There are some things people feel strongly about: the coffee they drink, the state of their college’s basketball team, and surprisingly, what kind of light bulbs they use in their homes.

First victim: 100-watt incandescent bulb

Brace yourself: Starting in January 2012, to meet the requirements of the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007, which was signed into law by former President George W. Bush, some incandescent bulbs will be phased out, starting with the 100-watt incandescent bulb. But, before you go out and start stock-piling incandescent bulbs, be aware that this does not mean all incandescent bulbs will be banned. It just means that “…American companies will stop making and importing 100 watt light bulbs.”  Also, if your favorite store still has the 100-watt incandescent bulbs in stock, you can buy them, but the supply won’t be re-stocked after it empties. You will still be able to buy 76, 60 and 40-watt incandescents until Jan. 1, 2014.

The CLEAN Energy Act requires new energy standards for light bulbs —specifically, lumens per watt, which measures the amount of light produced per watt used to power the bulb. The requirement is that all bulbs use 30 percent less energy. According to the National Lighting Bureau, compact florescent bulbs (CFL), produce about 62.5 lumens per watt, up to four times the lumens an incandescent bulb produces per watt.

Those energy savings translate into pocket savings. Consumer Reports found that the average American would save $57.55 per year by switching to CFLs, noting that one CFL bulb lasts as long as 10 incandescent bulbs. According to Energy Star, a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency, switching to CFLs, or any other non-incandescent bulbs such as LEDs or halogen lights, saves “about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.”

Issues with CFLs

While there’s little to argue in the way of  savings, there are concerns about the small amounts of mercury found in CFL bulbs. According to Russ Leslie, associate director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the actual amount of mercury found in one bulb is quite small —five milligrams —”just enough to cover a ballpoint pen tip,” he told Popular Mechanics. He concluded that the risks of getting mercury poisoning by a CFL are very slim.

However, if a CFL bulb does break, it will need to be handled in a different way than a normal incandescent: Air out the room by opening a window or door and vacuum up the glass and debris. Wearing gloves, clean the area with a damp paper towel. CFLs cannot be disposed through standard waste pickup but most home improvement stores, Home Depot, Wal-Mart,  or recycling centers have options for CFL disposal. Ask your local store or try searching for your nearest disposal location.

Despite  legislation, CFLs won’t replace every incandescent bulb, including most specialty bulbs — like the refrigerator bulb — three-way bulbs or shatter-resistant bulbs. Energy Star’s website has the full list of exemptions included in the Act.

Flickr photo: aimeewenske

Heads up, Easy-Bake fans

But, if you are an Easy-Bake oven fan, holding onto a few 100-watt incandescent bulbs may be a good idea. Hasbro’s popular children’s toy has long used a 100-watt bulb to “bake” its goodies.  To prepare for the new legislation, Hasbro is developing a new “Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven,” which uses a heating element that is not a light bulb; it is planned for release in fall 2011. In the meantime, Hasbro has also developed “Microwave & Style,” a new toy that cooks treats using a microwave, rather than the Easy-Bake oven.

About the Author

Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs manager, covers home design and trends.

  • Paul

    Stocking up on old bulbs might make someone some money in the future, selling them on Ebay.

  • Elliott Brender MD

    It is vital that we get this ridiculous legislation revoked. I like my 100 watt light bulb. I’ve used the CFL’s, the color sucks – very yellow. And they don’t dim. I’ve had multiple CFL’s burn out and don’t see any savings at all. They are more expensive than regular light bulbs. What morons made this the law? Are’nt there so much more important things to legislate?

  • Mark

    The original CFL’s made in the USA did in fact last a good, long time. The new crap currently made in China does not. They typically only last about twice as long, despite costing ten times more. They do not pay for themselves, cannot be dimmed except with a dedicated CFL dimmer, give an unpleasant light (i.e. high color frequency), and have a high frequency flicker that gives many people headaches.

    CFL’s also have (in addition to mercury) circuit boards inside the base – they are much more difficult, expensive and WASTEFULL to manufacture. Whatever savings they may rack up on electric bills is not in proportion to their high cost or the amount of resources required to manufacture, ship and dispose of them!

    1. Made in China
    2. Made of more costly, resource intensive materials
    3. Costly to ship to the U.S. (again, burning fossil fuels here….)
    4. Don’t last as long as advertised
    5. Can’t be disposed of in trash

    ?!?!? How are these “green” ?!?!?!

    My art deco lighting from the 1920’s and 30’s with incandescents are more energy efficient because I put them on dimmers and use less electricity – and the bulbs last much longer. Technology is not always the best answer, folks!

  • ### Preston Weiters Jr

    4/13/11, It has been my experience that compact fluorescents last longer, but emit a less comfortable ambiance. While they’re not suitable everywhere, they are worth the money. As for clean-up/burnout, few will do much more than throw them in the trash. There’s just no way to police the disposal of light bulbs; with economic apocalypse, it’s hardly at the apex of priorities.

    Prior to all the hoopla about mercury, when I worked for a major transit authority (now ret.), we had to re-lamp those long fluorescent tubes. We tossed them in the dumpster.

    Beware, people: some have the right idea; this is not about saving the planet or any such nonsense. It’s about power. Beware of the current Admin’s tactics; it’s still vying for a watered-down form of cap & trade.

    @Kelly, Always proof-read, spell-check, & use paragraphs.

  • http://none a

    This law has noting to do with CFL’s it has to do with “energy saver” halogen lights, branded HIR+ and Halogena.

    The law requires 30% efficiency improvement not 70%. If they required 70% we would be in the CFL area but they did not so we are not.

    Halogena lights are exactly the same size shape and light color as incandescent, are fully dim-able and work just fine in cold area’s instantly. Just like incandescent.

    Once the incandescent bulbs are not available these will be easily available. They started hitting shelves about a year ago and are just taking a bit to get to every store.

  • L. Poole

    I live in an older neigborhood of 1920-1930’s bungalows. My town has housing stock of predominatly older homes, at least in half of the township, throughout downtown, west end, and midtown. So many to most of these homes probably will need to retrofit their lighting fixtures, switches, and eliminate any dimmer switches put in. I, like many others, bought this home because of the style and ambiance provided by the ‘old fashioned’ fixtures that are difficult to find or replicate in the market today. These sweet authentic homes sell for a premium, especially when kept traditional. So now the value of my home is to be discounted, and my years of searching for just the ‘right’ fixture is to be thwarted by this new legislation. Also, I have always felt (literally) that florescent lights could put me into a state of neurological seizure, as they tend to make my brain jump and jerk in a very uncomfortably way. This tendency has ruled my life. So now I will not be safe or comfortable in my own home. Great, because that, and the great outdoors, is all I have ever had. My social life experiance is measured by where I can safely go.

  • Aaa

    Go buy some halogena bulbs and you will not have to make any changes to your nice 1920’s house. They will fit just the same in the old fixtures.

  • lighthouse

    RE the “Don’t Worry Everybody similar Halogen bulbs will be allowed!” comments

    You will be hearing a LOT of that from now on,
    along with “this is not a Ban” etc
    (not allowing the sale of bulbs that don’t meet a certain standard is clearly the same as banning them….)

    as said in an earlier comment, Halogens and similar incandescent replacements
    still have whiter light type and some constructional differences with simple regular bulbs,
    apart from costing much more for the small savings, which is why neither consumers or governments like them,
    since they have been around for a while now without being sold much.

    they are only allowed temporarily,
    likely to be harder to get than CFLs in general stores,
    and in limited variability in sizes and wattages compared to the range of today’s simple cheap bulbs.

    U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA),
    even in talking about the continued future of incandescents, March 23 2011:
    “As the standards start to take effect in 2012, the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 projects that CFLs and LEDs gain significant market share”
    No great Halogen uptake envisaged, then…

    “The second tier of efficiency improvements becomes effective in 2020, essentially requiring general service bulbs to be as efficient as today’s CFLs.”
    Note the emphasis of CFLs

    In Europe,
    the exact same promises were made re Halogens:
    UK Parliament, for example, January 2009, the Energy Secretary quelled a threatening revolt by some parliamentarians,
    by all the promises of “Lookalike Halogens”, with similar announcement in the newspapers.
    in the EU they are not only phased out by 2016, but also not available in general stores,
    and only in limited sizes and wattages, compared to the previous range of ordinary simple incandescents.
    All the big in-store promos are for CFLs.

    Wait and see what happens in the USA in 2012!

    Ask yourselves:
    Why do the major manufacturers welcome the ban?
    Why do they welcome being told what light bulbs they can make and sell?
    Why all the promos and handouts of CFLs eg California, Ohio (see below link)
    – and no crowd-pleasing Halogen handouts or deals anywhere ?

    More about how manufacturers and vested interests have pushed for the ban on
    regular light bulbs, and lobbied for CFL favors, on
    with references, documentation and copies of official communications.

  • Damon

    I use a mix of CFL and incandescent. CFLs are definitely over-hyped.

    1. The do not last longer than regular bulbs.
    2. They take too long to achieve full brightness. This is a real problem for outside lights in winter. I’m talking several minutes…
    3. They are not dimmable (no matter what the sales guy says).
    4. CFL and LED lights are not full spectrum lights. They both emit several single frequency colors that trick the eyes. This bothers some people.
    5. CFLs also flicker which bothers people.
    6. The real reason incandescents aren’t as efficient is that they emit heat (infrared light). Sometimes people want the heat. Three quarters of the year this is a good thing. I wonder if the heat gain was factored in the energy savings equation.

    I think CFLs are good to have but should not replace incandescents in all cases. Another stupid law by clueless idiots.

  • Nancy L.

    I wrote yesterday and I’m still not happy today with the change. Could someone explain why only the 100’s are obsolete? What is the big deal between 100, 60 or 40? Who’s great idea was this? The same person that did cash for clunkers, then all those cars were wasted. I think we people should have a say in what happens to some point. What about the wasted energy I see all day long, like strett lights on during the day? That’s my beef, thank you!

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