Stores stock new bulbs for the light switch
Energy-efficient alternatives to incandescent bulbs appear in stores, but there is confusion over cost, look and watts versus 'lumens.'
Turns out, changing a light bulb is harder than it seems.
New bulbs using halogen, compact-fluorescent and LED technologies have been sprouting up on store shelves. The flurry of products is a result of legislation passed in 2007 that requires general-purpose bulbs, starting in January, to be at least 25% more efficient than those using standard incandescent technology invented by Thomas Edison in 1879.
As a result, most of today's incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014 — some specialty bulbs are exempt — and replaced by more efficient alternatives. While cheap at 25 to 50 cents a pop, incandescent bulbs waste nearly all their energy in heat output.
The light-bulb industry now faces a daunting task of re-educating shoppers who are still in the dark about their choices. A recent survey by General Electric shows three-quarters of consumers have no idea about the new regulation and impending changes.
"They have all these new types of lights, and it's difficult to ascertain the benefits," says Don Hough, a New York City resident who frequently shops for bulbs for his residence and medical education and marketing business. "And the people working in the store, sometimes they don't know, either."
Most people are accustomed to buying bulbs based on watts, which refers to energy usage. Soon, they'll buy based on actual brightness, which is measured in something called lumens. That's because manufacturers have figured out a way to produce the same amount of light with fewer watts. For example, a typical halogen-incandescent model today needs only 43 watts to create 800 lumens — the same brightness as a 60-watt incandescent bulb.
- MSN Lifestyle: 3 amazing room makeovers
"You talk about lumens and the consumer looks at you like you're speaking French to them," says Bill Hamilton, Home Depot's electrical merchandising vice president, who says stores have seen worried consumers hoarding incandescent bulbs.
Article continues below
To help translate, manufacturer GE this fall will introduce a dramatic packaging overhaul, organizing its light bulbs by lumen level using five different colors — yellow, green, blue, orange and purple. A watt conversion will be on the package. Other brands, such as Osram Sylvania, will color-code packaging based on the light's actual color (warm and cool). By next year, the Federal Trade Commission will require manufacturers to post "Light Facts" labels on most bulb packaging with information about brightness, light appearance and annual energy cost, among other things.
"It's a very significant shift for us," says Kristin Gibbs, GE's general manager of consumer marketing for lighting. "We've got to manage consumer anxiety through this."
Initially, consumers will find three main alternatives to incandescent bulbs on shelves: halogen-incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LED). Many are designed similarly to the familiar pear-shaped "A-Line" bulb that consumers know. Halogens behave most like existing bulbs, but have an inner capsule filled with halogen gas around a filament to make the bulb about 25% more efficient than a traditional incandescent. They're also the cheapest alternative at less than $2 each.
"It's essentially a souped-up incandescent bulb," says Peter Soares, director of marketing for consumer lighting at Philips Electronics North America.
CFLs, by comparison, produce a 75% energy savings and cost about $2 to $5 each. However, the bulbs contain faint traces of mercury, which can be released as vapor if the bulb is broken until properly cleaned up, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
The tell-tale "spiral" shape that many consumers find unsightly is now often hidden inside a pear-shaped outer bulb. And consumers who had complained about the bulbs' blue, sickly hues are finding that new CFLs produce light that is as warm as incandescent, Soares says. "In the end, CFLs may be a bridge technology to get us to some point in the future," he says.
That future, most in the industry believe, is the LED lamp — an ultracompact light source using a semiconductor chip that is up to 85% more efficient than incandescent and lasts 25 times longer.
- 'Listed': Remodeling at highest level since 2004
LEDs remain the priciest option, with 9-watt and 13-watt bulbs that replace 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent models costing from $20 to $55 each. Despite the price, they're gaining traction, and bulb costs are expected to drop dramatically over the next three years. Sales of LEDs at Home Depot, including the retailer's own EcoSmart bulb brand, rose 500% in the last fiscal year that ended Jan. 30. "I really believe LEDs will be our light source for every socket in our home in very short order here," Hamilton says.
In coming months, Philips, Home Depot, Osram Sylvania and other major brands will roll out LED substitutes for the 75-watt incandescent bulb, and a spate of 100-watt-equivalent LEDs are expected next year. One startup, San Jose, Calif.-based Switch Bulb, says this fall it will offer an LED substitute for the 100-watter with a suggested retail price of about $30.
The Energy Department estimates that bulbs compliant with the new law could save U.S. households nearly $6 billion in energy costs in 2015, when rollout is complete. Consumers may also be able to put brighter bulbs in their existing lamps and fixtures because the new bulbs use less wattage.
"Right now people don't think about light bulbs," says Ellen Sizemore, product marketing manager for LED retrofit lamps at Osram Sylvania. "And the industry is going to force them to do that."
Gee, I remember a while back when the GOV'T tried to force meters, and liters etc etc on us...it died a quick death....mercifully.
NOW, who the hell can understand what these things mean. Wow, a bulb that's filled with mercurywo, a bulb that costs $60 or more with tax......ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, aren't you people in Washington smart?
When you made you stupid edicts, didn't any of you understand that we need to know what the lumens mean as compared to what we know?????????????????????
Yes, GE's Immolt has got to be the biggest, greediest crook around.
All those new bulbs will be made in China!!!!!!
Also, if you haven't heard, the new ones won't work with remote light controls, there goes my X-10 set-up, and won't last long in covered overhead (ceiling) fixtures.
So to save money on light bulbs just install all new ceiling fixtures and buy a new remote system.
Wait till you see what's coming. i know many are freaked out about the change, or just hate anything the government 'mandates', but sometimes they do have the right idea (like air bags; clean water, ).
The reason the CFL's were not made mandatory was because they (regulators) had the inside scoop on LED's and OLED's. they will save consumers and government sooooooo much money on electricity costs (8 billion dollars A YEAR, by some estimates) and save massive amounts of money by NOT having to build new power plants to take care of our insatiable appetite for electronic gadgets worldwide.
Plus the new gen of OLED's can be fabricated on rolls, like paper, can be cut into sheets and wrapped around almost anything. Wanna know what oled's look like? look at your smart phone. most have OLED screens that sip your battery instead of draining it like it did just a few years ago. this will move into home and commercial lighting, and we will all wonder how we ever lived without it.
CFL's and even the LED lights you see in the stores now are just transitional technology.
The best is yet to come!
You people in here picking on light bulbs also won't believe this, but when you end up throwing away LCD TV you're throwing away a lot more mercury, plus a lot of other toxic stuff than the CFL light bulbs have. If you're that worried about mercury then think about that. I always recycle my old stuff, so hopefully I can find some recycler that takes these CFL bulbs.
I tell you this for a fact, my new 32" 25 watt LED TV and my 12 CFL bulbs 13 watts each save me money, so I think I like the green in two ways, but in my pocket is the best place for green if you get it.
I am so glad the government, in 'it's' infinite wisdom, has decided that destroying the air and water supply is far more important than leaving well enough alone. A tiny fraction of the average consumers electric use will be affected. Massive amounts of poison will be released into the air and water. Unbelievable stupidity.
Okay, not really. After all, these were the same idiots that thought turning corn into gas was a good idea. End result: massive increases in pollution (you have to produce and transport the corn, i.e., diesel fuel, fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) Food process have almost tripled in 5 years, etc. THAT was unbelievable stupidity! This light bulb thing is really just average government stupidity. Oh well...........
I am repeating this posting due to failure to publish first posting.
You can label the postings to this segment of comments which were invited - - best - worst - controversial - - - whatever tab you place them under constitutes EDITORIAL CENSORSHIP. ELIMINATE THESE HEADER TABS.
This article only enumerates the manufacturer's hype! There is a MISSING METRIC on how to advertise the new products, namely "number of switch cycles" being the principal cause of new lamp failures.
ALSO ignored: how many tons of MERCURY will be added to to the atmosphere in the MANUFACTURE & DISPOSAL of these short lifetime flourescent lamps.
The Federal Trade Commission has handed off our wallets to the lightbulb industry companies who DO NOT ADD JOBS to our economy - instead exporting manufacture out of the USA.
There is no doubt that congress has allowed industry to do their work for them by writing the legislative actions which promote their business instead of promoting the welfare of the general public. Congress has turned themselves into PROSTITUTES!
If properly investigated to the lower levels of staff activities - it would become public that congressmen have no participation in the actions they promote and vote into law.
You can label this as popular - not popular - worst - best - controversial - but those tabs at the top of this segment only reveal EDITORIAL CENSORSHIP.