Between the snow storms and the recovery from New Year’s Eve, it was easy to miss the final phase-out of the inefficient lighting technology we’ve known for so long: the incandescent bulb.
Technically, incandescents weren’t banned in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Rather, the Act required that general-purpose light bulbs that produce 310 to 2600 lumens must be 30 percent more energy-efficient than current incandescent bulbs in 2012 to 2014. Other technologies, such as compact fluorescents and light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, can meet the requirements that incandescents cannot. Specialty bulbs are exempt.
The slow roll toward more efficient lighting already has most Americans examining their options. When the 100- and 75-watt incandescent was phased out in 2012, most Americans were looking at CFLs as alternatives. Now that the 60- and 40-watt are on the chopping block, the market has broadened as LED prices have fallen.
A market survey from Sylvania last year estimated that nearly one-third of homes have already kissed incandescents goodbye. In the past year alone, multiple sub-$10 LED replacements have come on the market.
Home Depot, the world’s largest seller of light bulbs, is tracking its sales and comparing the uptake across the U.S. The big-box store brought together census data and CFL and LED bulb sales from October 2012 to October 2013 for cities larger than 100,000 people.
Here are the top 10 markets for per-capita energy-efficient bulb consumption at Home Depots across the U.S. (in alphabetical order):
- Miami/Ft. Lauderdale/West Palm Beach
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
What most of the top markets have in common is not necessarily a public enamored with more efficient lighting, but rather the presence of compelling rebates. Eight of the top ten markets offer some form of rebates for LEDs or CFLs, with four of the markets offering rebates for both, according to Home Depot. The two Florida markets were the only ones that had no rebates.
For some lighting companies, rebates are crucial to their ability to offer lower prices. Earlier this year, Philips partnered with Home Depot and utilities to bring the price of its 60-watt LED equivalent to $9.97 after utility rebate. In regions without a utility rebate available, the company's 10.5-watt A19 will be offered for $10.97. And it's not just the residential market that is benefiting from rebates -- the commercial market is seeing a boom in utility rebates that is expected to help drive the market in coming years.
Although the most active markets are clustered on the West Coast and in the eastern half of the U.S., Home Depot reported that many smaller cities, such as McAllen, TX, Buffalo, NY and Fayetteville, AR also made the list.
To capture not just the big markets, but also to catch the interest of every American shopping for light bulbs, bulb manufacturers are taking different approaches beyond simply dropping prices. Philips recently unveiled a flattened “SlimStyle” LED bulb that is meant to rival the color offered by Cree’s soft white LED bulbs. Other retailers, such as Wal-Mart, are focusing on package design to make LEDs a more clear-cut choice for consumers.
More price reductions and marketing ploys are likely to hit the market in 2014 as retailers jockey for the top spot as the incandescent fades away.