By now, most of you have probably heard about the incandescent light bulb phase-out starting this year (likely as a result of the ridiculous partisan political bickering about the lighting legislation in the count-down to the end of 2011). However, a quick survey of your friends will reveal that few of us actually understand what it entails. The law is merely a way to encourage consumers to purchase more energy-efficient light bulbs – such as LEDs – that will save money and energy, both resources that we could all use more of at the moment. If you’re still unclear about what the incandescent phase-out means in terms of what kinds of light bulbs you’ll be able to find at stores in the coming years, or how you can switch to LED light bulbs while still maintaining the same quality and quantity of light supplied by your old incandescents, read on as we spell it out for you in our easy guide. And though we will be seeing less and less of Thomas Edison‘s most famous invention over the next few years, we think that even Mr. Edison would be swapping his incandescent bulbs for LEDs if he were alive today!
NOT A BAN – A PHASE-OUT
Despite what some Republicans have been claiming, the Energy Independence and Security Act does not ban incandescent light bulbs. Instead, it mandates that new light bulbs sold in stores be at least 25% more efficient than current models, and have labels on the front and back of packages to explain their brightness, annual operating costs and expected life span. Yes, that does mean that many incandescents will not make the cut as the energy standards get more stringent, but the legislation will give a huge boost to the U.S.’s energy efficiency and cut strain on our national grid.
THE PHASE-OUT TIMELINE FOR THE COMMON INCANDESCENT BULB
It’s called a phase-out for a reason. Only 100-watt incandescent bulbs will be cleared off of store shelves in 2012 (If these bulbs remain unsold, they can remain on shelves but retailers will not be able to restock/re-order these types of bulbs.) Then in 2013, the phase-out will apply to 75-watt incandescent bulbs and finally in 2014, the 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent bulbs will phased out. Other incandescent bulbs, like candles, decorative and reflector bulbs will also be affected.
IF YOU WANT TO KEEP USING INCANDESCENTS, YOU CAN
If, for some reason, you love using energy-guzzling incandescent bulbs and want to continue using them, no law is going to stop you. In other words, no lighting police is going to come to your home and check in on what kind of bulbs you’re using. You’ll have a harder time finding incandescent bulbs in stores as time goes on and you’ll be wasting money and energy (traditional incandescent bulbs lose 90% of their energy as heat rather than light), but if you prefer to use incandescents and rack up a crazy energy bill, you will still be able find the energy-guzzlers in select stores for years into the future.
Infographic by Jill Fehrenbacher
If that last point hit close to home for you, you’re not alone. Many people are under the (false) impression that energy-efficient bulbs cast a “sickly” glow and just don’t have a warm ambiance. That might have been true in the past with certain types of compact fluorescent bulbs (which often have a greenish hue), but nowadays, there are many new high tech options for LED light bulbs that successfully mimic the brightness, amber color temperature and warm “feel” of your favorite filament bulb. Flip to the next page to see our recommendations on how to find the perfect LED replacement bulbs for your specific home lighting needs.
Lead image light bulb pic from Shutterstock