Afirst-in-the-nation policy in Vermont phasing out most fluorescent tube lights in favor of LEDs points the way for other states to reduce energy costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and mercury pollution.
Signed by Governor Phil Scott on May 19, Vermont’s law will end the sale of four-foot fluorescent tubes by 2024. California lawmakers are considering enacting similar legislation this year, and other states may do so when their legislatures reconvene in 2023. (In Rhode Island, one chamber passed such a bill this year.)
The four-foot tubes at issue in the Vermont law are often found in commercial buildings and in some kitchens, basements, and garages. They are the most common type of linear fluorescent light, representing about 90% of installations.
Though fluorescent bulbs were once considered an efficient option—at least in comparison to incandescents—great advances in LEDs in recent years have dulled their shine. A recent study we co-published comprehensively shows that LEDs are now available in all needed shapes and sizes—and they cost less to own and operate than fluorescents. That’s great news, because the LEDs use about half as much energy—which means they have lower greenhouse gas emissions—and don’t contain the toxic mercury that fluorescent bulbs do.
The following table compares the key characteristics of a common four-foot fluorescent tube and its LED alternative, and the dollar savings from switching to an LED from a fluorescent, based on national averages:
We estimate that Vermont residents and businesses will save a cumulative $167 million on utility bills through 2040 thanks to more than 1,000 gigawatt hours of reduced electricity use, all due to transitioning away from the four-foot fluorescents. A typical school could see more than $5,000 in annual utility bill savings if all its fluorescent lamps were replaced with LEDs…
To learn more about the benefits of replacing fluorescent tube lights with LEDs, continue reading Fadie’s blog post on the ACEEE website.
Brian Fadie is a state policy associate with the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, part of ACEEE, helping to organize and lead a broad-based coalition effort that works to advance, win, and defend new appliance, equipment, and lighting standards. He joined ACEEE in 2020.
Prior to joining ACEEE, Brian worked at the Montana Environmental Information Center as the clean energy program director where he helped pass state and local policies to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
Brian holds a master of science in environmental policy and planning from the University of Michigan as well as a bachelor of science in psychology and bachelor of arts in communication from Michigan State University.