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Are You Ready for the Incandescent Light Bulb Ban?

In an effort to encourage energy efficiency in homes across the country, incandescent light bulbs [3] are being phased out. One of the early steps in this process takes place this year. As of January 1, 2012 light bulb manufacturers are supposed to stop making 100 watt incandescent bulbs. The move is meant to encourage consumers to turn to more energy efficient choices, including CFLs, LEDs and halogen bulbs.

Many consumers may not even be aware that this is happening. However, it’s something that you should be aware of — especially if you still use 100 watt incandescent bulbs (75 watt bulbs are supposed to be more efficient by 2013 and lower watt bulbs by 2014). Congress did, in December 2011, vote to delay the funds that would allow for enforcement of the ban until October 2012, but many manufacturers have already stopped producing the 100 watt incandescent bulbs.

Stocking Up on Incandescent Bulbs

Even though I use CFLs (and am waiting for LEDs to come down in price to make a true switch), I know that many people like incandescent bulbs better. The bans on incandescent light bulbs is likely to encourage stockpiling. Even though manufacturers have to stop making the 100 watt bulbs (although some might continue to produce them anyway, since the ban won’t be enforced until later in 2012), stores don’t have to stop selling what they already have in stock. That means that you can head down to the store and stock up.

Some consumers are stocking up on lower watt incandescent bulbs as well, since those will be experience changes in the coming years. And, of course, the federal law about incandescents doesn’t affect states, like California, that plan to ban these types of light bulbs entirely. Since incandescent bulbs are cheap, stocking up on them should be fairly easy. However, due to their shorter lifespan, you might need more than you expect to set you up for life.

Getting Rid of Old CFLs

While consumers can certainly purchase LED bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs or CFLs, many consumers are likely to choose the CFLs, since they are cheaper than the LED bulbs. Over time, LEDs last longer and provide more energy savings, but many customers are more interested in the immediate bottom line.

As a result, consumers need to be aware that there are special disposal concerns associated with CFLs. These light bulbs contain a certain amount of mercury, so they can’t just be tossed out with the trash. They need to be recycled. Some hardware stores and other retailers allow you to bring them in for free disposal. If you are unsure of how to get rid of your CFLs, call your city’s waste or environmental department to determine the proper mode of disposal.

Bottom Line

At some point, you are going to be affected by a ban of incandescent light bulbs. It’s time to prepare now. Either stock up on incandescent light bulbs, or save up some money to pay extra for other options. For those who already use CFLs, LEDs or halogen bulbs, the new ban won’t change much. However, if you rely on incandescent bulbs for lighting, you need to figure out what you will do next.

(Photo: Peter Rosbjerg [4])