Four different varieties of LED light bulbs lined up in a row.

Today, the Department of Energy released a new proposed efficiency rule for General Service Lamps, better known as lightbulbs. This proposed rule will make it easier for consumers to make cost-effective, energy efficient choices for lighting their homes and offices. This proposal marks the next step of a public process that has been underway for more than two years and will continue over the course of this year.  

The Department of Energy’s efficiency proposal is keeping pace with changes in lighting technology. In order to meet existing standards, traditional lightbulbs – like halogen, compact fluorescent lights– would likely be replaced in the market place with cutting edge LED technology. This transition aligns with changes that are already happening in industry and throughout the market.  You can find more about the rule and the story behind the process here.

The changes that we are seeing in the lighting market make sense. Incandescent light bulb technology is more than 130 years old. Relying on antiquated technology, these light bulbs lose a huge amount of energy in wasted heat. Some models contain trace amounts of mercury.

Even though the price tag for an incandescent bulb in the store might seem like a good deal, outdated lights end up costing consumers more money in higher electric bills in the long run. A mother that installs a LED light when her child is born won’t need to change the bulb until after her kid graduates from college.

For every LED light she might use, she’d have to buy 25 incandescents. She would spend $129 for electricity using a traditional bulb available for purchase today vs. $25.50 for a comparative LED.  The lower price over the long run is part of the reason that more and more people have been using LEDs. From 2012 to 2014, total installations of common home LED bulbs increased six-fold from 13 million to 78 million – growth enabled by the nearly 90% reduction in cost since 2008.

Today’s top-performing LEDs consume 80% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs available for purchase today. Just a few years ago, a single LED could cost as much as $100. Thanks to developments in technology, LED prices continue to plummet, rapidly making them competitive with traditional technologies. Today, you can find an equivalent 60-watt LED for under $5 in stores across the country.

Because of superior performance and cost savings, some have projected LEDs to reach over 80 percent of all lighting sales by 2030. That’s the equivalent of $26 billion per year in electricity costs while cutting America’s lighting electricity use by nearly half.

Aside from the cost savings, consumers who will be making the shift to LED lighting are also helping to move us closer to our climate goals. In 2014 alone, LED installations prevented 7.1 million metric tons of CO2 emissions and saved $1.4 billion in energy costs. Through 2030, the cumulative reduction in CO2 emissions due to the standards proposed today is the equivalent of emissions resulting from the annual electricity use of 1.3 million homes.

We look forward to the year ahead, which will move us closer to achieving significant consumer savings and advancing our climate goals through the efficiency standards. The Department of Energy has been working with LED Technology for more than a decade, and the Building Technologies Office is already working with manufacturers to accelerate the range of lighting LED options available to consumers ahead of January 1, 2020, when this proposed rule would go into effect. In the meantime, DOE will continue to work with industry to see what more we can do to support energy efficient lighting while maintain consumer choices that are good for our environment, our budgets and our nation.