Switch Off: Incandescent Bulbs Soon Will Burn Out for Good

As a result of U.S. government energy-efficiency standards, traditional incandescent light bulbs are being phased out. Local electrical contractor Tom Sullivan says consumers need to be educated so they can make the right choices moving forward.

Don’t be surprised if some of those old jokes about how many blankety-blanks it takes to change a light bulb bounce back into the comedic mainstream of life.

No kidding. The job is not as easy as it used to be, not anymore.

“The consumer needs to be educated on what it is they are buying and to find out if the new apples they are buying are equal to the old oranges they used to buy,” said Tom Sullivan of and Epic Lighting Solutions in Oak Forest. “Because you can’t get the old oranges any more.”

Sullivan’s comments come in direct response to energy-savings measures being implemented by the U.S. government. As a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, traditional incandescent light bulbs soon will go the way of the dinosaur. That is to say, they will become extinct because they don’t light up on a new measure of government-imposed standards.

Under the plan, the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb will be phased out by Oct. 1, followed by the 75-watt incandescent bulb in January 2013 and 40- and 60-watt bulbs in January 2014. Feeling left out in the dark?

“You really have to read packaging and find out the exact number of lumens, the exact number of watts, the estimated number of hours that the bulbs are good for,” Sullivan said. “And, then, you have to consider who put the packing together.

“Everybody knows—or at least everybody I know knows —that compact fluorescents way over-exaggerate the amount of hours that they will last. So, when you’re trying to figure out your energy savings, it’s really hard to say this lamp is going to last you 10,000 hours because you’d be lucky—really lucky—if you got 2,000 hours out of it.”

What's the purpose?

The U.S. government act is designed to save consumers money on energy costs, though the up-front price to purchase new high-tech bulbs will be much higher than the costs of buying old incandescent models. The list runs the gamut from halogen bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) to light emitting diodes (LEDs) and induction lighting.

The important thing to remember: Longer lasting bulbs will reduce energy costs.

“With all the recent federal changes in lighting standards, it’s more important than ever for customers to stay informed on lighting to make the right choice,” said ComEd Energy Doctor Timothy Melloch in a news release. “There are so many new lighting options for our customers to choose from and understanding those options is extremely important.”

Some raise concerns over the safety and practical use of a few of the evolving high-tech bulbs, ranging from disposal of fluorescent bulbs to adjusting lighting with dimmer switches and fitting snap-on lamp shade connections to newer bulbs. CFLs contain small amounts of mercury. If they shatter, they can be toxic.

According to Consumer Reports, CFLs save more on electricity than halogen bulbs. But halogens are brighter and they are dimmable. LEDs—once considered directional in nature—have come a long way to the point now where the lamps provide more widespread, more effective room lighting, Sullivan said.

“This act does not say that you can’t use incandescent lamps any more,” he said. “Incandescent lamps are not outlawed. What it says is that new light bulbs need to be a minimum of 27-percent more efficient.

“The problem with incandescent lights is that 90-percent of the energy that they consume is spent on heat. Only 10 percent of it actually makes light. It’s like a low-hanging fruit to try and have something else replace it.”

Sullivan’s advice: Ask a lot of questions.

DanS May 15, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I do not object to paying the additional cost for a more energy efficient and long lasting bulb. do LED bulbs generate heat, or are they cool to the touch similar CFL bulbs?
Ron Kremer (Editor) May 15, 2012 at 01:09 PM
DanS: I haven't used LEDs personally yet. But my understanding is they are cool to the touch. Check them out at your local lighting shop and/or hardware center.
Norm Van Lear May 15, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Dimmable is the big question. not all CFL (pig-tail fluorescent) or LED lights can be dimmed. LED lights burn into my brain. Something about that pulsing wave they use are so intense. Don't care for CFL's, either. Better stock up on old-style bulbs, I guess. When buying white lights, be aware that there are different shades of white- usually expressed in "K" . A 3100 K will be a warm, slightly yellow white light- all the way to the bluish-white lights. Kelvin Scale: Color Temperature Common Example 2000° Gaslight 2470° 15 watt incandescent bulb 2565° 60 watt incandescent bulb 2665° 100 watt incandescent bulb 2755° 500 watt incandescent bulb 2900° 500 watt Krypton bulb 3100° Projector type filament bulb 3250° Photo Flood 3400° Halogen 3900° Carbon arc 4200° Moonlight 4700° Industrial smog 5100° Hazy weather 5500° Sun 30° above horizon 6100° Sun 50° above horizon 6700° Electronic Flash 7400° Overcast sky 8300° Foggy weather 30,000° Blue sky
Ron Kremer (Editor) May 15, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Norm: I agree finding bulbs that work with dimmer switches and/or work with old lamp shades is problematic. Who wants to throw out an old lamp just to replace a bulb?
Tim F May 15, 2012 at 04:27 PM
With today's economic conditions, unemployment, and huge state and national defecits; it would stand to reason that the U.S. government would focus on light bulbs.
Bob Haar May 15, 2012 at 04:37 PM
The LED's themselves may be cool to the touch, however the LED lamps have a heat sink which is usually the base of the lamp. That portion does get rather warm. Heat is an LED's worst enemy, the heat sink draws it away from the lamp to keep the LED's cool. CFL's have come a long way. I agree if you buy one for $1, it'll probably last a year if you're lucky. Most of the manufacturers rate their lamps base on 3 hrs/day use. On/off cycles shorten the life, so for an application such as outdoor lights where they may go on at dusk and off at dawn, they'll last a few years. Note the average rated life of the lamp. Average rated life is when 50% of the lamps being tested fail. If a CFL is rated at 6000 hours, at 3000 hours, you can expect half of them to have failed. Doesn't mean they will, but that's how they're rated. Look for a CFL with the longest average rated life. LED's are the wave of the future and they will come down in price. Color rendering is excellent if you know what you're buying. Philips offers a 2700K Ambient LED (very odd looking bulb) that uses 17 watts yet give off 1100 lumens. It's expensive, but quite impressive. CFL's have also improved drastically from what was offered 10 years ago, even offering "insta-bright" models that acheive 80% of their brightness when first turned on and full brightness in 30 seconds. No waiting 2-3 minutes for a CFL lamp to achieve it's rated output. Shop around, you get what you pay for.
lala May 15, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Still think the light comes off them is harsh and ugly. Time to start hoarding!
OakLawnGuy May 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM
When used in outdoor fixtures, compact flourescents turn on dim in cold weather. They gradually brighten as they heat up a bit. So you don't get that instant illumination you would with incandescant.
Don Labriola May 15, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Haven't heard anyone address the issue of outdoor lighting. I have six candelabra base decorative small globes for my outdoor garage door coach style lighting. There is very little room in each fixture to accommodate a different bulb. How far along is the industry in addressing specialty lighting?
freddie May 15, 2012 at 07:03 PM
so what do I do with all my lamp shades that fit over the lightbulb? THe new fangled bulbs will not work with my lamps and shades. I have been collecting the old style lightbulbs for the past couple of years since I heard this was going to happen.
freddie May 15, 2012 at 07:05 PM
The law was passed in 2007...under little Georgie Bush. Blame him for this. Congress gave us all a couple of years to use up (and hoard - like me) the old bulbs before they were phased out.
freddie May 15, 2012 at 07:15 PM
I had read a while ago that most specialty lighting will be left alone. This includes fan lights, oven lights and some outside lights. It's the indoor lighting that they targeted
US May 15, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Federal regulation put the last U.S. light bulb manufacturer out of business. With China the second largest holder of U.S. debt our government needs to find ways to extract our money so we have to buy chinese products. The largest holder of U.S. debt is the Federal Reserve... and we see what their doing!
Juvenal May 15, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Only incandescent light bulbs can render all colors equally well, they have a color rendering index of 100. CFLs and LEDs do not output light evenly over the visual spectrum -- which is more important to many eyes than the average color temperature of the bulb. So, by bureacratic diktat the only way to get perfect color rendition now after the sun sets is to use a candle. Great progress, Amerika.......
Lorraine Swanson (Editor) May 15, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I bet you can't bake a cake with the CFL the way you could with an incandescent bulb in the Easy Bake Oven.
MHB25 May 15, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Not looking forward to this whatsoever. Leave it to the government to screw yet another thing up. No one has mentioned the mercury in the cfl bulbs. If you break a bulb, you can't just vacuum it up like a normal bulb. Each cfl bulb has enough mercury to contaminate anywhere from 1000-5000 gallons of water. I'm no treehugger but may people are uneducated about the cfls, especially folks working for my town who didn't know how I should dispose of properly when I accidentally broke a cfl bulb. No wonder why we have so many cases of cancer and illnesses these days.
Colleen May 15, 2012 at 08:38 PM
It is hard to find a light bulb that is made in America anymore. The government pushes the energy saving, passes the law and yet, we must buy them from companies (some "American") that make them out of the country. Ridiculous.
Sandra Bury May 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM
Time to go green Lorraine... solar ovens!
OakLawnGuy May 15, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Remember when you brought your electric bill to Com Ed and got free light bulbs? I thought that was so generous....at the time.
lighthouse May 15, 2012 at 10:31 PM
Effectively it will be a ban on incandescent technology for ordinary use. Phase 2 of the 2007 EISA legislation kicking in after 2014 has 45 lumen per W as end regulation, which no known incandescent replacement can reach - including touted 2012 halogens (typically 20-22 lumen per W). Details http://ceolas.net/#li01inx - also with 10 local state light bulb freedom bill updates (legislated Texas June 2011 by Gov Perry)
lighthouse May 15, 2012 at 10:34 PM
There are also a lot of myths about the savings from a switchover. Individuals can always voluntarily make energy saving choices - but SOCIETY laws, if needed here at all, should be about society savings, not what light bulb Johnny wants to use in his bedroom! Society energy usage savings are a fraction of 1%, or around 1% grid electricity, from Department of Energy data backed up by referenced institutional American, European and other sources - and is still less on referenced lifecycle (manufacture, transport, recycling) consideration. http://dunday.com/p/deception-behind-banning-light-bulbs.html with more about why the incandescent ban is unnecessary and wrong...
BA May 15, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Politicians, once elected believe the american people are too stupid to think for ourselves.
Norm Van Lear May 16, 2012 at 12:53 AM
Sad to say, incandesent's time has more than come. If you can bake a cake with a light, your electricity is converted mostly to heat, with a little light as a side effect. Led is the answer, just make them reliable and cheap. I'm tired of being a Beta tester for industry.
lala May 17, 2012 at 01:48 AM
How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb? ;)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Ryan Fitzpatrick "likes" this comment.
Ozzy May 17, 2012 at 01:21 PM
I make sure I save my receipts if I do buy CFL (only when they are on sale at a "cheap" price) as I've had a good half dozen go out within a week. One went out after I first turned it on. How about the elderly that need a bright light to read? Try that in a 100 equivalent CFL. Aint going to happen.
lighthouse May 17, 2012 at 03:02 PM
lala...as per previous comments How many politicians should it take to change a light bulb? None. How many citizens should be allowed to choose? Everyone ;-)
James Norris November 21, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Is there the possible to find replacements for incandescent buls for <a href="http://www.outdooraccentslighting.com">outdoor lighting in Chicago</a>? With winter coming, it is getting darker a lot earlier and I am wondering if this will have an effect on the neighborhoods around where I live. Thanks.


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