Light bulbs won't go out, but they are changing

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On Jan. 1, 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs, which have been around for 140 years, will no longer be manufactured in the U.S. or imported. Fifty percent of U.S. household lighting uses 60-watt bulbs. More powerful 75- and 100-watt bulbs were outlawed in 2012 and 2013.

Matt Chavez, owner of Joseph’s Hardware in Fort Collins, said he hadn’t yet seen a rush to buy the 40- and 60-watt bulbs he has in stock. “Perhaps people aren’t aware of the change,” he said.

He notes that many people are already accustomed to buying compact-fluorescent bulbs, despite the fact that they may not like them as well. Cheaper prices and the ability to recycle the old bulbs has helped to make them more acceptable. For some, the presence of mercury was a concern before recycling was possible.

According to Chavez, light-emitting diode bulbs can be purchased in the same shape as a traditional light bulb, and while they are more expensive at $12-16 for a basic A-19 model, they come in a warm white with a slight yellow cast and a true or blue white, giving buyers more choices.

LaPorte Hardware CFO Travis Thompson said people come in now and then to stock up on incandescent bulbs. In the last year one customer bought 72 four-packs of 60-watt incandescent bulbs. Prices have risen on incandescents, but they are still much cheaper than CFLs and LEDs. LaPorte Hardware is still able to order all incandescent bulbs and has had no word from their supplier that this will soon become impossible. As of this writing, the store still has 75 and 100-watt white bulbs for sale, as well as 40 and 60-watt.

Thompson is uncertain about changes that may occur in the production of specialty lights bulbs, such as those used in ceiling fans and appliances. He said that these days the store sells mostly halogen flashlights.

Only about 10 percent of the energy output from incandescent bulbs is converted into light. They are being replaced because they fail to meet efficiency regulations established by the federal government in 2007.

Even though their replacements, CFLs and LEDs last longer, save energy and function more efficiently, some conservative lawmakers fought the change, objecting to government regulation.

The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that when all the nation’s incandescent bulbs have been replaced there will be savings worth $13 billion plus the output of 30 coal-burning power plants. Replacing an incandescent bulb with a CFL can save $50 over the bulb’s lifetime.

Advice on choosing a light bulb:

Don’t purchase a bulb that is too bright. A 10-watt LED is as bright as a 60-watt incandescent.

Use LEDs for hallways, stairwells, basements and for spotlighting objects. Halogen incandescent bulbs are better for living spaces.

The new bulbs don’t work in recessed can lighting. Use reflector bulbs, which are not subject to the new regulations.

Most CFLs don’t work with dimmer sockets. Use LEDs or halogen incandescents.

Quality can vary. Look for ENERGY STAR on the bulbs you purchase.