The final phaseout of traditional incandescent light bulbs starts Wednesday, forcing consumers to abandon old-fashioned glass bulbs in favor of more expensive and efficient models that will save them money in the long run, experts said.
On Jan. 1 it will become illegal to manufacture or import 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs because of federally mandated efficiency standards signed into law in 2007 by then-President George W. Bush.
Traditional 75- and 100-watt incandescent bulbs were phased out at the beginning of 2013, but the coming ban on 60- and 40-watt bulbs will have a greater impact on consumers because of their popularity for residential lighting, experts said.
Home Depot stores in the Dayton-Cincinnati region have “heavy inventories” of 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs that should last through the first six months of 2014, said Rob Kalp, the company’s district manager for stores in Beavercreek, Centerville, Hamilton, Lebanon, Miamisburg, Piqua, Springfield, Trotwood and West Chester.
Kalp said some customers are used to incandescent bulbs and reluctant to make the transition to more energy-efficient LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent) light bulbs. “We want to make sure that we have a full selection to take care of those customers until they are comfortable with that change,” he said.
LED and CFL bulbs will reduce the environmental impact of commercial and residential lighting, and save consumers money, said Kevin Hallinan, a University of Dayton engineering professor and co-founder of the school’s master’s degree program in renewable and clean energy.
“The reason why the federal government legislated the change is because these incandescent bulbs use four times or more energy than other technologies,” Hallinan said. “That’s more pollution coming out of the power plants, that’s more carbon emissions, so this is really a good thing for the U.S.,” he said.
Experts said 90 percent of the electricity used by traditional incandescent light bulbs is radiated in the form of heat, rather than light.
“That’s why Easy-Bake Ovens have incandescent lights in them. They are actually better at cooking food than they are at lighting,” Hallinan said.
Kalp said consumers will pay more upfront for LED and CFL bulbs, but the new technologies will save homeowners about 85 percent and 75 percent, respectively, on their energy bills. In addition, LED bulbs can last up to 23 years, and CFL bulbs last about nine years, he said.
“They pay for themselves relatively quickly and then continue to save the customer money on their energy costs as the years go by,” Kalp said.
The average annual operating cost of a 60-watt incandescent bulb is $8.74, said Kara McMillen, Dayton Power & Light’s residential program manager. In comparison, the operating cost of a 13-watt CFL — the equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent — is $1.89. That’s about a $30 energy cost savings over the life of the CFL bulb, she said.
“Switching to efficient lighting is one of the simplest ways to reduce your energy usage at home, and lighting typically accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of a home’s energy bill,” McMillen said.
DP&L offers an average $1.40 discount on each CFL bulb purchase at area retail stores that include Home Depot, Lowe’s, Meijer, Menards and Wal-Mart. The discount is given at the cash register.
Hallinan said some consumers prefer the yellow-colored light from incandescent bulbs, but improvements have been made to both CFL and LED lighting in recent years to provide a softer, warmer look.
“I actually like the white lights better. They add more clarity to your view of things. You can see things better with the same intensity,” he said.