Sounding Off: Reinventing the light bulb

February 11, 2011

When you read that, starting Jan. 1, the 100-watt bulb is fading away due to its inefficiencies, you may think, "There they go again. Now Congress wants to dictate which light bulb I can use."

The answer is yes and no.

In 2007, President George W. Bush signed the Federal Energy Independence Act to reduce energy use and greenhouse-gas emissions. The act requires new bulbs to use 20% to 30% less energy beginning in 2012, starting with the 100-watt bulb, and to continue with the 75, 60 and 40 watt bulbs, respectively, by 2014.

After all, what is taking place is the implementation of new energy efficiency for incandescent bulbs that will save consumers money by replacing the least efficient incandescent bulbs with more efficient ones. In fact, by enacting the standard one year earlier, California avoids the sale of 10.5 million inefficient 100-watt bulbs, which would cost consumers $35.6 million in higher electricity bills, according to Pacific Gas & Electric.


"If every American home replaced just one light with a light that's earned the Energy Star, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes per year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent a billion pounds of GHG emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars," according to Source Energy Star

So far, commercial practices are guided by the premise that we can stay the way we are, and live the way we have because somebody else is going to pay for pollution and its effects.

Relax. The new standard does not affect the sale of light bulbs already on store shelves, and you don't have to go around the house changing light bulbs. The only difference is that the new bulbs will use less energy and cost less money to operate while delivering the same amount of light.

This means that the new 72-watt incandescent will put out the 1,600 to 1,700 lumens that you are used to seeing on the traditional 100-watt bulb. Also starting this year, all light bulbs are required to have new labels to reflect this change.

Now you might choose more efficient lighting by replacing the old incandescent with a 23- to 27-watt compact fluorescent bulb (CFL) that provides the same amount of light as the traditional 100-watt while consuming about 75% less energy. This bulb today offers a wide range of variety when talking about color, but look for a Kelvin temperature range close to 3,000 for that warm feeling tone of the incandescent.

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