Have you gone shopping for light bulbs in the last three or four days? If you have, you’ve discovered that finding old favorite incandescent bulbs is nearly impossible. That’s because January 1, 2014 began the phase out of standard 40 and 60-watt bulbs…you know the kind we’ve all used for centuries and that Thomas Edison invented?
Why the change? It’s all part of the federal government’s new lighting standards that were part of 2007’s Energy Independence and Security Act. Step one was enacted in 2012 when 100-watt bulbs were eliminated, followed by their 75-watt cousins. Basically it means familiar, general-service bulbs can no longer be made in or imported into the U.S. Incandescent bulbs are not banned, so to speak, but they are required to be more energy-efficient. Some incandescents are even exempt from the new legislation, including three-way bulbs and narrow candelabra-based bulbs. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like any of the “new” bulbs and I’ve stocked up on my favorite “vintage” bulbs.
Still, sometimes you can’t fight change. Our options now are either fluorescent, LED, or halogen bulbs. It all gets very confusing, so here’s the skinny on each:
Incandescent, CFL, LED bulbs
Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, last long, are energy efficient and relatively inexpensive, but they have features man people don’t like. First of all, they contain mercury, raising concerns about breakage and disposal; they are ugly (squiggly just doesn’t cut it!); they take forever to light up; they cast an unflattering and harsh light; and they don’t fit clip-on shades.
LED bulbs work through light-emitting diodes. They last for decades, use even less energy than CFLs, but can be fairly expensive. If you have high ceilings and dread light bulbs going out though, find one of these you can live with.
Halogen bulbs are most like incandescent faves but they don’t save as much energy or last as long as CFLs and LEDs. They are your best bet if you’re really fighting the change.
All this was enacted to reduce the amount of energy needed to power American homes and businesses. They’ve done that, but in the meantime consumers are confused and unhappy. Buying a light bulb today often requires more time, more attention, and more money.
It’s not surprising then that consumers have overwhelmingly rejected the new bulbs. Nationwide, incandescent and halogen bulbs still accounted for roughly 75 percent of sales in 2013. Buyers don’t like the confusing varieties and they certainly don’t like spending $30 for a light bulb, like some LEDs can cost, which is probably why they account for a measly 1 percent of bulbs in American homes.
So, what should you do and what bulb should you chose? Consider these tips:
Read the Lighting Facts label that is on every package of light bulbs. It looks a lot like Nutrition Facts labels on food items and will give you the information you can use to compare different bulbs. Also read all packaging to determine if the bulbs are dimmable, can be used outdoors, fit an enclosed fixture, and other specific uses you might be in need of. The days of just buying one style of light bulb and using it everywhere are long gone. Different bulbs today have different uses.
Be familiar with all the new lighting lingo like “lumens” and “Kelvins.”
Lumens basically means the bulb’s brightness. Here’s a comparison to incandescent bulbs:
450 lumens = 40 watts
800 lumens = 60 watts
1,100 lumens = 75-watts
1,600 lumens = 100 watts.
“Kelvin” is the scale used to measure the color temperature. You prefer the warm style of lighting incandescents offer, look for a color temperature of 2,700 Kelvin. The higher the Kelvin number, the cooler…and whiter…the light will be.
It’s also recommended that you look for the Energy Star logo when buying CFL or LED bulbs. This stamp indicates they meet certain quality standards and are backed by warranties.
I know it’s all for the good and that energy savings is vital in today’s ever expanding populous world, but I’m still hoping for a light at the end of this tunnel that’s much more like my favorite 60-watters.