A Replacement For Incandescents?

The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $10 million to whoever discovers the first energy-efficient alternatives for outdated incandescent and halogen lights.

The Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize, dubbed the "L Prize," has a goal of reducing lighting energy usage in the country by one-third. To accomplish that, the competition is encouraging the development of LED replacements for two of the most popular, yet inefficient, light bulbs: the 60-watt incandescent bulb and PAR-38 halogen reflector lamp.

According to the Web site, “The L Prize competition will accelerate America's shift from inefficient, dated lighting products to innovative, high-performance solid-state lighting products that will save significant amounts of energy and millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.”


In the U.S., incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014 under the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. However, nothing will be mandated until 2012. Photo: Flickr/Anton GF

Philips Electronics submitted the first entry to the government on Sept. 24, submitting 2,000 prototypes for the next step of the competition.

The bulb will now go through a multiphase evaluation process. In addition to performance and lifetime testing, the DOE is using stress testing under extreme conditions and field assessments.

Entrants must meet specific requirements with their bulbs. All must be at least 75 percent produced in the U.S. Incandescent replacements must be less than 10 watts and have more than a 25,000-hour lifespan. The halogen replacement must have the same lifespan, but be less than 11 watts.

The competition promises to have a great effect on energy usage in the U.S. In 2010, the DOE estimates that about 971 million 60-watt incandescent bulbs will be installed and used for approximately 700 hours per year. By reducing the bulbs to use only 10 watts, 83 percent of lighting energy used will be saved.

The halogen lamp is also sure to have a significant impact. There are around 141 million lamps in the U.S. If they were all to be changed to the L Prize lamp, 2.6 million metric tons of carbon emissions would be avoided. Those savings are equal to the annual electricity consumption for the entire state of Wyoming, or the city of Las Vegas.

"This is the beginning of the end for the common light bulb," David Rodgers of the DOE told LEDs Magazine.

Around the country, individual state efforts have been made in California, Connecticut and New Jersey to decrease the availability and usage of incandescent bulbs. But federal legislation passed in 2007 overshadowed those movements with the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. Under the law, all incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014. The standards will begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012.

In place of incandescent bulbs, the use of LED and CFL light bulbs is encouraged. But while LEDs and CFLs save energy, there is also a great risk for the environment. Both must be recycled properly. For example, CFL bulbs can contain up to 5 milligrams of mercury, which can be released when broken during improper disposal.

Latest posts by Lauren Hasler (see all)

  • No ban of the incandescent bulb

    Dear people of the world!

    What are we going to ban next that makes a lot of CO2?
    – The internet (the servers produce a lot off CO2)
    – Air conditioners in homes
    – Heat installation in houses
    – Cars that have a engine cylinder volume of more than 2 liters
    etc, etc…..

    Why can the people of the world not decide what they want to buy.
    If you want to buy quality it’s cost more …like the incandescent bulb now.

    This banning of the bulb looks like mafia practice of the production company’s.
    So they can make more profit of these new products. And worse of all the politics
    are buying it.

    People let be realistic banning the incandescent bulb is crazy, this is only the tip of a iceberg!
    What about the people of the 3rd world they never can buy such expensive bulbs.
    By banning these bulbs in 1st world countries the prices will rise of the incandescent bulbs.
    Because we are going to produce less of these bulbs.
    Lighting company are all ready stopping/ phasing out these production lines.

    Let put all our energy to start at the source of the problem, this by:

    Making green energy with the means of SOLAR POWER…..or other green methods.

    So we can still enjoy warm quality light of our incandescent bulbs with green energy…and enjoy all other luxury items that we are used to! And let people decide what to buy, incandescent bulbs or CFL or LED’s. And in the meantime we can still upgrades these incandescent bulbs. See a example of a last inventions.

    Because if we really want to think green….we have to go back to the basics.
    Like the indians in the old days!….do we still want that?

    Mister ban no incandescent lamp

  • http://www.ceolas.net peter in dublin

    While innovation is always welcome,
    One could say about this particular prize that it’s not necessary:

    If the cheap alternatives that people prefer are being banned anyway,
    there’d presumably be enough of a market for those bulbs – without a prize.

    The underlying idea here is that “legislation is great for innovation”.
    This is not so.
    Industry should make what consumers want,
    – not what government committees or prize award committees want.

    But do markets work?

    The notion is
    “Market forces fail, people only buy cheap inefficient products,
    they won’t buy expensive efficent products even if they would save money by doing it!”

    1. You don’t keep buying a cheap product if it doesn’t satisfy what you want from it.
    This can of course relate to many other properties apart from efficiency
    (performance, appearance, construction and in fact overall savings, see htpp://www.ceolas.net/#cc2x )
    It also means that people may be happy to pay more for electricity use if – for example – they feel that the light quality from
    ordinary light bulbs warrants it.

    2. Nor do you avoid buying product alternatives just because they are expensive:
    Otherwise no expensive alternative products anywhere would ever be bought.
    In normal advertising manufacturers themselves highlight advantageous features of their products.
    Think of long-lasting batteries and Duracell/Energizer rabbits, think of washing up liquids that wash piles of dishes.
    “Expensive to buy but cheap in the long run”:
    CFL/LED manufacturers wrongly rely on public campaigns and bans to make sales.
    Of course, if people don’t like the products, the products won’t sell well anyway.

    3. You may not want all your product purchases to be of one type.
    For example, different lights have different advantages.
    The idea to “Switch all your lights and save lots of money”
    is like saying “Eat only bananas and save lots of money”.

    Put it this way
    Europeans like Americans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around * to 9 times out of 10 (light industry and European Commission data 2008).
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings – no point in banning an impopular product = no “savings”!
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x onwards…

    If new LED lights – or improved CFL “energy saving” lights or incandescents – are good,
    people will buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn’t mean that more energy using radio valves/tubes were banned
    … they were bought less anyway.

    By all means encouragement of product innovation and prizes
    – but that doesn’t mean having to ban the product alternatives!


  • http://www.ceolas.net peter in dublin


    As for “saving the electricity output of Wyoming ” etc

    Ordinary people -not politicians- choose to pay for whatever electricity they use, and its production.

    There is no energy shortage – on the contrary, more and more renewable sources are being developed –
    and if there was an energy shortage of finite oil-coal-gas fuels,
    1. Renewable energy becomes more attractive price-wise
    2. The fuel price rise would lead to more demand for efficient products – no need to legislate for it.
    Any government worried about say oil use can simply tax it
    (and imported oil is not used in electricity generation).

    Supposed savings don’t hold up anyway.
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li13x onwards
    = comparative brightness, lifespans, power factors, lifecycles, heat factor etc with referenced research.

    Even if the savings were there, and light bulbs had to be targeted,
    taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense,
    governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc)
    more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
    Taxation is however wrong in principle, for similar reasons to bans.
    As the previous commenter here infers:
    Do light bulbs give out give out any CO2 gas?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of light bulbs or other electrical products they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere,
    since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.
    Where there is a problem: Deal with the problem!
    Direct ways to deal with emissions (for all else they contain too, whatever about CO2),
    with a focus on transport and electricity:

  • C.D. Brookover

    Please be aware that fluorescents can trigger epileptic seizures, but LEDs do not. As an individual that lives with this condition, I hope that fluorescents will be phased out with incandescents.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    C.D. Brookover

  • Linda A.

    I don’t know where people are getting the erroneous idea that incandescent bulbs are going to be phased out, but it’s NOT TRUE!!! I know, because I recently wrote to the EPA and they told me that, in the future, incandescent bulbs are going to be required to be more energy efficient, but said nothing about being phased out, which only makes sense because most of us know by now that incandescents are more efficient in fixtures that are usually on for under 15 minutes at a time, and compact fluorescents are more efficient in fixtures that are usually on for longer than 15 minutes at a time, even the EPA’s own website says so.

  • Shane B.

    Linda, I don’t know who you spoke to at the EPA, but this is where the information is coming from:


    Wikipedia has a good breakdown of legislation in various States and other countries.


    It is true that the federal legislation does not mandate the elimination of incandescent bulbs. Incandescent bulbs, by definition, illuminate by squeezing a current through a thin wire which glows white hot. I’m sure that you realize that there are fundamental laws of physics that preclude a 100W bulb from becoming 30% more efficient. If there was another material to replace tungsten, I suppose it’s possible that we could get more light with less energy, but the fact is that most of the energy is being turned into heat. Current legislation does result in an effective ban on incandescent bulbs. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I question the information they gave you on efficiency as well. Mythbusters did some fairly complete testing regarding the myth about the start up energy for various light bulb types. Compact fluorescent uses less than incandescent and, therefore, must be more efficient in general. The only rationale for your statement (I think) would be based on bulb life but the CF would still be more efficient (from a power consumption point of view, not necessarily from the point of view of your wallet).

    I recommend against considering the EPA an authoritative source on anything. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t find out what they have to say, just weigh it against other sources… like a simple kill-a-watt meter.

    I’m not in favor of banning incandescent bulbs (or mandating efficiency improvements). I use CF bulbs in lots of places in my home. I’m concerned that the steady improvement of the bulbs will slow down as a result of the fact that there is much less need for manufacturers to compete with incandescent bulbs.