The Death of the Incandescent Lamp, by OhioGalt

I was recently walking through the local Amish hardware and noticed a variety of 12 volt LED lamps with power tool battery adapters for Dewalt and Milwaukee tools. So it seems the Amish have been moving away from the old Aladdin kerosene lamps (which we have a house full of) and more towards modern electric lighting. Along side of the 12volt LED lamps were standard 120v LED and Incandescent lamps. I remembered at that moment our Washington DC administration had quietly banned the sale of Incandescent lamps as of August 1 of this year. My guess is the Amish probably continued to sell the remaining stock in defiance of the ban because checking the local big box stores, standard lamps could not be be found.

Doing some research on the ban, it only includes standard-size household lamps such as 40 and 60 watt bulbs. The banning of higher wattage light bulbs started in 2007 when then President Bush signed the “Energy Independence and Security Act” which would start banning 100 watt light bulbs in 2012 and later in 2014 the 75 watt light bulb. The remaining lamp wattages were to be banned in 2017 but was blocked by President Trump and was overturned by the Biden administration in 2022. I had to laugh when ran across an article from a somewhat liberal website with the comment “No, Incandescent light bulbs aren’t banned, they just do not meet the efficiency standard”. I guess writing new rules to eliminate something that has been available for over 100 years is another way to say “banned”. The new rules require a standard light bulb to provide 45 lumens per watt while the current design only provides about 15 lumens per watt.

The ban does not include those appliance bulbs used in your stove and refrigerator, rough service bulbs, or miniature base bulbs used in special lamps. A search of under “Incandescent lamps” shows that standard base (A15 or A19 medium base household bulbs) 40 and 60 watt bulbs are available but they are either rough service or are unique because they have a built-in reflector. The yellow bug bulbs, traffic light bulbs as well as the 300-watt bulbs for $14.42 each can still be sold. Standard base 12-volt lamps (camper lamps) and 240-volt lamps are still available. I could not find the Plain Jane standard frosted 40 or 60 watt light bulb available on the website nor any of the other online stores.

Later, I was pondering about only having LED lamps available to the public and the downside of not having a standard incandescent lamp. The first thought was an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) or a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) potentially damaging any electronics. This would more than likely render any LED lamps (sensitive electronics internal to the bulb) useless even if backup power was available. An incandescent lamp is simply a piece of tungsten wire in a glass envelope filled with an inert gas like Argon. Unless you had some of the old lamps on hand then it probably a good idea to throw a few LED lamps in the Faraday cage for safekeeping. I did purchase several boxes of various size incandescent lamps back when the government started banning the high-wattage lamps in 2014.

We have uses for Incandescent lamps around our farm, namely for our chicken water in the winter. I took half of a cinder block and placed a traffic light bulb inside (on a GFI circuit as well) and covered it with an old license plate. The waterer is placed on top and controlled by a thermostat to keep it from freezing. The traffic light bulb is 116 watts and good for up to 8,000 hours. I have friends who have a small pump house that leave on a 100-watt light bulb in the winter for freeze protection of the pipes. At work, we have several outdoor gearboxes with huts and 100-watt bulbs to keep the gear lube warm in the winter.

Over the weekend I stopped into the local mom-and-pop carry-out for a cold iced tea. While walking down the aisle with all the motor oil, paper towels, and cat food there was several boxes of incandescent light bulbs, 4 pack of 60-watt bulbs for $2.29 so I bought one. I figured the store either didn’t get the memo or they like the Amish, thumbed their nose and sold the remaining stock. Regardless, they don’t expire sitting on the shelf and like the horse and buggy going by the wayside, someday they might be needed once again.