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What Delay? New Light Bulbs Hitting Shelves in 2012

We’ve been covering the impending 2012 light bulb regulations since they were first voted into law. Earlier this month, however, Congress passed a last-minute budget deal that included a block on enforcement of the standards until October – leaving some to wonder what’s changed.

The short answer is “not much.” Originally, the standards would have required 100-watt bulbs to be more energy-efficient starting on New Year’s Day 2012. The rules, under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, require bulbs that emit light equal to that of a traditional 100-watt bulb draw only 72 watts of power, according to the Associated Press. Standards for 75, 60 and 40-watt bulbs will go into effect January 2013 and January 2014.

The provision in Congress’s vote this month pushes enforcement on 100-watt bulbs back to October. But Terry McGowan, director of engineering for the American Lighting Association, says the vote won’t change much. Light bulb manufacturers have been planning for the shift for four years, so they are likely to get energy-efficient bulbs onto shelves in high quantities and to quickly phase out traditional bulbs.

The New York Times said that the approach of the new standards, along with similar rules in Europe, Australia, Brazil and China, has already transformed what types of bulbs are available. At the same time, retailers will be able to keep selling 100-watt incandescents until they run out.

California, meanwhile, has placed itself one year ahead of the federal schedule. The state this year brought in regulations similar to the federal 100-watt rule, and in 2012 it’s requiring that bulbs with a light output equal to that of a traditional 75-watt bulb draw 53 watts or less, Central Valley Business Times reports.

But merchants in California stockpiled large quantities of 100-watt bulbs, and these continue to be available for sale.

Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the delay in enforcement a “speed bump” and said, “Incandescent light bulbs are not going away due to the standard, they are just getting better.”

But the regulations have encountered public opposition from those who see it as a government intrusion into personal choice, and those who say the color of alternatives such as fluorescents can’t match the warm glow of an incandescent.

While fluorescents are the cheapest alternative, light-emitting diodes are better at mimicking incandescents and also last longer, the New York Times said. Peter Soares, director of consumer marketing at Philips, said LEDs would soon make up 10 percent of bulbs sold by value.

This may be the year that LEDs comes of age, according to Doug Bailey, vice president of marketing at integrated circuit manufacturer Power Integrations.

An Energy Savers guide to types of lighting is available here.

A Consumers’ Union guide to making the switch is here.

Picture credit: Angela Mabray.

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19 thoughts on “What Delay? New Light Bulbs Hitting Shelves in 2012

  1. Matt, no problem. Just stock up on your favorite bulbs, and store them next to your stockpile of radio tubes and beta cassette tapes…

  2. Matt, your frequent irrelevant posts do not address any of the core issues. The need to address AGW far outweighs your rants about freedoms. The freedom to remain individually stupid does not trump our societal need to secure our common future.
    In this case, you conveniently ignore the large array of governmental rules and regulations that already affect your life, that you have grown up with, and that you probably accept without a second thought. Things from requiring one to get a driving license (and to purchase car insurance) before using public roads, to paying taxes of all sorts, to being prohibited from buying illegal drugs (and making others available by prescription only), to being subject to various punishments for breaking laws – the list goes on and on.
    The fact of the matter is, we as a society need to address AGW. Buying and using more efficient lighting is a valid approach. Since the new standards do not actually require the purchase of any particular technology, the government isn’t even “forcing one to buy something”. You can choose to buy a CFL, or an LED – or even a halogen incandescent (they are allowed under the new standards). You can also choose to not buy any bulbs if you like. So you see, you retain many purchasing freedoms under the new standards.

  3. @Matt especially while there are more pressing matters such as waste and lack of energy-producing incinerators to get rid of all the plastic polluting our planet and our bodies.

  4. Matt – Europe has been phasing out the the incandescent lightbulbs since 2009 and aims to complete the change over by 2012. There have been limited complaints by user groups (e.g. the partially sighted) because the bulbs take longer to warm up; the cost of the bulb is slightly greater but this is outweighed by the fact that it uses less energy and lasts five times longer and the only significant negative impact, which can be overcome by proper provision of recycling, is that the bulbs cannot be thrown in the general waste because of the chemicals in them. Info on wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phase-out_of_incandescent_light_bulbs#United_Kingdom

  5. However, LEDs are safer for health, and are also economic bulbs, and do not have mercury. LEDs do not emit UVs, if properly designed and manufactured, including in view of voltage surges. A health standard for bulbs is also a necessity, because health is important. Environmentalism must consider health issues.

  6. Yes, most fluorescents economics suffer because they are not dimmable. Also, they must not be turned off, to maintain their luminous efficiency. However, LEDs and incandescents are dimmable, and can be turned off frequently, which can somehow translated as a factor of economic efficiency too.

  7. Correction of my text – I’d better say, some fluorescents economis might suffer in some applications. Of course, in a big store for example, they are not supposed to be dimmed, anyway.

  8. @José – your statemtnet that “fluorescents emit UV radiation much more than other common bulbs”; is incorrect (or, at the very least, it is incomplete). In addition, the link you provided does not have anything to say about the amount of UV produced by fluorescent lights; in comparison to other bulbs. It is not even a scientific document at all – it is merely the text of a regulation within the EU (that is, is is simply a legal text).

    I have previously supplied to you a reference that documents the UV levels given off by CFLs and incandescents. It clearly states that the amount of UV radiation from CFLs is often below the amount of UV radiation emitted by incandescents. Sometimes it is above. The range was interesting; the ‘best’ CFLs emitted less than 1/12 the amount of UV that is emitted by incandescents, while the ‘worst’ CFL performers emitted about 1.5 times the amount of UV emitted by incandescents.

    Here is the reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2829662/

  9. In addition, José, the levels of UV emitted by CFLs or by incandescent bulbs; is so far below the levels needed to induce damage that it is laughable. One receives far more UV radiation while taking a short walk in the sun; than one receives even from all day exposure to a CFL (or to an incandescent bulb).

  10. Doug, from the source you indicated:
    ” Thus is appeared that naked fluorescent bulbs could cause significant flaring of cutaneous and systemic LE, unless UV transmission was blocked with an acrylic diffuser.”He tested the bulbs commonly used at home and in the workplace, including unshielded tube lamps and energy-saving compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). His results confirmed the observations made previously. He found that all emitted appreciable levels of UVA and UVB, and several even emitted UVC [28].”
    The text shows also that UV can be blocked by acrylic diffusers.

  11. José, I stand by my summation of the paper I provided: CFLs emit UV across a range starting from less than 10% of a typical incandescent, up to about 1.5 times the incandescent. Therefore, to the extent that CFLs might cause significant flaring of cutaneous and systemic LE, I firmly conclude that incandescents suffer from exactly the same health impact. By the way, for those following this thread, LE stands for lupus erythematosus, a rare disease. If you don’t suffer from this condition, then CFLs (and incandescents) are perfectly harmless to you. Therefore the vast majority of the population has nothing to worry about. We’re talking only about LE sufferers whose condition is so bad that they cannot walk outside in the sunlight for more than a few minutes without suffering severe reactions.

    I also stand by my statement that the UV emitted by CFLs and by incandescents is laughably small. For incandescents, another quote from the source I provided states: “assuming eight hours of exposure per day, it would take close to two weeks to receive 1 SED “. Think of 1 SED this way: “Depending on the exact solar altitude, it takes between 5.4 and 33 minutes of sun exposure to receive 1 SED “. And for CFLs, we have “it would take between eight days and six months to receive 1 SED, depending on the particular bulb”. Thus my statement that one receives far more UV radiation from a short walk in the sun, than one receives from all0day exposure to a CFL or to an incandescent. That walk in the sun would be as short as 41 seconds to equal all-day exposure to one of the better CFL bulbs.

  12. Too many people are afraid of too many inconsequential things:

    – The tiny amount of mercury in a CFL is not enough to bother anything except an environmentalist’s fears (because he uses the NFPA hazmat guide, which is for the effects of these chemicals in fires).

    – The amount of UV emitted by any of these sources is tiny.

    – Global warming is caused by the sun warming up, not fossil fuels. Otherwise, there would be no corresponding global warming on Venus, Mars, and Titan. Ala Gore is a politician, but not a good scientist.

  13. Larry is correct on point 1 – there is not enough mercury in a CFL to be a significant cause for environmental concern. He is also correct on point 2 – CFLs emit extremely small amounts of UV, and are not a source of any significant health concern.

    But he is wrong on point 3 – global warming is caused in large part by the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, which in turn is largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels. And it is not caused by the sun warming up. The sun is not warming appreciably. And if it were, then temperatures on all the planets and moons of the solar system would rise, not just on a mere handful of them. Besides which, long-term temperature records for other planetary bodies are not long enough to say anything sensible about their temperature trends. Larry is not a good scientist.

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