New Standards Usher in the end of an Incandescent Era

incandescent bulb

By Justin Bull

January 9, 2014

New efficiency standards are coming in 2014 that promise to improve the performance of light bulbs in Canada. The standards will phase-out the sale of traditional incandescent bulbs, which have dominated the lighting market for well over 100 years.

Conventional 75 and 100 watt bulbs are no longer allowed to be sold in stores, but 40 and 60 watt varieties can be sold until Dec 31, 2014. Incandescent bulbs convert 90 percent of energy used into heat rather than light, making them terribly inefficient.

 Consumers aren’t necessarily pleased with the changes, as the warm light of incandescent bulbs is both familiar and pleasant. But the logic of the switch is compelling. Alternatives, like halogen lights, emit a similar spectrum of light, but are 30 percent more efficient. Compact fluorescent bulbs – or CFLS – are 75 percent more efficient, but emit a harsh and cold light while also containing small but toxic amounts of mercury.

The future lies in light emitting diodes, also known as LEDs. LEDs last 20,000 to 30,000 times as long as incandescent bulbs. Although they cost between $9 and $12 per unit, compared to just a dollar or less for a traditional bulb, consumers in the end save money due to the increased efficiency and the long lifespan of LED bulbs.

In the United Kingdom, scientists suggest that similar regulations have helped usher in an era of “peak light bulb.”  Between 1997 and 2012 the amount of energy required to light an average UK home dropped by 29 percent, from 720 kilowatt hours to 508 kWh.

With LED prices dropping steadily over the past decade, and the market for LEDs becoming more competitive as capacity increases, 2014 could be the year where the LED bulb assumes a dominant position. Analysts predict that a $10 price point for LED bulbs will constitute a “tipping point” for consumers.