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February 13, 2013

R.I.P. Incandescent Light Bulbs: 1879-2013

Have you replaced all your incandescent light bulbs with CFLs yet?  I haven’t, but I have made a start replacing the bulbs as they have burned out.  My guess is that I have about one half of my lighting by CFLs now with more to come.  My conclusion is that CFLs serve the purpose but they flat do not put out the same amount of light even though I am saving energy.  They are terrible for reading, at least in my opinion.  A good old 150 or 200 watt incandescent cannot be beat.
As of the first of the year, the manufacture and sale of 75-watt incandescents is against the law.  That ban happened to 100-watt bulbs last year.  Next year, 60 and 40-watt bulbs go on the no-no list.  All of that is due to the controversial Energy Independence and Security Act (ESIA) of 2007.  The Act does not ban the actual use or purchase of these bulbs, just their manufacture and sale.  As a result, it is hard to find a 100 watt bulb these days.  The same for 75 and 60 watters.  In fact most incandescents are in short supply.  Several key light bulb factories in the U.S. have closed as a result.  The whole idea is to force us all to save energy buy using more expensive CFL and LED bulbs.  Watch out for the light bulb police.
I had a couple of recessed kitchen floods go out recently.  I really had to shop around for some of these.  It took three stops before I found what I needed in a Home Depot.  I paid just under $10 for a package of three 65-watt floods.  The LED equivalents were $27 a pop.  That make me wonder if light bulb manufacturers are cutting down on all bulbs, banned or not.  I wonder when the light bulb smuggling and black market will begin?
One thing I did notice during bulb shopping was the increase in the number of halogen bulbs.  These are incandescents but with the halogen gas they put out more lumens per watt than your basic incandescent.  These are the legal incandescents.  For example, the legal 72-watt halogen puts out the same lumens as an old style 100 watter.  This is a good interim choice if you are still an incandescent lover.
I think the big question for the home owner is: Am I really saving money?  Probably not.  According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the Department of Energy, residential lighting represents only 9 to 13% of total electrical power usage.  Most electrical energy goes to refrigerators, air conditioning, water heaters, and other appliances.  So if you replace all your bulbs with CFLs or LEDs you are only saving a fraction of your total electrical bill.  Offset that with the higher cost of these high tech bulbs and you may break even.  Since the newer bulbs last much longer, you may eventually come out ahead financially, but you won’t actually feel any difference in the meantime.  Is this saving energy?  Yes, but is a small percentage per home.  But it does add up if others are doing the same.
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