Should incandescents be outlawed?

Pharox 60 watt LED

Andrew Rice writing in the NYT bemoans the passing of the incandescent light bulb, saying light from them is perfect, that LED manufacturers are still furiously trying to duplicate the beauty of incandescent light, and this is the sad end of a noble era.

He has a point. For example, my wife Sue says she has trouble reading by the light of CFLs (LEDs are better, she says, but still not as good as incandescents.)

A while back audio CDs replaced vinyl and now digital is replacing audio CDs. These changes were made by the marketplace. People chose to go with the newer technology. By contrast, lawmakers have effectively outlawed incandescents by raising efficiency standards to levels that only CFLs and LEDs can reach. Such bulbs are much more expensive than incandescents. This puts an undue burden on the poor who may not be able to afford $2-3 a bulb for CFLs vs. 25 cents for incandescents. LEDs are still in the baby stage for home use and cost $30-40. Yes, the price will drop. But that doesn’t help those trying to make ends meet now.

I’m becoming increasingly uneasy with the government mandating changes like this. LEDs light bulbs are a great idea and will save huge amounts of energy. But the type of light bulb you buy should be up to you and not dictated by D.C. Washington often gets it wrong, with one size fits all solutions and way too much regulation. Plus, they’ve created a new industry to which we are now all captive now. How cozy for the manufacturers.

What do you think? Should incandescents be outlawed?


  1. CFLs are regularly available for less than $1. Home Depot has them for about 60 cents each. Our local grocery store had them for 99 cents last time I was in. However, in my experience, their life, touted as being 5-7 years, is about the same as an incandescent bulb and sometimes shorter. Especially in Utah, where electricity is relatively cheap, CFLs cost far more over the long run than incandescents.

    Should incandescents be outlawed? There is a compelling need to reduce greenhouse gases to save lives, and incandescents are an easy target. But letting the free market determine the price of gasoline and diesel by eliminating our massive government subsidies to oil companies would do far more to reduce GHGs. Conservation could cut our energy consumption by half or more. These are two obvious steps that our government hasn’t the willpower to implement. In their absence, outlawing incandescents would just be a band-aid to make us feel better.

  2. I get what you’re saying that DC is just generally not to be trusted. But this is one case where the benefit WAY outweighs the harm. The harm is that…people don’t get to use certain kinds of light bulbs, I guess? The benefit is tons of electricity not used or generated – and no, this doesn’t solve our multiple crises by itself, but it’s at least a decent measure to staunch the bleeding.

  3. My issue with CFL is the mercury content. It’s small per bulb, but in quantity (like a land-fill) that adds up quick. Incandescent lights can last longer when run under their rating, though most people don’t know how to do that. 🙁 I have a mix in several places in my home, based on what the light is used for, and how often it’s used. I dislike any solution that removes choices. If a real solution is desired, tax incandescent bulbs and apply that tax as a rebate to LED manufacturers to help reduce their prices. That leaves the choice in place while shifting people to the better solution.

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