The Legalities and Finances of Office Lighting

The rules and regulations surrounding light bulb usage are changing. These changes, like so many others, are not uniform around the world, but unique to each country or region. There are active legislative processes in Canada and the European Union to ban certain types of bulbs, while in the US there is a slow moving process to make bulbs more energy efficient. All the while, the LED light, the most efficient of all, is marching ahead of legislators. Here is a quick overview, for the business owner, where legislation currently stands.

The United States

Legislation to deal with lighting regulations and changes in light bulb laws have varied from state to state and have included federal decisions on the subject. Initially efforts came from California, Connecticut and New Jersey to limit or phase out incandescent light bulbs. Federal efforts date back to 2007 with a plan to make incandescent light bulbs more energy efficient by setting maximum wattage limits. Federal legislation is aiming to limit light bulbs to 45W, which is similar to the average CFL bulb by 2020. No legislation has been passed yet which would make incandescent bulbs illegal.


The process to change light bulb usage in Canada began in 2007. This ran on a provincial level, first with Nova Scotia and then Ontario. Later that year the federal government moved to ban all incandescent light bulbs by 2012. The spur was greater energy efficiency and environmental impact. In 2011, the changeover was delayed until 2014, but there would be a ban on importing inefficient incandescent lighting and using either 75W or 100W bulbs. In 2015, the ban was extended to 40W and 60W bulbs.

UK and European Union

The phasing out of incandescent bulbs began in 2007 with the aim, across the EU of banning sales of the bulbs by 2012. The one loophole included in legislation was that they could be sold for industrial usage from specialist stores, which were accessible to the normal, commercial or residential customer too. Since then the European Union has set a new target of 2018 to phase out halogen bulbs. This would leave CFL bulbs as the preferred option across the EU, which has drawn much criticism from groups who dislike the bulbs, find them dim or too harsh.

Problems with the CFL Bulbs

CFL bulbs are smaller versions of the strip lighting found in most shops and offices. According to studies published by the National Association for Adults with Special Learning Needs (NAASLN), strip lighting and CFL bulbs have been linked to the triggering of ADD/HD, dyslexia and poor achievement. Other studies have looked into concentration and productivity levels in offices while Dr. Miriam Rafailovich, speaking to Men’s Health, has found that if fluorescent bulbs are kept close to the person, they emit UV radiation levels far in excess of human tolerance – releasing in 45 seconds the maximum a human should be exposed to in 8 hours.

The Energy Efficient LED Bulb Solution

As countries legislate away from incandescent bulbs toward CFLs, the free market and technology is moving far in advance. LED bulbs are not new, but have until recently been limited to torches and flashlights. While people could purchase LED bulbs for their homes, the initial purchase price was thought to be too high to tempt many into making that change. However, now that production and sale costs have been reduced, there are LED price calculation applications available to make a reasonable comparison.

These are not limited to residential properties however. Price comparisons can be made for commercial properties too and soon industrial ones – the one sector where incandescent bulbs can often still be used. It appears, with LEDs being up to ten times more energy efficient than traditional bulbs including both Halogen and CFL bulbs, that a switch in market will be happening in advance of further legislation.

If this is the case, then investing in LED bulb retrofitting whether in the US, Canada or indeed the UK, seems the way forward for businesses. Legislation will eventually catch up with the bulbs, and if initial evidence seems likely LEDs will not only save money on utility costs, but may provide a more productive working environment for staff as well.


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