Energy smart alternatives for banned 40-60-watt incandescent light bulbs

January 17, 2014
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times 

There was a rush on something unusual right before New Year’s wasn’t champagne or balloons so fervently sought, but rather light bulbs, specifically standard pear-shaped 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs. The bulbs were banned as of January 1, 2014 due to federally mandated efficiency standards enacted in 2007 by President George W. Bush. 

Many people might not have noticed that the 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs were phased out earlier, but the ban on 60- and 40-watt bulbs has a bigger impact on consumers already preferring lower light for the home.

Retailers such as Ace Heritage Hardware in Santa Paula are ready to help people make the transition and expect some consumers will be unaware of the new law. 

As of January 1 the standard household incandescent bulb, used for more than a century can no longer be made in or even imported into the U.S.

The law does not affect all incandescent light bulbs, just general service bulbs, those pear-shaped bulbs with a medium base used most commonly in the home. And many bulbs are exempt from the law, including three-way bulbs, 150-watt bulbs and bulbs with narrower candelabra bases that are often used in chandeliers.

Either way, Brenda Padgett owner of Ace Heritage Hardware located in the Vons Shopping Center, said her staff is ready to help those who need bulb education.

So far there has not been a rush of people buying bulbs, although Padgett said “We have had people come in and ask about them...but I imagine they’ll be coming soon,” when the light goes out and a bulb must be bought.

The store has “so many bulbs for so many different uses,” that Padgett said it seems, “They create a light bulb for everything! We have more than 30 different kinds, perhaps as many as’s hard to tell.”

But in spite of the variety the 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs used to account for more than 50 percent of all U.S. bulb sales.

“I still have people that complain they want the old-fashioned soft lighting,” of the 100- and 75-watt incandescent bulbs, banned since 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Padgett said once the initial anger at the loss of the lower watt incandescent bulbs dims people will realize although they pay a higher bulb price they will save money in the long run.

“Newer bulbs are supposed to last a long, long time and be more efficient,” so the initial cost is offset by longevity and savings on the electric bill.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL), “The twisty, ugly ones, are less expensive,” and Padgett said they are hidden when installed in lamps and light fixtures.

Now consumers have essentially two sound choices, CFL and LED bulbs.

The earliest “twisty, ugly” CFLs turned people off with their low light and slowness to come on, but they now come on instantly-albeit full brightness might take a minute-and produce a good light quality. They’re also fairly cheap (about $1.25 to $2.50 each for a 60-watt equivalent) and with normal use last approximately nine years. Not only do they use less energy but also burn cooler than incandescents but check the packaging to make sure you can use them outside if that’s what you want to do. They do contain a trace of mercury.

Light emitting diodes (LED) are gaining popularity and can last so long they might outlive you. Energy Star LED lights are guaranteed to last 25,000 hours, almost 23 years with normal use. They’re also slightly more energy-efficient than CFLs, using 10 watts of electricity to produce the light of an old-style 60-watt bulb. They’re cool to the touch but still fairly expensive, starting at about $10 although brighter bulbs still cost $30 to $40 each. 

“We know the new bulbs are more expensive but they will last so much longer and lower the monthly electric bill,” said Padgett.

“We’ll work with our customers to find comparable bulbs and what meets their needs...if they want softer lighting we can give them that. We are looking forward to helping them find the perfect bulb.”

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