Despite avid media coverage and education campaigns by the government and environmental groups, consumers still aren’t flocking to newer, energy-efficient light bulbs.
Even in states with long-running and well-funded programs to promote compact fluorescent lamps, only 1 in 5 household sockets contain those bulbs, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Energy. Sales of CFLs peaked in 2007 and have declined since, the report says.
But a switch could be good for your wallet. And besides, you won’t have much choice soon.
A federal law passed in 2007 requires manufacturers to make light bulbs that emit the same brightness using less energy. Traditional incandescent bulbs can’t do that, so they’ll effectively be dropped from production over the next few years. As a consumer, you can continue using incandescents, but eventually you won’t be able to buy any more unless it’s a specialty bulb.
A phase-in of the new rules starts next January with 100-watt bulbs. That’s news to a lot of people. Just two in 10 people know about the 100-watt bulb’s impending extinction, according to a recent survey by lighting manufacturer Osram Sylvania.
Some consumers aware of the coming change — 13 percent — plan to stock up on incandescent 100-watt bulbs while they can get them, the survey found.
Here are questions and answers about energy-efficient lighting.
What’s changing? The demise of traditional 100-watt incandescent bulbs will be followed by 75-watt bulbs in 2013 and 60- and 40-watt bulbs in 2014.
Specialty fixtures? You’ll still be able to buy the same incandescent versions of decorative, appliance and other specialty bulbs.
What should I buy? The most popular and affordable replacement is the CFL, many of which have a swirl design.
“CFLs are a pretty good technology, and they’re getting better,” said Maria Vargas, spokeswoman with the federal Energy Star program. “But it’s not an exact replacement for incandescents, because it is a different technology.”
More than 85 percent of consumers report they are satisfied with the performance of CFLs, according to the report by the Energy Department.
But halogen and LED lights are available, too, and have advantages. For example, LEDs and halogen bulbs are fully dimmable, come to full brightness instantly and contain no mercury. But they cost more.
Are there drawbacks? CFLs still don’t work well in most dimmable switches. And while you’ll get most of the light right away, it might take a minute or so to achieve full brightness. They also have mixed effectiveness in outdoor fixtures, especially in cold weather.