New Light Bulb Standard

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Frequently Asked Questions About the New Light Bulb Standard
- February 2011

What’s this new light bulb standard all about?

Manufacturers of light bulbs must meet a new national energy-efficiency standard. The new standard is intended to save consumers both energy and money. The standard goes into effect nationwide in 2012, but the law allows California to start one year earlier, in Jan. 2011. Phase-in of the new standard will be completed in 2014. More information is available at:

Who decided this new light bulb standard?

The U. S. Congress authorized this standard by legislation, and President George W. Bush signed it into law in 2007.

What is MID’s role in the new light bulb standard?

MID’s role is to be an information resource for our customers. We’re here to help you understand your choices in the new consumer marketplace for light bulbs. If your goal is like most people’s – to lower your energy use and save money – MID can point you towards the most energy-efficient light bulbs for your dollar. Ultimately, you as an informed consumer will make buying decisions for yourself.

Why is a new light bulb standard needed?

About 90 % of the electricity used by traditional incandescent light bulbs is wasted as heat. Only 10 % actually becomes light. This wastes vast amounts of energy each year in the U.S. More efficient types of light bulbs produce the same amount of light (measured in lumens) but use far less electricity (measured watts).

How much energy savings does the new standard require?

The standard requires new light bulbs to use 25-30 % less energy than old incandescent light bulbs. In the first phase of the changeover, newly manufactured bulbs must produce the same lumens as 100 watt incandescent bulbs but use no more than 72 watts of electricity. This phase, which represents a 28 % energy savings, starts in California in 2011.

Will we really save very much money (or energy) with this new standard?

Yes. The potential savings across America is extremely large, although estimates vary widely. Here’s one calculation: According to the California Energy Commission, starting one year early will avoid the sale of 10.5 million inefficient 100 watt bulbs. This will save Californians over $35 million in needlessly high electricity costs in just one year. Another estimate, from the Natural Resources Defense Council, is that consumers could potentially save $10 billion a year in energy costs nationwide.

What will happen during later phases of the new light bulb standard?

By 2014, 75, 60 and 40 watt incandescent bulbs will also be phased out across the country. The law exempts some specialty bulbs such as bug lights; 3-way bulbs; oven,  refrigerator and other appliance bulbs; and others. These specialty bulbs will still be manufactured.

Are incandescent light bulbs being banned?

No. All types of light bulbs will still be permitted. The new standard simply requires most bulbs to operate at or above a certain energy efficiency level. Manufacturers must build bulbs that produce the same amount of light (lumens) as an old 100 watt incandescent bulb while using no more than 72 watts of electricity. New bulbs can be incandescent, incandescent halogen, compact fluorescent, LED or other types.

Do I have choices about what light bulbs I can buy?

Yes, you’ll continue to have choices. As your present bulbs burn out, you can replace them with either:

  • 72 watt incandescent halogen bulbs, or
  • 23 watt compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs).

Are those twisty bulbs the only choice I have?

No. You have many choices of energy-saving light bulbs.  Both incandescent halogens and CFLs are available in many different shapes and sizes to fit almost any lamp or fixture.

Will 100 watt incandescent bulbs still be available in stores?

Yes, but only until present stocks are sold. You may certainly choose 100 watt incandescent bulbs as long as they are available. Just please be aware that your electric bill will be higher than if you chose CFLs instead. CFLs use one-fourth as much energy as old-fashioned incandescents and last up to 10 times as long.

What about the color of the light produced by CFLs?

CFLs are available in a full range of light colors, from more bluish to more yellowish. Which light color you choose depends on where you’ll be using the bulb and on your personal preference. When shopping for light bulbs, read the fine print on the package. Look for the “K” number. Higher K numbers (3600K -5500K ) indicate more bluish light – “cool” light in lighting industry terminology. Lower K numbers (2700K -3500K ) indicate more yellowish light – “warm” light in industry-speak.

Is it true that CFLs contain mercury?

All fluorescent bulbs, including CFLs, long fluorescent tubes and others, contain a tiny amount of mercury. The federal government is working on a technical standard to reduce the amount of mercury in fluorescent bulbs. More information on this subject is available below:

How about the new LEDs?

Low wattage, high efficiency LED lights are becoming more common. LED stands for light-emitting diode. LEDs that replace 100 watt bulbs are energy-efficient and long lasting but still relatively pricey. LEDs do not contain mercury. Quality standards for LEDs are still being developed at the federal level. If you shop for LEDs, here are some labels to look for:

  • UL 8750 Safety Standard. UL = Underwriter’s Laboratory.
  • The ENERGY STAR® qualified mark.
  • A Lighting Facts® label.

The Lighting Facts label indicates that the manufacturer voluntarily participates in a consumer information program sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. See a sample label at

Why is MID ending its light bulb rebate program (Lights For Le$$)?

MID’s Lights for Le$$ rebate will end Mar. 31, 2011. For several years, this rebate has encouraged MID customers to switch from incandescents to CFLs that save energy and money. Because incandescent bulbs are being phased out in California (and nationwide in 2012), there’s no more need fgor an incentive to switch. MID will continue to offer incentives to buy other types of energy-saving products. Since customer money pays for rebates, MID’s focus will be on products that offer our customers the greatest energy savings per rebate dollar.