Here’s a question we hear in our Portland store about three times a week: Are light bulbs going away?
The answer is Sort of.
Back in 2007, the Energy and Security Act was passed. Its stated goal was
To move the United States toward greater energy independence and security, to increase the production of clean renewable fuels, to protect consumers, to increase the efficiency of products, buildings, and vehicles, to promote research on and deploy greenhouse gas capture and storage options, and to improve the energy performance of the Federal Government, and for other purposes.
But really, its secret goal was to confuse us about what was going to happen to our incandescent light bulbs.
When you turn an incandescent light bulb on, a current runs through the filament, heating it to the point of producing light. Almost 90% of the energy consumed by these bulbs is lost as heat. (That’s why the Easy Bake Oven you had as a kid could cook a cake-like substance using just a bulb!)
While the Energy Act doesn’t explicitly ban incandescent bulbs, it does place restrictions on how much energy a bulb can consume to produce a certain amount of light. Unfortunately, incandescent bulbs can’t really be any more efficient.
Does this mean you have to change out all your light fixtures that take incandescent bulbs? No way. The screw-in base most bulbs use isn’t inefficient on its own. You’ll be able to buy screw-in bulbs for the next hundred years.
The thing to remember is that this is not a blanket ban. You’ll still be able to find lots and lots of incandescent bulbs, including:
- candelabra base bulbs
- globe bulbs
- flame-shaped bulbs
- three-way bulbs
- appliance bulbs
- antique style reproduction bulbs
What you won’t be able to buy is the bulb we use in 75% of our light fixtures: our friend the A19, seen at the right.
You may remember in an earlier post of mine, I talked about how every lightbulb has a letter and number assigned to it. The letter identifies the shape, and the number identifies the size. The A19 is what we think of when we think “light bulb,” and you probably have dozens in your home right now.
The A19 will be phased out starting with the 100W in 2012. By 2014, 100w to 40W will no longer be available. Bulbs higher than 100W and lower than 40W will still be on the market, as will specialty bulbs in that range like the ones I mentioned above.
The hope is that we will switch to considerably more efficient options like CFLs and LED bulbs. I’m excited about the change, because as people buy more and more energy efficient bulbs, those bulbs will continue improving. Today CFLs are worlds better than they were even five years ago, with superior quality of light and start-up time.
As Jan mentioned in my earlier post, CFLs do contain a small amount of mercury, and have to be disposed of properly. (Some studies estimate that only 25% of CFLs are!) To find out where you can take your light bulbs for recylcing or disposal, visit lamprecycle.org . I’m always shocked by how few people know about this, so if you take a moment to be evangelical about this website resource to your friends and neighbors, you’ll earn serious brownie points with me.
If you’re in the Portland or Seattle (and soon in Los Angeles) area, you can bring your CFLs in to us for disposal, even if you didn’t originally purchase them from us.
Ultimately, don’t fear the bulb ban! When incandescent bulbs were invented over a hundred years ago, overconsumption of energy wasn’t on anyone’s mind. Nowadays it’s not only best for the planet, but best for your wallet. (We saved roughly $1,000 a month in energy costs after switching the lightbulbs in our Portland store to CFLs!) Think about your lighting needs, pick a smart alternative, and you’ll be juuuuuust fine.