California to Phase Out Fluorescent Bulbs in Favor of Efficient LEDs, Charting Path for Peers

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Brian Fadie


California has just adopted a law this week phasing out most fluorescent light bulb sales in favor of LEDs by 2025—a move that will save households and businesses billions of dollars on utility bills while reducing mercury pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The law—the second such policy in the country—could help guide the way for other states to transition away from fluorescents.

Signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 18, the law will end the sale of fluorescent bulbs, including the common long tube bulbs often seen in offices, basements, and garages. Most fluorescent bulb types will no longer be sold by the beginning of 2025, while “screw-base” compact fluorescent bulbs (which are now rarely sold) must be off the shelves by 2024. LEDs will replace the fluorescents.

A recent study we copublished found LEDs are now widely available as replacements for fluorescents in all needed shapes and sizes. LEDs also cut energy use in half and last about twice as long. We did the math and found that LEDs typically cost far less to purchase and operate over their lifetime than fluorescents. Lastly, they do not contain any toxic mercury like fluorescent bulbs do.

We estimate that California residents and businesses will save a cumulative $12.2 billion on utility bills through 2050 due to transitioning away from fluorescent bulbs. Further, by that date the transition will avert more than 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions and keep 1,500 pounds of toxic mercury out of California. The phaseout also will eliminate the risk of broken fluorescent bulbs in homes and buildings, a situation that can present a health risk to those nearby if not properly cleaned up.

Fluorescent bulbs were once welcomed as a more efficient option than incandescent and halogen incandescent bulbs—technologies that are also being phased out across the nation—but thanks to the improvements of LEDs, fluorescents are no longer necessary either.

Earlier this year Vermont became the first state to adopt a fluorescent light phaseout policy (also known as a “clean lighting” policy for its effect of reducing mercury pollution).

California’s action could now create the momentum for additional states to consider adopting the policy in 2023.