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Light bulb change looms

By John Gibb

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The 120-year dispute over who invented the incandescent light bulb, whether it was Thomas Edison or Heinrich Gobel, really won't matter after Jan. 1 -- the date that will seemingly mark the end of residential lighting.

On this day, and citing their inefficiency, the manufacture of the 60- and 40-watt incandescent light bulbs will cease. The 60-watt incandescent bulb is the most widely used light bulb in America -- tens of millions of them are manufactured each year.

This comes after the controversial 2013 phase-out of 75-, 100- and 150-watt incandescent bulbs.

The U.S. lighting industry is trying to persuade consumers to purchase light emitting diode bulbs, known as LEDs. The industry's overarching goal is to replace incandescent bulbs with halogen, fluorescent and LED bulbs.

All are significantly more expensive than the traditional incandescent bulbs, but they are said to provide more energy and cost savings over the long run.

Recently, Home Depot was selling a six-pack of 60-watt incandescents, manufactured by General Electric, for $4.67, or 78 cents apiece. A six-pack of 60-watt LEDs, manufactured by Cree, sells between $12.97 to $77.82 each.

Bruce Goldfarb, owner of Goldfarb Electric in Charleston, said some objections to the recent phase-out include a higher purchase cost of efficient replacements, the quality of light produced by phosphor-based lamps compared to incandescent ones and the fact that fluorescent bulbs contain small amounts of mercury -- a potent neurotoxin that could be dangerous if exposed to children and the environment.

Cost is a major concern for consumers, considering the LED equivalents are significantly more expensive than the traditional incandescent bulbs. However, as competing manufacturers, such as Westinghouse and Philips, continually introduce new and more efficient versions, prices are expected to go down.

"As we see more competition in the LED market, prices will rapidly fall," Goldfarb said. "LEDs are simply easier to dispose of and are more energy efficient. The switch is essentially a backdoor attempt to save wear and tear on the power grid.

"I don't believe there's any logic in all of this ... manufacturers are trying to eliminate people from buying incandescent bulbs altogether. I have a lot of people that come in here screaming for incandescent bulbs. There are so many options out there now -- it's all confusing to the customer."

The elimination of traditional incandescent bulbs stem from a piece of legislation President George W. Bush signed regarding efficiency standards as it relates to energy. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 outlines maximum wattage requirements for all general service incandescent lamps producing 310-2,600 lumens of light. The timeline to implement these standards was originally set for January 2012 but in December 2011, the U.S. House delayed it until October 2012.

The standards addressed gross inefficiencies with traditional incandescent bulbs. The Environmental Protection Agency reports only 10 percent of the energy the incandescent bulbs use is converted into light -- the rest is wasted as heat.

Compared to incandescent lamps, a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) uses one-fifth to one-third the electric power and is said to last eight to 15 times longer. They have become the most common energy-efficient replacements for incandescents. LED lamps, unlike CFLs, have no glass to break, do not emit UV rays that fade and can turn on instantly at any temperature.

Traditional incandescent bulbs will continue to be manufactured until the end of the year. However, it will be illegal to make them after that.

Retail giant Home Depot, the nation's largest bulb retailer, is urging consumers to stock up. Home Depot reports LED sales have doubled in the last two years.

"Get them while you can," Home Depot's website read Tuesday. "Stock up on incandescent bulbs before they are completely discontinued."

Home Depot has publicly announced they have a six-month stockpile and doesn't anticipate running out of their 40- and 60-watt stock until June. In the meantime, the retailer is taking steps to educate their employees about the phase-out.

Goldfarb Electric said they will continue to order incandescent bulbs through the end of the month but don't expect to run out of stock until March.

Some utilities, including American Electric Power, have been taking steps to reward commercial businesses for switching to energy-efficient lighting.

Goldfarb said AEP is giving rebates, some as high as $20,000, to businesses that switch to LED lighting. Nationwide, about 12 percent of a home's power bill goes toward lighting, according to the EPA.

Contact writer John Gibb at john.gibb@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1796.


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