New Year Will Bring New Light Bulb Law

A change is on the way that is going to affect all of us beginning next year. When we ring in 2012, we'll also be ringing out the use of traditional incandescent lights bulbs.

The change will be made gradually over the next few years.
Beginning January 1, 2012 the Energy Independence and Security Act will go into effect for light bulbs.

"The new law basically changes the energy efficiency standards for light bulbs in the United States. This is a federal law, not a state law and it was passed originally in 2007," said Seth Effron with the NC Energy Office

Many have misinterpreted the law as one that has the federal government coming for your incandescent light bulbs.

"There's nothing that requires any individual or any business to make any change, the change is in this energy efficiency standards that applies to how light bulbs are going to be manufactured," said Effron.

What will happen though is a phase out of traditional incandescent bulbs over the next several years.

In 2012, 100 watt bulbs will no longer be sold at stores. In 2013 75 watt bulbs will be gone, and in 2014 40 watt and 60 watt bulbs will be phased out.

So you can switch to halogen incandescent bulbs--which according to energysavers. gov uses 25% less energy and last 3 times longer than regular bulbs. CFLs or compact fluorescent lamps, use 75% less energy and last 10 times longer, and LEDs or light emitting diodes use between 75% and 80% less energy and last 25 times longer. LEDs are still in the relatively early phases of development so they are expensive. We asked Effron about the CFL bulb savings consumers could see.

"If you have 10 light bulbs in your home you save 60 dollars a year. So these are more efficient, they last longer and while they cost a little bit more initially, you will get your savings back within 6 months," said Effron.

There are varying degrees of controversy surrounding the CFL bulbs though with respect to mercury. The actual amount of mercury inside the bulbs is about the size of a pen tip and if broken there are safe ways to clean it up.

"A typical thermometer that you may have in your home is 100 times more mercury in that then there is in a light bulb. That just gives you an idea of the difference there," said Effron.

Many home improvement stores like Lowes will recycle the bulbs for free, but it does beg the question of responsibility.

Alvin Frazier uses CFLs and says,"I very seldom change a light bulb. They last. They're real good as far as lasting. They were kind of pricey to start with. Now prices have dropped. I think it's a good win situation as long as we're good stewards of what we're using.

If you break a CFL--here are some EPA guidelines for cleaning it up. Have people and pets leave the room. Open windows for ventilation. Shut off your central heating or air conditioning. Safely collect the broken glass using a vacuum cleaner. Place cleaned up material in a sealable container and then place it outside in a trash container until it can be disposed of properly.