The Biden administration is set to enforce a nationwide ban on incandescent light bulbs starting August 1, 2023. The regulations, which were finalized by the Department of Energy (DOE) in April 2022, will prohibit retailers from selling incandescent and similar halogen light bulbs in favor of light-emitting diode (LED) alternatives. While U.S. households have increasingly switched to LED light bulbs since 2015, fewer than half of households reported using mostly or exclusively LEDs, according to the most recent results from the Residential Energy Consumption Survey.
The DOE announced that the regulations will save consumers an estimated $3 billion per year on utility bills and cut carbon emissions by 222 million metric tons over the next three decades. However, the regulations will particularly impact lower-income Americans, as LED bulbs are far more popular in higher-income households. While 54% of households with an income of more than $100,000 per year used LEDs, just 39% of households with an income of $20,000 or less used LEDs.
A coalition of the free market and consumer groups opposed to incandescent bulb bans wrote in a comment letter to the DOE last year that “further regulatory interference in the marketplace is unwarranted.” They argued that consumers should have the choice between incandescent bulbs and LEDs rather than regulating incandescent bulbs off the market.
Former President Donald Trump was also personally opposed to LED light bulb adoption, remarking in 2019 that they are often more expensive, not good, and make him “look orange.” Environmental groups that opposed the Trump administration’s actions have cheered the Biden administration for cracking down on incandescent light bulbs.
Over the last several months, the DOE has introduced a series of energy efficiency regulations impacting various home appliances including gas stoves, ovens, clothes washers, refrigerators, and air conditioners. Critics have blasted the rules as federal overreach and unnecessary given that the industry has improved technology without government intervention.
On his first day in office in January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order requiring the DOE to make “major revisions” to current appliance regulation standards and standards set by the Trump administration. A month later, the agency began moving forward on more than a dozen energy-efficiency rules, impacting a wide range of appliances.