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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?

Lamp lifespan also creates a significant issue for manufacturers and retailers. While energy efficient lamps will have skyrocketing sales over the next few years, their ability to last 25 times longer will mean sales will drop off precipitously, Smallwood said.

"If you buy an LED lamp and it's going to last you 20 years, that replacement market disappears," Smallwood said.

One learning curve for consumers will be a change to the metric system after using the U.S. system of unit measurements. For LEDs, brightness is measured in lumens, not watts.

Lumens are listed on an LED lamp's packaging. More lumens mean brighter light. To replace a 60-watt traditional bulb, consumers should look for bulbs that provide about 800 lumens, according to the DOE.

To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, look for a bulb that emits 1600 lumens; for a 75 watt bulb, the equivalent would be an 1100 lumens LED; and for a 40-watt replacement, look for an LED equivalent that has 450 lumens.

The upside

One advantage to lumens is that consumers can get a wider range of brightness. Instead of having to choose between a 100-watt or 75-watt lamp, bulbs using lumens run the gamut, offering a much finer brightness gradient.

Energy savings from efficient lamps are also an advantage. An LED lamp is five times more energy efficient than an incandescent lamp.

According to the DOE, the operating cost savings a consumer can achieve by switching to an energy efficient bulb is dramatic. For example, the operating cost per year for a 60-watt incandescent bulb is $4.80, a halogen incandescent bulb costs $3.50, a CFL bulb is $1.20 and an LED light is just $1.

Beginning this year, on average, light bulbs sold in the U.S. will use 25% to 80% less energy as manufacturers begin flooding the market with new, compliant products.

According to the DOE, upgrading 15 inefficient incandescent bulbs could save a homeowner about $50 per year. Since most of the bulbs also have longer life spans, the savings continue into the future. Nationwide, lighting accounts for about 10% of home electricity use. With new EISA standards, U.S. households in total could save nearly $6 billion in 2015.



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