Tag Archives: United States Department of Energy

Light bulbs changes mean purchasing one may cost you up to $50

Who knew there was so many changes happening with light bulbs? I was blown away when I recently met with Consumer Reports in their Yonkers, New York light lab. The technology, labels, and price are all changing and it will mean a different experience the next time you have to replace a bulb.

How about paying $50 for a bulb? It’s not out the of the question. LED or light emitting diodes are the latest technology in light bulbs and expected to surpass compact fluorescent bulbs or CFL’s. LED’s can be found for as cheap as $10 but range up to $50. Some of the better performing ones in Consumer Reports tests are the more expensive ones.

Readers have reacted on my NewsChannel 5 Facebook and Twitter page about the high price tag. $50 i s a lot of money to pay, but the good news is the prices are dropping dramatically. A good bulb will still cost you $15-25 which is a lot more than we’re used to paying. The big upside — these bulbs last 40 years! Imagine never having to change a bulb that long. One reader said the next trend will be to take your light bulbs with you when you move from your home. No joke!

The push is on for LED’s as incandescents are phased out beginning in January. The bulbs will slowly disappear with the phaseout happening on various watts over the next few years. Stores are already telling you to stock up now.

Interestingly, the LED’s are in the big box stores but I went to a small mom and pop hardware store the other day and the bulbs were all incandescents. I couldn’t find an LED which I needed for my story. I was shocked! Frankly, I think it’s the price point and inventory for a small shop. They have to sell out of what they have before they can stock it with new, more expensive product. The bottom line – you’ll still be able to find incandescents at some stores but the inventory will be dwindling.

There are reports of people stocking up on incandescents because they’re a familiar bulb people like. There’s been a lot of controversy with CFL’s and Consumer Report said they really weren’t ready for prime time. They hummed, buzzed, and gave off an unflattering light in their early days. Those pitfalls have remained with the bulb all these years. However, CR says the technology is improving and their rankings reveal that.

Still, I think the bad reflection of CFL’s is making this phaseout of incandescents a little tougher especially since the other option is still costly. A lot of people are fussing that the government is forcing this phaseout to a more energy efficient bulb. The government in some last minute political maneuvering actually stripped funding for the Department of Energy. Consumer Reports says it won’t stop the phaseout because manufacturers have been planning for it for years. It just means the Department of Energy won’t be able to enforce the new rules until the end of September.

Whether you like it or not, changes are coming. Click here for a good timeline from one light bulb manufacturer of the phaseout dates and things you need to know before you buy your next bulb. It’s going to take some adjustment to pay so much more upfront. The bulbs are guaranteed to last much longer and save a lot more energy. Consumer Reports tests show these newer bulbs, CFL’s and LED’s, really will trim your bottom line.

Label lingo changing too
There are also changes with the lingo and marketing. The word “watts” is being phased out. Now you will buy a bulb based on the lumens and color temperature measured in Kelvin. You want the number to be higher for lumens and lower for Kelvin to get a good bulb.

There’s a lot of marketing with all these new changes, so it can get confusing. Bulbs say daylight, bright white, and so on. While you may think daylight is the best light for you, Consumer Reports says it’s not because the light will be too blue. It’s too high of a Kelvin number. You want the lower Kelvin number around 2300 Kelvin. That will be a more yellow light.

Confused? For now, there will be a cheat sheet on light bulbs to help with all this transition. Click here to look at the new label that helps explain all these changes. Consumer Reports says look beyond the marketing and understand the label to truly get the bulb that’s perfect for your living condition.

Lighting the path to new bulbs

Photograph of illuminated incandescent-replace...

Image via Wikipedia

For years, we’ve been buying bulbs based on the wattage. We look at the light fixture, and figure out which bulb we need whether it’s a 40 watt or 150 watt bulb. The Federal Trade Commission says all that is changing in 2012. We’ll know a lot more about a light bulb than you probably ever needed to know.

Starting in 2012, the old incandescent or traditional light bulbs will be pushed off store shelves and replaced only with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL’s). CFL’s have been around for a few years now, but to mark the switch to CFL’s soley, there will also be packaging changes. You’ll no longer choose a 40 watt bulb, but a 450 lumen bulb.

Wattage has been the measure used for years, but the Federal Trade Commission says that only tells you the energy of a bulb. 40 watts tells us nothing about the bulb’s brightness. We’ve just come to know how much light a 40 watt bulb emits.

Courtesy Federal Trade Commission

Since the new CFLS’s are designed to use less energy, the Federal Trade Commission says wattage is no longer a reliable way to gauge a bulb’s brightness. So, they’re introducing the term “lumens” to consumers. Lumens means brightness, whereas watts means energy.

A standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, for example, produces about 800 lumens of light. A CFL bulb produces that same 800 lumens using less than 15 watts. A chart like the one to the left will help consumers understand this new term.

Consumers buy light bulbs so infrequently, it will take awhile for this new measurement tool to become accepted and understood.

You’ll also see the bulbs marketed with the terms warm and cool. This will help you understand the color of light that will be emitted. Warmer light looks yellow, and cooler light is more blue.

Courtesy Federal Trade Commission

All this information will be displayed in a small box that resembles the nutrition facts you’re used to seeing on food products. It will tell you the brightness (lumens), yearly estimated energy cost, life, light appearance (warm to cool), energy used (watts), and if the bulb contains mercury.

It will be interesting to see how these changes are viewed by consumers. Many are already turned off by the compact fluorescent light bulbs. Some consumers don’t like the color and strength of light emitted, while others complain these new bulbs have mercury in them.
The packaging will also let you know about the mercury in most of these bulbs. It’s less the tip of a pencil, but it still means opening the windows when one breaks and disposing of it properly.  There will be a website that directs you to a recycler in your area.  While most retailers offer the recycling service, it’s yet another issue with these new bulbs that are supposed to save us energy.
Hopefully, the new labels will give consumers more knowledge at the store rather than taking the bulb home and being disappointed by the lumens it emits. However, from covering consumer issues for a long time and knowing how consumers react I think this change is going to confuse people.
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