Incandescent bulbs being phased out

STARTING IN 2012, federal law says manufacturers can no longer sell the familiar, 100-watt incandescent bulbs people have used for years to illuminate the front porch or garage.

They’ll be followed by 75-watt bulbs in 2013 and 40- and 60-watt bulbs in 2014.

But that doesn’t mean Belpre resident Susan Drake is going to stop using them.

“I don’t care about the cost or saving money – it’s just the fact that someone’s telling me I can’t buy something I’ve used all my life,” said Susan Drake, 66, of Belpre.

“I really think too many people are letting the government dictate what to buy and how to use their money,” she said. “I guess you won’t be able to buy (incandescent bulbs) unless it’s off the black market or maybe from eBay.”

Drake won’t have to resort to either of those sources.

“I’ve stocked up enough (incandescent) bulbs for a long time – I probably have enough to last for several years,” she said. “But then I don’t leave the lights on when I’m not in a room, so my electric bill is not very high.”

The bulb phaseout is a result of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), signed into law by then-President George W. Bush in 2007. The law’s goal was to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions and enable the U.S. to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy, according to the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association.

Most new bulbs must use 25 percent to 30 percent less energy, according to the 2007 law. Incandescent bulbs, which create light by passing electric current through a wire filament, waste the bulk of that energy producing heat instead of light.

Replacing the familiar incandescents, consumers will have three choices – halogen, compact fluorescent (CFL) or solid state (SSL) bulbs, all designed to last longer and use less electricity.

“But these new (CFL) bulbs have mercury in them, and I don’t think they last as long as some people say they do,” Drake said.

Those curl-shaped fluorescents are currently the most widely used of the new bulb choices.

Rose Warden of Marietta said her family has been using CFLs exclusively for two years now.

“Our grandkids come down from Columbus for a couple of weeks each summer, and they said we should change to the more efficient bulbs,” Warden said. “So we’ve replaced about 30 bulbs throughout the house.”

She said the CFLs have lasted longer than the incandescents.

“We haven’t had to replace even one so far, but we’ve bought some eight-packs because my husband said we should get them now in case the price goes up,” Warden said.

She noted some drawbacks in the CFLs.

“When you first turn the switch on they take a little time to warm up,” Warden said. “And when I’m reading, I don’t think they put out quite as much light as the old bulbs.”

According to data on the NEMA Web site,, “the amount of mercury in a typical compact fluorescent lamp is approximately 5 milligrams, barely enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. … By comparison, an oral mercury thermometer contains 500 mg to 1 gram of mercury – or 100 to 200 times more than a CFL.”

In addition, NEMA member manufacturers have agreed to a maximum mercury content of 4 mg in CFLs up to 25 watts, and 6 mg in higher-wattage CFLs.

Warden said she has tried using halogen bulbs, but they gave off too much heat to be used indoors.

NEMA reports that newer halogen bulbs are now available that look much like the old incandescents, but are more efficient, contain no mercury and can be safely used in the same way as CFLs or incandescents.

Solid state lamps, or SSLs, include LED (light emitting diode) technology and are also mercury-free, according to NEMA.

David Schuellerman, public relations program manager with General Electric Appliances and Lighting in Cleveland, said the 2007 law goes into effect in January, 2012 for all states except California, where initial provisions of the act went into effect this year.

“It’s the law, beginning in 2012 through 2014 the incandescent bulbs must be phased out in the U.S. Basically we can’t sell them after that,” Schuellerman said. “But retailers can continue to sell the incandescents until they’re out of stock.”

He noted that sales of incandescent bulbs are already decreasing.

“In fact, the demand for incandescent bulbs has dropped by about 50 percent between 2006 and 2010,” Schuellerman said.

Some incandescent bulbs, including aquarium lights and specialty bulbs for appliances, aren’t affected by the law.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.