Fireworks weren't the only lights to burn out with the start of the new year.
New Year's Eve, in fact, marked the last day for Thomas Edison's traditional 40- and 60-watt light bulbs to be manufactured or imported in the United States, as mandated by a bipartisan law signed by President George W. Bush in 2007.
The Energy Independence and Security Act switched off the congressional light for products of Edison's obsession, trading traditional incandescent bulbs for more efficient forms of lighting. Traditional bulbs donate 90 percent of their energy to heat rather than light, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a percentage that falls well below Congress's higher energy-efficiency standards. The new standards are aimed at boosting bulb efficiency and require bulbs to use at least 25 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
This year's phaseout of the 40- and 60-watt bulbs, effective Jan. 1, comes as the third measure on a timeline that began two years ago. In 2012, 100-watt bulbs were phased out, followed by last year's elimination of traditional 75-watt bulbs.
But incandescent diehards need not be alarmed. A few incandescents — such as halogen bulbs — use about 25 to 30 percent less energy than standard incandescents, so they meet the new energy-efficiency standards and are not being phased out. And as for the rest of Edison's traditional bulbs, though the phaseout precludes their import and manufacturing, it allows stores and online retailers to continue to sell them until they run out of stock.
Stephen Braly, owner of Braly Builders Supply in Palestine, said he hadn't noticed a mad dash for the soon-to-be-vintage bulbs. Rather, light-bulb shopping seemed business as usual at the newly remodeled Braly Builders Supply. He said the store would continue to carry the traditional incandescents as long as they were available to order.
Store managers across the U.S. have said they expect to have the traditional bulbs in stock for at least a few more months.
So what does this mean in the not-so-long run for you, the consumer? Well on the plus side, it means more choices and smaller electric bills. On the minus side, it means higher-priced bulbs and closer attention devoted to reading labels.
The Federal Trade Commission designed a fresh new label for the flashy new bulbs of the future, which officially started showing up in stores in 2012. The new labels provide information about lumens (brightness), estimated annual operating cost, how long the bulb should last, and light appearance, which deals with the color of light (warm yellowish to cool white).
Lumens tell how much light a bulb will provide, while watts only tell how much power it uses. When determining what sort of bulb to buy, the EPA recommends that consumers look for fewer lumens for dim lighting, and for a greater number of lumens for brighter lighting. For example:
• If you used to buy 100 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 1600 lumens.
• If you used to buy 75 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 1100 lumens.
• If you used to buy 60 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 800 lumens.
• If you used to buy 40 watt bulbs, look for a bulb with 450 lumens.