Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Simple Light Bulb Just Got A Lot More Complicated

Compact fluorescent light bulbImage via WikipediaWhen I needed a light bulb I would either use a 40 or 60 watt bulb and I was done. But those days are over. Thanks to regulations, taking effect in January, under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, shopping for light bulbs is fast becoming akin to choosing a new car. The upside is the new fangled light bulbs may last longer than you do.

I was worried because I heard some rumors that people were going to stockpile the old incandescent bulbs because they would not be manufactured anymore. But this is just wrong.

Starting in January, any bulb that can generate the amount of light produced by a conventional 100-watt bulb, but do so with roughly 30 percent less energy, will be eligible for the market. The new law is gradual — in 2013, the rule will be extended to 75-watt bulbs, followed, in 2014, by 60- and 40-watt bulbs — but the point is that nothing is outlawed if it meets the new mandated efficiencies.

What’s more, the looming rules have triggered rapid advances in a number of lighting technologies. Halogens, a type of incandescent that delivers light the way Edison intended, with a tungsten filament, are now available in the standard bulb shape. Compact fluorescent lights, or C.F.L.’s, have gotten better at delivering good light quickly, and without the buzzing and flickering for which they were known. And some bulbs with light-emitting diodes, or L.E.D.’s, now cast their light in all directions, not just one.

With all this new technology, how can you know what would be an equivalent to the old fashion 60 watt bulb?

Home Depot and Lowe’s are working to simplify shopping, with better merchandising and displays with samples of the forthcoming bulbs. Sylvania, Philips and General Electric, are already putting “lighting facts” labels on at least a few bulbs, even though new labeling requirements do not take effect until January.

The new packaging will describe the new bulbs by their lumens, the measure of light produced. But don't be discouraged, the package will also describe the bulb in "watt equivalents".

Does this mean I have to go out and buy all new bulbs? 

No but it does mean you will have to do a little more shopping and comparing to get what you want. Remember these new bulbs will be energy savers and have a working life, longer than maybe the fixture they are in.

So don't panic, like every government program to help us, this one will also take years to phase in. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you finally go bulb shopping.

  • When you feel like you want to stick a toe into the waters of these new bulbs, just wade in. If you don't want them you still will be able to buy the old reliable one for many years to come. As we wait for the new bulbs to pop up in stores you will see many commercials and magazine articles touting their effectiveness. You will be shown what types of bulbs work best for what lamps you have in your home. So only replace bulbs as needed and when you understand what you are purchasing.
  • At first the new bulbs will be sold only by your usual bulb manufactures like GE, Sylvania, and others. Stick with these because we will be seeing cheap overseas knockoffs coming soon.
  • Consult sources like, energysavers.govand, which offers a video tutorial on the new law.
  • Try the new bulbs in different lamps and fixtures in your home to see which work best in that location.
  • Remember these new bulbs are going to save you money in the long run.

I remember when  the compact florescent bulbs came out years ago. They were very expensive and didn't shine a very attractive light. But the price eventually came down and the quality came up. This will also happen with the new lights coming. In the long run, we will have better and longer lasting bulbs

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