By Carol Bronson
A phase-out of the familiar incandescent light bulbs, announced by the United States Department of Energy in 2012, is now complete. As of Jan. 1, the two most popular sizes, 40 and 60 watts, are no longer being produced, following 100- and 75-watt bulbs into obsolescence.
It's still possible to buy the 40- and 60-watt incandescents, as long as the supply lasts. Anyone who wants to stock up before they're gone, however, may find it's too late.
A survey of light bulb sections in local stores reveals a selection of halogen, CFL (compact fluorescent lamps) and LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs, in various shapes, wattages and prices. One store had some 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs at a closeout price.
The incandescent bulb, patented by Thomas Edison in 1879 and 1880, uses 90 percent of its energy to produce heat, not light. The new standards require at least a 25 percent improvement in efficiency.
New choices include:
• halogen incandescent bulbs, which are 25 percent more efficient than traditional and last up to three times longer. They're available in a wide range of shapes and colors and can be used with dimmer switches.
• CFLs, which provide a savings of 75 percent, can pay for themselves in nine months, according to the Department of Energy. They last 10 times longer than traditional incandescents and come in a range of light colors, including warm tones not available when they were first introduced. The curly design is familiar, but they also come encased in a cover, which further diffuses the light and provides a similar shape as the bulb it's replacing. Some are dimmable — consumers should check the package.
• LEDs, which offer 75 to 80 percent savings, are initially more expensive, but last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescents and use much less energy, so are actually cheaper to operate.
Most older lighting fixtures accept the newer bulbs, according to the Department of Energy. If a lampshade attaches directly to the bulb, look for a replacement with a similar shape. If in doubt, take the bulb you're replacing to the store and ask for assistance.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 exempts 22 types of specialty bulbs, including those for chandeliers, 3-way fixtures, appliances and rough service bulbs.
The DOE estimates that upgrading 15 traditional incandescent bulbs in a home with energy saving bulbs could save about $50 a year.
Nationwide, lighting accounts for about 14 percent of all energy use. With the EISA standards, U.S. households could save nearly $6 billion in 2015, reducing not only demand, but also carbon emissions.
Virtually all parts of a fluorescent bulb can be recycled, and because they contain a small amount of mercury, should be recycled at the end of their lifespan. They can be taken to the Pratt County Household Hazardous Waste Center just south of the railroad tracks on U.S. 281.