Is This The End Of The Incandescent Light Bulb?
The news and rumors continue to spread about the government mandate to do away with incandescent light bulbs in lieu of other light bulbs that are far more efficient. For many people this is seen as an assault on their personal freedom of choice and how dare anyone dictate how we can light our houses and businesses. The reality is that it is not as far-reaching as most rumors have it. This change was actually put into law in 2007 and signed by President Bush, and if one considers the facts instead of the assault, it really is a good thing.
The 2007 Energy Bill, officially named the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, includes a mandate that incandescent lights bulbs of 40 through 100 watts be made more efficient by approximately 30%, requiring a reduction in wattage while maintaining lumens levels, a measure of the bulb’s produced light brightness. The law requires the change to take place by July 2012 with the elimination of the traditional 100W incandescent bulbs, then 75W bulbs by 2013, and finally 40W and 60W bulbs by 2014. Most specialty and decorative lighting sources are not regulated and will continue to be sold. There are many other provisions impacting fluorescent lights, ballasts, and other commercial lighting needs, but for this discussion, we will only cover the typical residential needs.
It is worth noting while these changes will require some adjustments, the mandates in the United States are far less severe than implemented in other countries and the timeframe also lags by several years when compared to other countries.
In addition to the elimination of our traditional light bulbs, this law will change to our way of how we think of light bulbs. For most people, we select a light bulb upon the wattage, selecting a value that represents what we perceive as the desired amount of light, 60W versus 75W for instance. In fact, the wattage of a light source is only the amount of energy consumed to produce the light. Lumens, on the other hand, is a metric that reflects how much light is produced by the light source. A more efficient light source requires fewer watts to produce the same lumens. As the industry replaces incandescents with hybrid bulbs, compact fluorescents (CFL’s), and even LED lights, the consumer is going to need to focus on the lumens and not on the wattage.
If this is the first you are hearing of this law and you are shocked and looking around your house wondering what you are going to use in your chandeliers, decorative fixtures, and other unique locations, remember that the law does not affect bulbs of more than 100W nor bulbs less than 40W, and many other specialty bulbs. Also, manufacturers like General Electric are working diligently to put alternate solutions out to the market. Another benefit of the newer bulbs is their extended expected life. The LED light source does not have anything to “burn out” so theoretically it can last forever. Its expected life is being calculated to a point that it may produce 70% of its initial lumens. Currently, it is anticipated that this may be 20 to 25 years for each “bulb”. How great to consume a small percentage of the energy to light a space and not have to change the “bulb” for 25 years.
There of course are a number of downsides to this law. Outside of just resisting a mandated change, any change in light source will produce a noticeable change in how things are lit and how the light source physically looks. The typical CFL takes time to reach its full brightness, and this is hard to accept from a population that thinks of a slow computer in terms of fractions of a second. A CFL also looks funny and for all the color ranges sold, will never be the same color as the 75W bulb that it replaced. LED light sources are fantastic for their efficiency and while they don’t “waste” light by creating a larger cone of light, we have come to expect that cone of light and space out light sources with that in mind. LED’s are more of a directional source and may not efficiently light a room without many more LED’s in place.
Cost is also a concern. Sure, a new light source may last 50% longer, but that replacement might cost 50% more. So where is the savings? First you saved at least 30% the energy to light the same area. Because the bulb lasted longer you need fewer of them. If you do the math, we may actually spend less on the new bulbs when you consider the cost and number of bulbs required, and that doesn’t consider at all the time spent to get the bulbs nor the time and effort to change them. Unfortunately until we become accustomed to these new bulbs, we may find ourselves concentrating on the increased cost when we go to buy that replacement bulb. LED’s, as mentioned, are not a bulb in the sense of how we think of light bulbs. Replacement could be something significantly different and will likely cost 20 or 30 times as much. But again, you saved the cost of 10 to 15 new bulbs and the labor to make the change and you saved well over 50% of the energy along the way. Ultimately, this will probably represent a significant savings.
Yes this law will take some personal adjustment. For all the talk about reducing our demand for foreign oil, this law is actually a significant move in that direction. There is a debate in Congress to repeal portions of this law. Hopefully that will not happen. There is already debate on how to make the law more stringent and follow the lead of so many other countries and California. As long as the manufacturers can keep producing complying product, it will continue to be good changes.
For more details about the 2007 Energy Bill and what your choices will be, including how much you can expect to save, visit http://www.gelighting.com/na/home_lighting/products/2012_energy_legislation/ and http://www.geconsumerandindustrial.com/environmentalinfo/regulations_resources/