It’s time to turn out the lights on incandescent lightbulbs if you haven’t already. The humble lightbulb has been a staple of almost every in-home energy assessment CMC has completed during the last 46 years.

CMC has been aware of the need to phase out incandescent lightbulbs for years now, but the official end truly happened at the start of this year. This change will—and has—altered the way CMC will approach our efforts to get energy savings for the utilities we serve.

“Light bulbs have already been removed from Connecticut programs,” said Joe Roy, director of Northeast Operation. “As a result of EISA standards, Connecticut has been rapidly reducing the measure life of light bulbs over the past several years to the point where they were no longer cost-effective for program implementation..”

But, why now, you may be asking yourself. Well, a little history lesson is necessary to understand why incandescent lightbulbs have been thrown away.

A little history lesson

Way back in 2007, then President  George W. Bush signed EISA (Energy Independence and Security Act) in an effort to reduce inefficient lightbulbs that waste energy. As with most things in Washington, D.C., it took five years (2012) for the first true steps to be taken on this journey. That year, EISA restrictions phased out 60-watt incandescent bulbs nationwide.

Fast forward another five years and the Department of Energy (DOE) released further clarification and rules for eliminating lightbulbs and other general service lamps (GSLs) that were to become effective in 2020. In 2019, the DOE rolled back those standards and the rules were placed on hold.

Finally, in 2021 President Joe Biden ordered a review of all standards affecting climate change, which led to a new round of DOE rules to phase out inefficient lighting that went into effect on Aug. 1, 2023.

Simultaneously, CFL and LED bulbs were penetrating the market at reasonable prices, supported by utility incentives to cut their costs. Initially, CMC was able to find huge energy savings by swapping out the incandescent bulbs for CFLs, which contributed to very cheap savings at a high margin for the company. Or more simply, we made a lot of money on lightbulbs. For example, the Connecticut office, at its peak, was purchasing more than 25,000 bulbs a year that we charged—on average—$7 a bulb to the utility PLUS an installation fee.

Forward thinking

Fortunately for CMC, the long runway to eliminating incandescent bulbs gave the company a chance to alter its business strategies. In Connecticut, CMC acquired Aeroseal to replace the quick hit savings of incandescent bulbs with deeper measures, such as the duct sealing work we can do with Aeroseal.

“The good news was that CMC was proactive in response to the EISA changes,” Roy said. “We realized we needed to diversify our offerings way back in 2018 to include things like duct sealing (Aeroseal), increasing and capitalizing on insulation uptake, smart thermostats, heat pumps and heat pump  water heaters.”

Incandescent bulbs were eliminated officially from the Connecticut Home Energy Solutions (HES) program in 2023 and for the HES Income Eligible program in January of this year.

In Pennsylvania, CMC also has responded to the changing lighting market. During the last six months, only 15-20 percent of the savings generated by the Single Family Income Eligible (SFIE) program came from lighting with PECO’s LIURP Program’s contributions included, according to Joshua Smith, program manager.

“At the program level, we have been aware of lowered opportunities and savings for lighting for some time now and have been making programmatic switches to reflect the reality, such as removing lighting from kits, seeking electric hot water opportunities, installing air purifiers and initiating a major push for mini split ductless heat pumps,” Smith said.

Big picture, the elimination of incandescent bulbs has changed how CMC finds savings for its utility partners, making it more expensive to achieve the same kWh savings.

“It’s tougher to achieve program energy saving goals,” Roy concluded. “You’re spending more money to get the same energy savings. We are now looking at deeper measures rather than at volume measures, such as lightbulb installations. Fortunately, CMC has been planning for this day for years.”

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