Light-Bulb Wars

August 4th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

The debate over the phase-out of 100-watt bulbs rages on.

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The Responsibility Project

Did you know about the impending phase-out of 100-watt incandescent bulbs? By January 1, 2012, they will be banned across the United States. As of the beginning of this year, the state of California has prohibited selling 100-watt bulbs produced before December 31, 2010.

Republican legislators were so fired up about the forthcoming ban that they sought to repeal the 2007 act that put it in place through a new piece of legislation known as the BULB Act – the so-called Better Use of Light Bulbs Act of 2011. And though the BULB Act was defeated a few weeks ago – 233-193 under House rules that required a supermajority to succeed – the battle, as well as the phase-out, soldiers on.  

As part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, most traditional bulbs will be banned by 2014. This will leave us with halogens, which use 72 watts to produce the same amount of light; compact fluorescent bulbs (or CFL), which use 23 watts; or LED (light-emitting diode), which aren’t yet widely available.

The California Energy Commission predicts the state’s phase-out of 100-watt bulbs will eliminate the sale of 0.5 million 100-watt bulbs a year and save consumers $35.6 million in energy bills. The federal government is hoping the key to acceptance is changing the way people think about energy-efficient bulbs, according to this article.  This means a rollout this summer of new labels for the bulbs – like those on packaged foods – with lumens, a measure of brightness, being the number to look for. Instead of 100-watt bulbs, you might look for a 1500-lumen bulb instead. And while early fluorescent users complained of bluish light, you can look for the number 2700K to match the warmth of a traditional incandescent.

Some are speculating that the looming ban – like phase-outs in Europe and Australia – will have consumers hoarding their 100-watt bulbs, or even create a black market for the retro bulbs.

Did you know about the phase-out? And if so, are you planning on hoarding your 100-watt bulbs, Elaine Benes-style, in a closet? Or will you be an early adopter of the energy savers? Weigh in here.

(A portion of this story was previously published as “Changing Light” on The Responsibility Project on 1/27/10)