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The Incandescent Bulb Ban Includes a $523 Fine. Who Has to Pay?

On August 1st, an energy efficiency law went into effect in the United States that is effectively a ban on incandescent lightbulbs.

The ban technically restricts bulbs that produce fewer than 45 lumens per watt, a measure of efficiency. Really, though, it’s clearly targeted at incandescent bulbs, which are far less efficient than LED alternatives.

The new law includes some pretty stringent penalties and lots of ways for the Department of Energy to enforce the ban. You may have heard about how those include a $523 fine per bulb in some cases.

But with these hefty fines, who actually has to pay? Do you need to rip out your existing incandescent bulbs in order to avoid a big fee?

A light fixture with efficient bulbs

Retailers and Manufacturers Are at Risk

The good news is that consumers can breathe a sigh of relief. The fines in the new law are levied on retailers and manufacturers who sell incandescent bulbs, not on consumers.

If you have incandescent bulbs in your home, you don’t need to remove them. Also, the DOE isn’t going to come knocking on your door to check for inefficient bulbs.

If a retailer sells you non-compliant bulbs, though, they could be opening themselves up for a fine. The risks for makers and sellers of bulbs are high–if a retailer sells 1,000 bulbs per month, they could be on the hook for half a million dollars if the bulbs are non-compliant.

Full enforcement won’t begin for several months, though. If you see incandescent bulbs on a retailer’s shelf, they might not necessarily be in violation of the restrictions yet.

The Alternatives

What are consumers supposed to use instead?

LED bulbs are the most common substitute for incandescents. Here in the Bay Area, many homes and businesses already use these efficient bulbs, since the cost of power is so high in California.

High power LED bulbs are a good alternative

A Scam Risk

Any time the government introduces a new type of law, you can bet that scammers will use it as a way to dupe consumers.

Just as scammers sometimes pretend to be IRS agents in order to gain entry to peoples’ homes, it’s very possible that scammers will pretend to be DOE agents or people from the power company in order to enter homes and collect fraudulent fines.

If someone comes to your house claiming to be checking for incandescent bulbs or saying that you owe money for a fine, don’t open the door. Contact local law enforcement.

Please consider sending this article to others who you think might be targeted by these types of scams so they know to be aware. The IRS scams often target elderly persons, who can be most at risk.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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