New Rule Has Old-School Light Bulbs Vanishing From California Store Shelves

Jan 2, 2018

Max Lofing says his family company won't be too affected by the change.

Ezra David Romero / Capital Public Radio

Old-school light bulbs, known for their warm color, will start disappearing off store shelves this week because of a new state rule. It doesn't ban all incandescent light bulbs, but establishes such high energy standards that they won't be able to compete.

Max Lofing’s family-owned lighting shop in Midtown Sacramento is ready for the change.

“We’ve seen this coming and it’s not going to affect us too much, other than people are going to ask for the incandescent bulb,” says Lofing. “We’ll have the opportunity to tell them ‘that’s not available anymore, this is the new generation of the product.’”

Lofing’s Lighting switched over to selling almost all energy-efficient lights eight years ago, and now sells a variety of LED bulbs.

“We actually do have a display that shows different color tonings on LED, and you can see that it’s all nice warm light,” Lofing says. “It’s not that blue that everyone is afraid of.”

Incandescent bulbs don’t meet the new standard of 45 lumens per watt. The California Energy Commission estimates a quarter-billion sockets in the state are still using the bulbs with a design dating back to the time of Thomas Edison.   

Ezra David Romero / Capital Public Radio 

“There are still a lot of incandescents out there, and when those changeover it’s literally about a billion dollars a year in savings across the economy — mostly directly to consumers’ pockets,” says Commissioner Andrew McAllister.

Even though the energy-efficient bulbs may cost more up front, Noah Horowitz, with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says they have a better return on their investment.  

“In addition to saving a lot of energy, these bulbs last 10 to 25 years,” says Horowitz. “So, you avoid the hassle of having to change bulbs every year.”

Still, not all manufacturers like the rule, saying it’ll limit options for customers. But a California judge recently put to rest a lawsuit trying to turn the lights out on the efficiency standards.

Retailers can still sell incandescent bulbs still remaining in stock.