Up until now, a 2007 federal law tightening energy efficiency standards in the country has stayed mostly under the radar. But on New Year’s Day it became illegal to manufacture or import the most popular light bulbs in the country — the 40 and 60 watt incandescent light bulbs perfected more than a century ago by Thomas Edison.
When stores sell out of their current stock of incandescent light bulbs, consumers will be forced to make the switch to LED, CFL or halogen. A previous phase in the law already put a halt to the manufacture or importation of the 75 and 100 watt models.
What’s a consumer to do?
We asked St. Louis lighting and energy professionals to help decipher the options and explain the reasoning behind the change.
In-studio guests included:
- Randy Burkett, president and design principal of Randy Burkett Lighting Design and an adjunct faculty instructor at Washington University’s Graduate School of Architecture
- Gary Behm, president of St. Louis Antique Lighting Company and an historic lighting consultant
Call-in guests included:
- Nick Lovier, energy efficiency adviser with Ameren Illinois. Missouri and Illinois customers of Ameren can find out information about Act on Energy and energy audits, here.
- Craig Cook, owner of Jefferson County LED manufacturer New Future Energy
We received a lot of of questions and comments from listeners during the show, and from sources in the St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon’s Public Insight Network.
Here’s an overview of the most common questions, with responses from our guests.
What are the cost savings?
- If all of the 60-watt bulbs in the country are replaced with 15 watt CFLs (same amount of light, a quarter of the energy) the country will net a savings of $250 billion within 20 years, Gary Behm said.
- On the individual level, changing a single incandescent light bulb to a CFL nets a savings of $40 over the lifespan of the bulb, Nick Lovier said. That’s $6 per light bulb per year, for an average savings of $180 per household each year.
What should consumers buy now?
- Initially, most consumers will buy CFLs because they’re cheaper and there aren’t enough LEDs on the market, but eventually LEDs will become the primary bulb to buy, Randy Burkett said. (They’re even more energy efficient than CFLs).
I’ve heard that CFLs are dangerous because they have mercury in them. Is that true?
- They do have mercury, but only in small amounts nowadays, making the danger negligible, according to Gary Behm.
What in the world are “lumens?”
- “Lumen has to do with output of a source,” Randy Burkett said. “The old 100 watt incandescent lamps had about 18 lumens, for example. So you ought to look at the lumen outputs and compare them with the old incandescent lamps you were using." More information about this, here.
How do the lifespans of CFLs and LEDs compare to incandescent bulbs?
- An LED light bulb lasts 25 times as long, and a CFL lasts 10 times as long, according to the Department of Energy FAQ.
What about other incandescent light bulbs? Are they outlawed too?
- Specialty bulbs such as refrigerator bulbs, chandelier bulbs and three-way bulbs as well as the bulbs for antique lamps are not outlawed, Burkett and Behm said.