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Light-bulb ban leads to hoarding in Europe, is U.S. next?

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 26, 2012
As their Sept. 1, 2012 regulatory deadline approached, Europeans began to hoard incandescent light bulbs, fearing that the warm yellow glow will be extinguished from their homes. The U.S. ban on the most popular light bulbs is fast approaching. Will we panic, too?

The first phase of EISA was to have begun on January 1, 2012, but Republican legislators made amendments in an appropriation bill that prohibited the DOE from spending money to enforce the rules in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal year. The sponsor of the legislation was Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas).

"It's something the market place should determine. Let consumers make the choice. There was no reason for the government to make that choice for them," Burgess said in an interview with Computerworld.

"It should be up to me if I want to make the decision if I want to run a light bulb that uses more kilowatt hours, so I can see better with my old, failing eyes, in my favorite chair. I should be able to do that," he said. "I get the fact that I work in a federal building and I get the fact that they get to determine the type of light I work under all day long, but at night time, when I go home and read ..., I should be able to read under whatever light I want."

The DOE would not speak on the record about how that lack of funding would affect adherence to the standards.

Even without funding for enforcement, manufacturers are honoring the standards and discontinuing their production of incandescent light bulbs, according to Smallwood.

Some consumers also echo Burgess' concerns, namely that they'll have to replace the warm luminescence of a traditional incandescent bulb with the harsh, white light of LED lamps. But not all LED lamps emit the cold, bright light.

"LEDs don't necessarily have white light, that is more of a concern with CFLs. There are several LED products that do produce warm light," Smallwood said.

Another issue with CFL lamps is that they contain mercury, "which some people are concerned about," he added.

CFL lamps last from 5,000 to 8,000 hours, well beyond the typical 1,000-hour lifespan of an incandescent bulb. One drawback of CFL lamps is that they die more quickly in environments where they're frequently turned on and off .

"You have to leave them on at least 15 minutes in order not to kill the light," Smallwood said.

By comparison, LEDs last well beyond all other lamps today, but the pricing is exorbitant. The LED equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb costs $25 or about 20 times more, according to Smallwood. But the total cost of ownership is vastly less.

For example, an LED lamp has an average lifespan of 25,000 hours, so an LED could last 25 years or more.

By comparison, new energy-efficient halogen lamps produce the same type of yellow light as an incandescent lamp, and they look the same, but cost from $1.50 to $2 more per lamp. They also only last about 50% longer than current bulbs or about 1,500 hours versus an average 1,000 hours for incandescent bulbs.


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