Remember when the fight against phasing out inefficient incandescent light bulbs was a big deal? Well it seems the sky didn’t fall. Just recently, Canada joined the United States, the European Union, and Australia among several countries (see map below) to phase out the production and import of inefficient incandescent light bulbs. While the jury is out on what exactly the best next standard is, at least they’re all much, much more efficient.

Phase out of incandescent light bulbs around the world. Green = Full ban. Yellow = Partial ban. Orange = Program to exchange a number of light bulbs with more efficient types. Image courtesy: KronosLine at Wikipedia Commons.

While the basic incandescent light bulb is being phased out, LED light bulbs are starting to take off. And no wonder, they’re 90% more efficient than the standard light bulb, and last 25 times longer. Talk about bang for your buck. But does this add up to anything really? Well, consider that Canadians alone spend 300 million (CAD) per year, equal to about 10 CAD per person per year. It’s a small chunk per person, but add the longer lifetimes of the new light bulbs, and you can see why consumers are starting to take note, not to mention business owners who use them in bulk and will see a quicker payback.

Fun/important fact: halogen lamps are incandescent, just 28% more efficient than the basic model. So really, the controversy was less than about banning one particular light bulb, and more about setting an efficiency standard, letting the market provide options. And yet, there sure was a fracas surrounding the introduction of the standard, but here we are, buying more efficient light bulbs that save us money over their lifetime.

While LEDs are doing well, compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs emit light in a similar color range to incandescent light bulbs, and are thus for some a good and comfortable next step. Meanwhile, LED light bulbs have come down in price by about 80% in the last five years, somewhat akin to the cost crash of solar PV and lithium-ion batteries.

More recently, the LED (light emitting diode) inventors were awarded a Nobel Prize for their efforts, and where some lauded their achievement in being able to reduce electricity consumption, naysayers believe a rebound effect will wipe out efficiency increases, which is as exaggerated as it sounds. Nevertheless, energy efficiency and monetary savings are happening, and while the world is not really a color shade different today, it’s arguably a less wasteful one.