SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 24, 2013

40-60 watt bulbs, done


Light’s out on the old 40-, 60-watt bulbs Jan. 1

By Susan Salisbury THE PALM BEACH (FLA.) POST

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A familiar household staple — the 60-watt incandescent bulb, along with the 40-watt — is being phased out and soon will be as obsolete as the rotary-dial telephone.

It’s been 134 years since Thomas Edison’s invention changed the way people live. Actually, he did not really invent the light bulb from scratch, but improved upon a 50-year-old idea. Now, its time is up because newer, more energy-efficient bulbs such as light-emitting diodes — LEDs

— and compact fluorescent lights — CFLs — are replacing the old standard.

Jan. 1 will mark the final stage of the federal government’s mandatory phase-out of the energy-guzzling incandescent bulb. There are a few types of incandescents that are exempt and will remain available, such as the three-way bulb, appliance bulbs, grow lights, black lights, yellow bug lights and infrared lamps.

But in just a couple of weeks it will become illegal for the typical 40-and 60-watt bulbs to be imported or manufactured. The 100-watt pear-shaped bulb was phased out in 2012, and this year the 75-watt bulb followed suit.

If you’ve hoarded the old-style bulbs, and plan to rush out and buy more before the stores run out, that might work as a temporary measure. But the day probably will come when you have to learn about the newer bulbs and actually purchase some. The good news is you’ll save energy in the long run by making the switch.

Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average home’s electric bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

While the “twisty” CFLs are cheaper than LEDs, they have not been well-received by consumers due to the cool blue light they emit, according to published reports. The CFLs contain mercury and should be recycled, not just thrown in the trash.

If a CFL breaks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advises following detailed cleanup instructions to minimize mercury exposure. The first step is to have people and pets leave the room, then to air out the room before proceeding.

LEDs are coming down in price. Until recently, they cost $30 or more, but now start in the $10 to $12 range for a bulb to replace the 60-watt incandescent.

“The LEDs will last. A lot of them last up to 25 years. They are costing more initially, but you are going to get an immediate savings,” said Rita Haynes, electrical department supervisor at the Home Depot in Royal Palm Beach, Fla.

“There are LEDs to replace any kind of bulb in your house — high hats, lamps, even chandeliers,” Haynes said. “If you went out today and replaced every bulb in your house with an LED, you will see a vast difference on your next month’s electric bill.”

The LEDs use 85 percent less energy than the incandescents, she said.

“There is still a little bit of bulb hoarding. People like to stay with what they are familiar with. Educating the older population is really the hardest, until you can explain the savings to them,” Haynes said.

LEDs also help save energy because they do not give off heat like the incandescents do, so there’s the potential to reduce your air conditioning bill, Haynes said.

“We have a whole display showing you the lighting that CFLs and LEDs offer. You can see and touch and feel. It’s not just bulbs on the shelf,” Haynes said.

There’s also plenty of information on each box’s Lighting Facts label. For example, if you have dimmers in your home, make sure you buy bulbs that work with those. Make sure you buy the bulb the fixture requires.

Christmas LED lights have been a popular seller, Hayne said. If you’ve ever had a problem with multiple strings of lights tripping a breaker, that is unlikely to happen with the energy-pinching LEDs.

  • “People like to decorate for the holidays. Even though the LED is still new technology and it is a little more pricey, the savings is phenomenal,” Haynes said.
  • An equivalent to the 60-watt bulb, the 9.5-watt LED made by Durham, N.C.-based Cree, sells for $12.97 or $77.82 for a six-pack.

Other brands on the market include EcoSmart, Wal-Mart’s Great Value, Philips and Sylvania.

Consumer Reports says in its January issue that no matter which bulb you buy, keep in mind the following that’s also on each package:

Lumens indicate brightness. Think lumens, not watts, when selecting a bulb. If you’re replacing a 60-watt bulb, look for an LED with at least 800 lumens. Buy a bulb with 1,100 lumens to replace a 75-watt bulb, and replace a 100-watt bulb with one with at least 1,600 lumens.

  • The Kelvin number is crucial. For the warm light of an incandescent, look for bulb that’s 2700K or so. If you want bright white light, look for 3000K. If you want bright white light, such as for working in the kitchen, buy a bulb in the 3500 to 4100K range.

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