Many of you already know about the apparent future of incandescent light bulbs in the United States. With the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, they will start being phased out starting in January 2012 to make way for more energy efficient CFLs and LEDs. While there will be exemptions such as light bulbs under 40 watts or more than 150 watts and several classes of specialty lights, including appliance lamps, “rough service” bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, and plant lights, our mainstay 60, 75 and 100w bulbs will begin to disappear. Saving energy is a very noble idea and replacing incandescent bulbs with other, more efficient types will certainly help achieve this goal, but the way the Act was conceived and written and, ultimately, signed into law, it has several deficiencies.

To start, many incandescent light bulbs are used with light dimmers – I have several in my home. Most times, these bulbs are not at full brightness, either for “mood” lighting or because the full lumens output just isn’t needed. I know that solid-state dimmers also use some power, but the combination of a dimmer with a less-than-maximum-output bulb uses less power than a non-dimmed bulb.

Another reason incandescent bulbs are used in many applications is the aesthetic value of the shape of the bulb, the color and translucency of the glass, and its receptacle. While not contributing to energy efficiency, attractive specialty bulbs do add to the look of their surroundings, a fact that my decorator wife often brings up. Unfortunately, CFLs and LEDs often do not fit into existing light fixtures, especially some of the fancy lamps and wall sconces.

While ultra-bright LED lighting technology is still evolving, CFLs are now considered a mature lighting product. Much more efficient than incandescent bulbs, CFLs have two problems – they are not easily dimmed and they contain mercury vapor, which requires special disposal methods for old CFLs and special clean-up for broken bulbs. Clean-up instructions for a broken CFL are relatively elaborate, including airing out the room in which the bulb was broken after people and pets have left, shutting down circulating air systems during the airing-out period, and placing the materials gathered during cleanup in a sealable container for proper disposal. The available dimming controls for CFLs and LEDs are also considerably more expensive than their incandescent dimming counterparts (two-to-three times higher).

Finally, while a national act to conserve energy through control of lighting technology is laudable, there is the ever-present issue of how much the federal government should interfere with a state’s rights to control what transpires within its boundaries as it affects a consumer’s purchase and use of products.

So – a national “which light bulb to use” policy is on its way. Be prepared to pay more for the bulbs and lighting controls and be a little less satisfied with the results. Who knows – incandescent bulbs might be the “in” holiday gift this year.

Posted by admin, filed under Uncategorized. Date: November 29, 2011, 6:38 pm | 6 Comments »

6 Responses

  1. Greg Says:

    One striking omission from this story is the alternative of Halogen bulbs that: 1) meet then new efficiency law, 2) are ‘incandescent’ just like traditional bulbs, 3) are just as dimmable, 4) cost only pennies more, 5) have no mercury, etc. This past couple of months I’ve seen over a dozen new varieties of Halogens at Home Depot, so the new law seems to be already having a positive effect. You might also note for your readers that:

    – Dimming to, say, half the brightness only saves about a quarter of the energy.

    – Even though CFLs have mercury in them, their efficiency save five times that much mercury (from coal burning) release back at the power plant.

    – States Rights are great. Like the new Texas law that allows any Texas bulb manufacturers to continue making&selling in Texas … but OMG there AREN’T any bulb manufacturers in Texas. :-)

  2. Dim View of a Bright Thought | Residential Lighting Systems Says:

    [...] Dim View of a Bright Thought Posted on December 4, 2011 by admin // Dim View of a Bright Idea Clean-up directions for a broken CFL are relatively elaborate, including airing out the space in which the bulb was broken soon after men and women and pets have left, shutting down circulating air systems in the course of the airing-out period, and placing the materials … Read much more on Chip Design Magazine [...]

  3. lighthouse Says:

    RE Greg,
    good points about the Halogens,
    but the touted Halogen type replacements will also be banned on the progressive regulations to 45 lumen per watt in a couple of years
    Besides, they have light quality etc differences as well as costing more for marginal savings, which is why neither politicians or consumers like them (ever see any Halogen instead of CFL programs?)

    Apart from affecting people’s product choice,
    the actual switchover savings are not that great anyway =
    less than 1% of overall energy use, and 1-2% grid electricity is saved,
    as shown by USA Dept of Energy, EU statistics and other official information
    with alternative and more meaningful ways to save energy in
    generation, grid distribution or consumption.

    Light bulbs don’t burn coal or release CO2.
    Power plants might.
    If there’s a problem – deal with the problem,
    rather than a token ban on simple safe light bulbs,
    light bulbs that people obviously like to use
    (or there would not be a “need” to ban them!)

  4. lighthouse Says:

    re Greg Coal / CFL mercury,
    The incandescent causing more release from coal plant argument keeps doing the rounds,
    but USA EPA administration themselves are not now pursuing that
    argument (whatever about old diagrams floating around), following the
    90% mercury emission reduction mandate under Lisa Jackson.

    It never was true anyway, for the extensive referenced reasons here:
    (Of course, to the user, a broken bulb in the home is a likely greater
    worry than a distant chimney emission release anyway, again with
    reference to EPA in their clean-up mandates)

  5. lighthouse Says:

    For anyone interested in following what happens,
    USA and Canada regulation news (ban in Canada now put back to 2014!),
    and updates on 7 US states state repeal bills (legislated Texas though as Greg says, indeed no manufacturing)

  6. ALICE Says:

    Get rid of CLF’s and incandescents. I am making the switch to LED lighting. I recommend the Philips A19 12.5 WATT that is on sale for $20 after a $10 rebate. They also have a smooth dimmable feature. Check them out on

Leave a Comment

Your comment

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.