future of commercial lighting?
Biden’s Ban on Incandescent Light Bulbs
Every year, two billion light bulbs are sold in the U.S. Thirty percent of those bulbs are incandescent. The DOE estimates that the incandescent light ban will reduce carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons by 2050. Though this figure is staggering, it’s equivalent to the current annual emissions of approximately 28 million U.S. homes.
Looking forward, these efforts hold promising results for the global fight against climate change, but at what present cost?
Bulbs by the Numbers
The average cost of an incandescent light bulb is $1, whereas the average price of an LED light bulb is $4. However, an LED lifespan is about 25,000 hours, and a traditional incandescent bulb is only 1,200 hours. Look at this more broadly, it would take 21 incandescent light bulbs to do the job of one LED bulb.
Over 20 years, folks who purchase solely incandescent bulbs will spend roughly $21, and LED purchasers will only pay $4. The DOE estimates $3 billion in annual energy savings, saving each American family about $100 on utilities. While the $17 savings on bulbs is insignificant over two decades of costs, how realistic is this shift for some communities?
Unreasonable Expectations for Impoverished Communities
In 2018, researchers at the University of Michigan published a study on the availability of LED light bulbs in small retail stores throughout impoverished communities. The report defines America’s poorest communities as areas where at least 40% of households live below poverty levels.
Their study showed that almost none of the small retailers where families purchase home goods carried LED light bulbs, although nearly everyone sold incandescent bulbs. When available, the LED bulbs were roughly $2.50 more per bulb in impoverished communities than compared to more affluent neighborhoods.
The incandescent light ban would force lower-income families to either search outside of their community for a more affordable LED lighting option or impose this significant upfront cost. The DOE insists that these upfront costs are an investment in future savings, but many Americans simply cannot afford to think in terms of the future when it comes to lighting.
Additional Implications for the Lighting Industry
Biden says he will offer manufacturers a 75-day window to stop producing all incandescent bulbs, with a hard deadline of July 2023 to end their production for good. Manufacturers and retailers present concerns that they will end up with a large inventory of bulbs that they cannot sell. How is this benefiting the environment if these bulbs end up in a landfill?
While the incandescent light ban for residential communities is the first step, one must consider what will follow. Eventually, the Biden administration and environmental groups will begin to push for a ban on HID and HPS bulbs. Despite these bulbs offering slightly more efficient than incandescent and halogen bulbs, they are still not as energy-efficient as LED.
A ban on this type of lighting could significantly affect their operations for commercial real estate owners. Consider the impact this could have on large residential communities, retail plazas, schools, warehouses, and the entire hospitality industry. Many of these facilities may be looking at spending millions, if not billions, of dollars to swap out their outdated lighting systems with new LED lights.
A Better Alternative with LaaS
Imagine a scenario where business owners could upgrade their entire lighting systems throughout their organization with LED lighting—at zero cost. That is precisely what we mean we say Lighting-as-a-Service (LaaS). With FES’ LaaS partnership, we offer a complete LED lighting solution for your business where we cover all installation and equipment costs for free. Then, we share in the energy savings. Not only that, but we offer free maintenance for 15 years.
Once the incandescent light ban begins, it will slowly infiltrate not just residential homes, but eventually businesses. Upgrading now means getting ahead of the curve and seeing huge financial savings immediately. Reach out to learn more, or schedule an appointment to talk to an Energy Savings Specialist today.