Incandescent bulbs getting phased out

Jay Brown is squirreling away light bulbs.

He has stashed about 200 100- and 60-watt standard incandescent bulbs in his basement and a storage facility he uses for work.

It won’t be long before he’ll no longer be able to buy them in any store.

A law passed by Congress in 2007 – the Energy Independence and Security Act – requires bulb manufacturers to stop producing or importing standard incandescent light bulbs in their current state. Most household bulbs must use 27 percent less energy to create the same amount of light.

On Jan. 1, 2012, 100-watt incandescent light bulbs were no longer legally manufactured or imported. On Jan. 1, 2013, the 75-watt light bulb will stop being manufactured, and in 2014 the 60- and 40-watt bulbs will be phased out.

Consumers can still purchase these bulbs until supplies run out.

“(The law) didn’t outlaw the incandescent bulbs. It set efficiency standards the current incandescent doesn’t meet,” said Brent Smith, the owner of Southern Lighting Gallery on Bobby Jones Expressway.

The technology that powers incandescent bulbs is more than 100 years old and produces 45 percent heat and 5 percent light, Smith said.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are the most popular replacement option and now the standard in the building industry, but many people don’t like them as much, he said.

For one thing, they cost more. A two-pack of 75-watt incandescent bulbs was listed for $3.78 on lowes.com on Wednesday, while a two-pack of 23-watt CFL (which puts out the same amount of light as a 100-watt incandescent bulb) cost $10.61. But the energy efficiency and longer lifespan allow the CFL to pay for itself over time, Smith said.

That might not be enough to win a popularity contest. CFLs take longer to fully light a room and don’t dim as easily as incandescents.

“A lot of people don’t like the looks of the spiral bulb,” Smith said.

He has stockpiled more than 10,000 100-watt incandescent bulbs and will probably stockpile other wattages. He expects that as the more popular 75- and 60-watt incandescents begin disappearing from store shelves over the next two years, customers will come to his store looking for them.

Smith said the phasing out of incandescents does have an effect on how he is able to serve his customers. Many lighting options show the bulb itself, so hiding the less aesthetically-pleasing CFL presents a challenge in designing customers’ lighting plans.

Some consumers are also concerned about the mercury CFL bulbs contain. It’s only a trace amount and no mercury will be released as long as the bulb remains intact, but because it does contain mercury, CFL bulbs should be recycled properly.

Brown said he doesn’t believe switching bulbs will save that much money over the long term.

Though he acknowledged that there are some pros to using CFLs – they last longer, use less energy and are cooler – he’s just not a fan.

He really doesn’t like feeling as though his lighting options are restricted by the government.

“Eventually I’m not going to have a choice, but I’ll fight it as long as I can,” he said. “I’m not completely against (CFLs). I just don’t like being told I have to use them,” he said.

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