Expert Advice on Green Buildings

T12 Fluorescent Bulb Phase Out: How Much Time Do I Have Left?


Linda asks: I have heard that T-12 ballasts will be unavailable after July 2010 and that the govt is encouraging businesses to replace these with more efficient options. I would like to swap out our old ballasts at our facility in Virginia but I'm wondering if there are programs that will help me with the costs associated with this. I lease my space, pay my electric and have another five years to go, so I know I'll have to do it sooner or later.


Hi Linda, thanks for your question on efficient lighting replacement options for old T-12 ballasts. It's true that as of July 1, 2010, the Department of Energy will prohibit the manufacture of T-12 magnetic ballasts solely for replacement purposes. This is part of a multi-step phase-out process for the T-12 ballasts that began in 2005.

On the bright side, this is the perfect time to upgrade your facility's lighting to a more efficient system. According to the Energy Cost Savings Council, energy-efficient lighting projects generate an average 45% return on investment, paying for themselves in just 2.2 years, which is a pretty good ROI with 5 years left on your lease.

There is also Federal assistance available per the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Energy Efficient Commercial Buildings Tax Deduction is a provision in EPACT 2005 which allows building owners or tenants to write off the cost of upgrading a building's existing lighting or other building systems for more energy efficient systems, capped at $1.80 per square foot. If you are only upgrading one system, such as lighting, the tax deduction is capped at $0.60/SF, and the actual amount of the deduction is determined by the reduction below the maximum allowable lighting power density in ASHRAE 90.1-2001. If you'd like to know more about this tax deduction, go here.

The Energy Independence Act of 2007 (EISA) recently extended this tax deduction for qualifying projects completed before January 1, 2014.

There may also be State and Utility incentives to help fund your project. For Virginia, there is the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing available, which is essentially a loan repaid via a special assessment on the property. This is more for building owners, but may be something you can work out with the building owner. For more information on PACE, go here.

I'm not sure who your utility provider is, but I see that Dominion Virginia Power has a Utility Rebate Program for commercial buildings. For more information on this rebate, go here.

As National Lighting Bureau Vice Chair Susan Bloom said, "Very simply, there has never been a better time for end users to capitalize on their lighting upgrade opportunities." I hope this information helped. Good luck on your lighting upgrade!

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Expert Advice and Comments

t12 bulbs fazeout

Does the goverment have a date when th bulbs can not longer be produced.

clairemolo's picture

Re: T12 Phase Out

Hi Dale,

The T12 magnetic ballasts were prohibited from manufacture on July 1, 2010. Many other types of T12 lamps will be phased out starting in July 2012.

I hope this helps!

I am a recent graduate of Cornell University, where I studied Environmental Science and concentrated in Sustainable Development.

T12 retrofit

LED is NOT the right answer when it comes to linear lighting, that is common sense. 1000 lumen less, blue light, shading, poor footcandle, etc. the LED lamp life is not proven and long life T5 are almost 40,000 hours. T5 are inexpensive and contain only 3% mercury that does not evaporate. these tubes will not be phased out. T5s are all over Europe and they are leaders in energy efficient retrofitting. LED is great for certain areas, but NOT linear. in addition, the ROI in a flinear fluorescent retrofit can be less than a year, without government subsidies. LEDs are still way too expensive. I'm hoping for a new technology in linear, but as of today, the best answer is T5. Inexpensive, beautiful light. BTW the Department of Energy recommends to use linear fluorescents, NOT LED. check out great labor free retrofits - ROI less than 1 year.