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Incandescent Light Bulb Ban: What This Means for Your Home

Jul 19, 2023

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If there's one element with which every sector of life intersects, it's the climate, and if you haven't heard, it's not in great health. Luckily, the doctor's orders are in, and the design industry is taking note. Earlier this month, the Biden administration outlawed the production and sale of incandescent light bulbs, which just so happen to be Thomas Edison's greatest achievement. The American inventor developed the bulbs back in the late 19th century as "a bulb that burned long enough to be practical, long enough to light a home for many hours," according to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. After nearly 150 years, the incandescent bulb is finally switched off—for good.

The new administration's lighting law states that household light bulbs are now required to emit a minimum of 45 lumens per watt. (Lumens are a measurement of brightness.) Incandescent bulbs offer only about a third of that required brightness, making them highly inefficient for a country suffering more than a few climate-related disasters.

"I don't think the ban is a bad thing," says Jodi Fleming, founder and principal designer of her namesake firm. "The advantage to the change is that the lighting industry is really upping their game on options. LED technology now offers better quality and variety, especially in color and control. The other advantage is more shapes including round, square, and linear formats."

Of course, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) don't offer the same soft, diffused glow as their climate-damaging counterparts. "While I understand the energy-efficiency reasons for this new law, it definitely presents challenges to our firm as a team," Stephanie Hunt, owner and director of design of Flair Hunter, admits. "It's particularly challenging when we work with clients who favor antiques and an older 'vibe' because a softer light is a better match to complement antiques, fine art, and other traditional design aesthetics."

She's not wrong. In fact, the Biden administration prefers LEDs because of their serious brightness that has massively diminished the U.S.'s greenhouse gas emissions. Incandescent bulbs, on the other hand, contribute to the harmful emissions. Fleming adds, "We need to think about energy and how to save it. Change is always difficult, but the lighting industry is working hard to give us a better product."

Hunt isn't so thrilled about the drastic change. "There is a versatility in LED lighting, but I will still miss the old, warm filament bulbs that give off a warmer, old-school light," she admits. Though she's likely not alone, there's nothing anyone can do to reverse the administration's decision, and that's probably for the best—at least from an environmental perspective. No matter what, though, the future is quite literally looking bright.

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Jessica Cherner is House Beautiful’s associate shopping editor and knows where to find the best high-low pieces for any room.

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