Hey California, say farewell to your traditional incandescent light bulbs
Here’s a primer on the new rules that will banish them from stores shelves before long
They date back to the time of Thomas Edison. They’ve provided decades and decades of warm bright light to our homes and workplaces. And they’re about go bye-bye.
On Jan. 1, 2018, the humble everyday incandescent light bulb will reach a milestone in its long and steady fade into our collective memory. Under environmental regulations that take effect that day, the bulbs burn too much energy to be sold in California; stores will be able to exhaust current supplies, but they will eventually run out. For consumers, that means choosing among more efficient bulbs that use no more than 72 watts, including halogen incandescents, compact fluorescents and light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs.
This is not the first time the state has focused its regulatory glare on what have been the primary bulbs in many homes for more than a century. Check out this Associated Press story lede from January 2011: “Beginning Jan. 1, the state began phasing out certain energy-sucking bulbs, federal standards the rest of the country will enact next year.”
In other words, it’s deja vu all over again.
“We still have a few incandescent bulbs, but they’re being phased out,” said Dave Butts, a customer service rep at Richert Lumber, an Ace Hardware outlet in Pleasanton. “The LEDs are so much better these days and people have gotten so used to them that the incandescents were going to go away anyway,” regardless of any government regulation. Plus, said Butts, “they are also more expensive than the more energy-efficient LEDs, which use a fraction of the energy the traditional bulbs were using. So that means a lower PG&E bill, too.”
Butts said that when LED bulbs first started selling a few years back, many people found their light too bright and too harsh. “They were fine for a workshop or an operating room,” he said, ”but not for reading a book.” But over time, the LEDs have found more acceptance, especially as manufacturers began producing the so-called ”soft white” versions. “You can still buy the super-bright ones,” said Butts, “but you also have that other option with the warmer, softer light.”
While the California Energy Commission’s website can be fairly user-unfriendly and tough to navigate, consumer-advocacy groups like the San Francisco-based Natural Resources Defense Council have stepped in to help guide you through your next bulb-buying binge:
What’s going on here?
As part of the 2007 national energy bill passed by Congress with bipartisan support and signed into law by President George W. Bush, energy efficiency standards were established for new light bulbs that ensured a smooth and gradual national transition to energy-saving bulbs. California’s regulations make the transition happen a little faster.
Why are the old incandescent bulbs going away?
Those common, screw-based light bulbs must meet a minimum energy efficiency level that’s three times more efficient than the old incandescent bulbs as of Jan. 1 in California (and nationally as of 2020). No incandescent or halogen bulb on the market comes close to meeting that level.
So then what?
California consumers will be choosing between energy-saving CFL and LED light bulbs in California stores as of Jan. 1.
Will the bulbs vanish from shelves overnight?
No. Retailers will be allowed to sell what they’ve got left, but then they must stock those shelves with the bulbs that meet the state’s new and tougher environmental standards. The people making and selling light bulbs have known about this coming change for more than ten years now and they’ve responded to the challenge by offering a complete suite of new energy-saving light bulbs that meet the new standards. They’re also winding down their manufacture of incandescents.
Is this a good thing for California consumers?
Do the math: With around 250 million sockets in California that still contain inefficient bulbs, the savings should really add up, says the NRDC. “Once all of these sockets switch over to a more efficient alternative – CFL or LED light bulbs – California consumers and businesses will save an estimated $1 billion every year on their electric bills.”
Which bulbs are covered?
The standards apply to most medium screw-based bulbs used in our homes and businesses, including the ubiquitous pear-shaped bulbs used in table and floor lamps, the globe or round bulbs of more than 40 watts used in bathroom vanities, and the candle-shaped lamps of more than 40 watts used in chandeliers and sconces.
Will it be easy to find replacements?
A wide assortment of energy-saving LED bulbs in every shape and light output level already can be found on the shelves of leading retailers across the state. These bulbs are from well-known lighting companies such as Philips, GE, and Sylvania as well as newer companies that specialize in efficient lighting such as Cree, TCP, Feit, and Maxlite. California’s light bulb regulations currently exempt some types of bulbs, such as those used in ovens.
Finally, the first LED bulbs were a turn-off to many consumers because of their harsh bright light. What now?
LED bulbs are as bright as the inefficient bulbs they replace, says the NRDC, “and provide the additional benefits of lasting up to 25 years under normal operation of three hours per day. Most LEDs are also dimmable, and some of the newer LEDs can even be controlled remotely through a cell phone app. LEDs are so efficient that they use roughly 80 percent less energy than the equivalent incandescent.”
REF: The Mercury News
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