Why Do a Retrofit? You May Not Have a Choice

candle, incandescent bulb, cfl, and led bulb

Light Bulb Bans

Since the early 1990s, governments around the world have been increasingly concerned about the types of lighting their citizens use in their homes and businesses. Large regulatory bodies, from the US government to the European Union, have been eliminating common inefficient forms of lighting in an effort to reduce energy usage.


The incandescent bulb has been the most common target of phase-out legislation, as it has been the most common light bulb used by consumers. As recently as 2011, the US Department of Energy estimated incandescent bulbs delivered 85% of illumination in households. The European Union and Australia phased them out in 2009, and the United States and Canada followed suit in 2014, with some exceptions.

T12 & 700 Series T8 Fluorescent

T12 fluorescent bulbs and magnetic ballasts have also been legislated out of the market, for the most part. Standard 4-foot and 8-foot T12 linear fluorescent tubes were phased out of the US market in July 2012, with 700 series 4- and 8-foot T8 lamps following in 2014. We have a more comprehensive table on fluorescent bulb legislation and exceptions at the bottom of this page.

Magnetic Ballasts

The magnetic ballast was phased out even earlier, in July 2010. The Department of Energy eliminated some types of magnetic ballasts with new rules in 2000, but the 2005 Energy Policy Act pushed the efficiency requirements further for them, with the rule taking effect in 2010. Electronic ballasts, which have taken the place of the old technology, are more energy efficient and run cooler.

No Choice But to Retrofit

While we’ve been looking at benefits of retrofits lately, complying with the latest lighting legislation is not so much a benefit as a cold reality. When enforcement of the incandescent phaseout was defunded in 2012, it was already too late. The large lighting manufacturers like GE, Philips, and Osram Sylvania have already switched production lines to more efficient technology, and no reputable lighting company wants to be known for breaking the law, whether enforcement is funded or not.

The bottom line is, because lighting manufacturers are complying with the legislation, enforcement funding is a moot point. T12s, magnetic ballasts, and common household incandescent light bulbs are in the rear-view mirror, with newer fluorescent, CFL, and LED bulbs straight ahead.

For many businesses and consumers, there is little choice other than paying more up front for lighting technology that should contribute to lower energy bills in the long term. In these cases, as old inefficient light bulbs burn out, retrofitting to more efficient fluorescent or LED is the only choice available.

The following two tabs change content below.

Nick Heeringa

Nick is a writer, publisher and editor for the Topbulb blog. Check back often for more of his writing on lighting applications and announcements for the Topbulb website and blog!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>