Light Bulb Standards in USA

Energy Efficient Light Bulbs in USA


light bulb standards useful infoAs from January 1st, 2012, new light bulb standards came into effect in the USA.

There is some confusion over exactly what it means, so here is a simple explanation.

  • You can still buy “normal” incandescent light bulbs.  They are NOT banned.
  • You are not forced to buy new CFL or LED lights if you don’t wish to.
  • You do not have to ’stock-pile’ incandescent light bulbs.
  • Incandescent light bulbs are now being phased out, and replaced by slightly more energy efficient light bulbs – still incandescent.

Why?  Because incandescent bulbs are old technology and very inefficient (over 90% of the energy they use is converted to heat, not light).

The new light bulb standards try to reduce this inefficiency.

But I can’t get 100W bulbs any more!

Yes you can!  They’re now 72W bulbs, and they’re just as bright as your old 100W bulbs.

Because the new regulations say that we must have more energy efficient light bulbs, the old 100W bulbs now use 72W instead of 100W, but still shine as brightly.

How will I know what I am buying?

New light bulbs are required to give more information on their packaging.  As well as the lumens (brightness), the light bulbs will also display information on the bulb’s life expectancy, mercury content and appearance (e.g. warm, cool, yellow).

W (watt) A Watt is the amount of energy (electricity) used by the bulb.  A 100W bulb uses 100 Watts of electricity.
Lumen A lumen is the amount of light produced by a bulb – its brightness.  The more lumens, the brighter the light.


Look for the Lumens

It’s a little bit of a change, but you’ll gradually want to start looking for the lumens to help you choose the right bulb.

Light bulb standards incandescentHere’s a helpful chart so you can see instantly:

100 Watt incandescent bulb  1600 lumens
60 Watt incandescent bulb  800 lumens
40 Watt incandescent bulb  450 lumens


Why Bother?

Using more energy efficient light bulbs will save you money by reducing the amount of electricity you use for lighting.

Is it only in the USA?

No.  Light bulb standards are changing globally.  In fact, most of the rest of the world has already banned incandescent bulbs altogether, because the alternatives (CFLs and LEDs) are so much more efficient.

I’m going to be very honest and say that I think it’s a real shame that the USA hasn’t followed the rest of the world and banned incandescent bulbs, because there are alternatives readily available.

Instead, by holding onto outdated 19th century technology, the energy savings, which could be large, will be considerably less.

It really is a pity.

The light bulb standards regulations are part of an energy Act signed by President Bush in 2007.

But other bulbs are expensive and the light is different!

Now that I’ve (hopefully) cleared up any confusion about energy efficient light bulbs and what’s available now, I’ll do a comparison between incandescent bulbs, CFLs and LEDs so you can make up your own mind about what to buy.

Next:  light bulbs types – which is best for ME?

Other Lighting Articles – you might find these interesting

Light Bulbs Types

CFL Pros and Cons

LED lights at home and how best to use them

Bedroom Lighting Ideas

Bedroom Reading Lights

Harley LED Lights – Harley Davidson go Green (Video)

LED Kitchen Lights – Ideas

LED Home Lighting – 4 things you need to know when buying LEDs

Example of LEDs (Video)



 Photo Credit:  Microsoft

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  • Margarita @ Body Language Decoding says:

    thank you for clarification about the different types of light bulbs. It help saving energy and on electric bills.

  • Cherie Miranda says:

    I wasn’t even aware of these new standards. Thanks for the information and for the lumens chart. Very helpful!

    Cherie Miranda

  • Octavio says:

    I recently an eco bulb, then reading the small letters found that the bulb if it breaks I would need to isolate the whole house for 3 days due to toxic particles spread. So, I know I read instructions before buying carefully.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Wow Octavio – normally you’d need to clear the room for about 10 minutes, definitely not 3 days! You don’t say what type of bulb it was, but if it was a CFL, they contain about 1/100 of the mercury contained inside a thermometer, and although I’ve never broken a thermometer, I can’t imagine clearing a house for 3 days – even for 100 times the amount of mercury! I’ve never seen a message like that on any light bulb I’ve ever bought, wow!

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  • Will says:

    Clare, I can’t believe that it has taken a full 5 years for the US just to get around to changing the standards never mind an outright ban. The sheer amount of energy that could be saved in such a vast country would be enormous. As a matter of interest, what do you use on your Indian Ocean Island? I have been using low wattage, energy saving 8000 hour lamps for years now.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Here on my little island we’ve recently been able to get energy efficient long life bulbs – we don’t have the same level of choice as developed countries, so I was delighted to see them! In my lounge for example, I have spotlights which are very high up, needing a ladder to change the bulb, so longer-life bulbs are great, plus the fact that they don’t generate heat also makes a huge difference in this hot climate!

  • ShaneAric says:

    Thanks for cutting through the confusion on this issue.

    I have heard so many different rumors about bulbs that past 6 years it would make your head spin.

    the LED’s are getting better and coming down in priice slowly…
    I would never get those Flourescent twisty ones.. . It is insane to have all that mercury around and to dispose of them is a hazard as well… Or is that just another rumor I heard.? LOL

    Musician Profit System

  • Lyle R. Johnson: The Sales Wizard & Mentor says:

    Thanks … I was looking for 100 W recently and they were out of stock everywhere … and no one (store personnel) knew why. Appreciate the information.

    Fair Winds and Following Seas

  • Sabrina says:

    I have both incandescent and CFL bulbs in my house. I’ve found that over the past year or so when I’ve bought incandescent bulbs they don’t last but a few months before they blow out. I definitely prefer the CFL bulbs.

    Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES

  • Dan says:

    it is strange the the US doesn’t ban the incandescent bulb – they’ve been banned in Canada for a few years now.

  • Bryan says:

    I didn’t realiize that, and here I was going to stock up on the old bulbs…

    • Clare Delaney says:

      I’m glad I’ve saved you doing that! Also see my comparison of the different types of light bulbs for more useful information.

  • Connect With Nature says:

    Thank you for the lesson that the new 72W bulbs = the old 100W bulbs. I did not know this.

    Yours In Health!

    G.E. Moon II

  • Sonya Lenzo says:

    Thanks for clearing all of that up! I have to admit that I do know some people who are stock piling light bulbs.
    Sonya Lenzo