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Lights out for 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs last on average 10-20 times longer than a standard incandescent.
Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs last on average 10-20 times longer than a standard incandescent.
Flickr - by granburger

Beginning January 1, incandescent 40-watt and 60-watt light bulbs are banned from manufacture in the United States. It’s the law. Not only that, the bulbs may no longer be imported.

General-service 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs are now banned from production in the United States.
Nancy Baldwin

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA), passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, created new energy efficiency standards for light bulbs. The law is designed to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and make the United States less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

The 2014 decree follows the demise of 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012 and 75-watt incandescents in 2013.

While it’s true the law doesn’t ban the sale of incandescent bulbs, it does require them to be more energy efficient. This announcement isn’t new, but it may be a surprise to consumers perusing store shelves for these staples of residential lighting.

A quick walk through Elliott’s Hardware, Home Depot, or Lowe’s will reveal empty shelves where favorite incandescents should be stacked. Stock piling has already begun.

As with every new edict there are exclusions and loopholes.

The law doesn’t affect all incandescent light bulbs, just general-service bulbs, the ones most often used for residential lighting. Specialty bulbs and rough-service bulbs are exempt.

Appliance lamps, plant lights, candelabra lights under 60 watts, outdoor post lights less than 100 watts, nightlights and shatter resistant bulbs are among the specialty bulbs not subject to the law. Three-way incandescent lamps are also excused from compliance.

Manufactured to take abuse, rough-service bulbs are typically used in locations that suffer from vibration or external stress. These hardy lamps are most often used to light automobiles, subway cars and machinery.

One lighting manufacturer, Newcandescent, already has taken advantage of the rough-service loophole to adapt these tough bulbs for everyday use.

Fortunately for consumers addicted to 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs, there are several eco-friendly options. To shed light on the various choices, here’s a quick recap:

Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, recognizable by their twisted glass tubes, have gained in popularity. Touted as being on average 75% more efficient than incandescent bulbs, they work by lighting sealed gas within a tube coated in metallic and phosphor salts. The good news - CFL’s last on average 10-20 times longer than a standard incandescent. The bad news – CFL’s cost more that incandescent. At Walmart a single 40-watt incandescent (Philips brand) is priced at $1.67 while a six-pack of comparable CFL’s (General Electric) is priced at $15.16.

An added inconvenience is that CFL’s contain mercury and need to be recycled rather than thrown in the trash. In the Dallas area, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Batteries Plus and Dallas County Home Chemical Collection Center offer bulb recycling.

Light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs work by using two prongs (an anode and a cathode) to form a junction where charge-carrying electrons are produced, releasing energy and producing light. The good news – they last an average of five years and can be adjusted to produce colors. The bad news – their price is higher than both incandescent and CFL’s. Also, because the technology is new, an LED might die early for a number of reasons.

Halogen lights have been popular for years because they produce bright, powerful light. An evolution of incandescent, they have a small amount of a halogen element added which makes their lifespan longer than a standard incandescent bulb. The Philips EcoVantage line of halogen bulbs is an example.

The good news – they’re dimmable and these bulbs traditionally have a yellow glow but can also emit a color. The bad news – they’re best used in places that need intense light, and yes, they’re costly.

Home Depot offers a handy chart for comparing these and other bulbs.

To not be left in the dark, it’s good to learn as much as possible about the benefits and practicality of each type.

Are you an incandescent addict? Which form of alternative light are you turning on tonight?

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