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CFL Is The New Incandescent: Are you ready for the switch?

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Jessica
12.02.11

Remember popping Caddy Shack into your VCR for the first time? Or, giving a friend a mixed cassette tape featuring Ace of Base or Aerosmith? We do. Both have reserved a fond place in our memories and a spot in the technology graveyard along with 8-Tracks and the latest victim, HD DVDs. Now, because of new federal regulations the light bulb as we know it will share the same fate.

Photo: Plumen

Starting in 2012, new efficiency standards will require that light bulbs use roughly 30 percent less energy to produce the same amount of light. For example, a 100-watt incandescent light bulb must now use 72 watts to produce a comparable brightness.

The goal of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), signed into law in 2007, is to slowly phase out incandescent light bulbs for more energy-efficient lighting alternatives such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). These “modern” light bulbs aren’t actually that new. They were invented in 1976 by a GE engineer named Ed Hammer, patented, and then promptly shelved because the company thought CFLs would be too expensive to manufacture.

While CFLs do have a slightly higher purchase price ($9 for a 4-pack of “60 Watt” equivalent bulbs at Home Depot), the upside is that they use one-fifth of the power and last six to ten times longer on average than your current light bulb. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that if every American household swapped one ordinary incandescent bulb for a CFL, consumers would save $600 million a year.

The new energy standards call for a gradual change, starting with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012, and ending with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014. There are a few exempt specialty lights, including appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, stage lighting and plant lights. To be clear, the federal regulations are not outlawing incandescent lighting outright, only placing new efficiency standards on the bulbs, which will benefit consumers in the long run. As a result, researchers have been working steadfastly on breathing new life into Thomas Edison’s light bulb and expect a wave of innovative products in the near future.

Along with the new regulations comes a new language for describing the brightness of bulbs. Instead of categorizing bulbs in terms of watts (a measure of energy use), they will be categorized in terms of lumens (a measure of light). To ease in the change, bulbs will be labeled in “watt equivalents.” For example, a 60-watt equivalent CFL will emit the same amount of light as your old 60-watt incandescent. Learn more about the difference between Lumens Vs. Watts.

After many moons, the reign of incandescent bulbs as the industry norm is coming to an end, allowing for new options that will save energy and save you money over time. We think it's a bright idea! What do you think about the change?

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