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Should You Panic-Buy Incandescent Lightbulbs Before the Full Ban?

A law that went into effect in America in late 2023 effectively bans incandescent lightbulbs. LED bulbs and other efficient options will be the new law of the land.

There’s a catch, though. While the law is now in effect, retailers can still sell the remaining incandescent bulbs they currently have in stock. After that, they’ll face a $520+ fine for each bulb they sell.

So is now the time to panic buy all the incandescent bulbs still left on the shelves? Let’s explore.

A bright lightbulb

The case for buying the bulbs

Incandescent bulbs are an analog technology. They work by running an electrical current through a metal filament, which glows inside of a sealed bulb.

LEDs are different. They use a special kind of diode, an electrical circuit, to create light directly from a silicon chip and electrical power. Although LEDs can mimic the light of incandescence, they can’t fully replace it.

Incandescent bulbs generally have a warmer look, and lower color temperature to their light, rendering colors more effectively than run-of-the-mill LEDs. If you love the look of an incandescent bulb, now might be the time to stock up.

LEDs claim a lightspan of 13+ years

Some local retailers still have the bulbs in stock, and companies like General Electric continued to offer them right up until the ban. Some incandescent bulb fans are reportedly buying hundreds of the bulbs to keep them in stock for a long time in their own homes.

The case against buying bulbs

There are a couple of reasons you might want to think twice before buying tons of bulbs. LED technology is constantly improving. It’s likely that with more competition in the market, manufacturers will continue to produce better-quality LEDs.

It’s also important to keep in mind that incandescent bulbs last far shorter than most LEDs, even if LED lifespan can be exaggerated, and use far less power.

Efficient bulbs are the new law of the land

If you stockpile, you’ll pay for the bulbs, but also for the electricity used to operate them. It’s also important to note that the efficiency law commonly called an “incandescent bulb ban” actually has several carve-outs for specialty bulbs.

If you’re looking for grow lights, heat lamps for your pet, appliance bulbs, and any of a wide variety of specialty incandescents, these bulbs will still be allowed for sale, even after the ban goes fully into effect.

If you truly need incandescent bulbs for your home, though, now is the time to grab a few. Once manufacturers’ current stock is sold out, selling a bulk could incur a fine of over $500. That’s a lot to pay for a lightbulb!

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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