The New Year ushered in new resolutions, as usual. But, the arrival of 2014 also ushered in a new regulation on a common consumer product — the light bulb.
As of Jan. 1, new federal standards prohibited the manufacture and import of 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs, the most common bulbs used to illuminate homes across America. Although some opponents of the law doubt the need for, and the viability of the regulation, supporters have claimed that the mandates do have some merit. And, when all is considered, the benefits of the new alternatives to the incandescent bulb often eclipse the disadvantages.
The legislation that regulates the manufacture and import of the traditional incandescent bulb is part of the Energy Independence and Security Act, which was signed into law by former President George W. Bush in 2007. EISA is designed to decrease American dependence on foreign sources of energy, increase energy independence and security, protect consumers and enhance the efficiency of consumer products, facilities and vehicles.
Contrary to popular concerns surrounding the law, EISA neither bans incandescent bulbs, nor demands the use of certain alternative bulbs. Consumers will not be required to immediately discard existing incandescent bulbs and they will not be required to replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights or light emitting diodes. Instead, EISA requires newly manufactured bulbs to consume 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and to produce at least 20 lumens of light per watt of power consumed.
Traditional incandescent bulbs will still be available for sale until the current supply is exhausted. Certain incandescent bulbs including colored bulbs, candelabra-base bulbs and specialty bulbs such as those used in refrigerators and incubators are exempt from the law.
Although not required by law, there are many advantages to replacing incandescent bulbs with their more efficient counterparts. Watt for watt and lumen for lumen, CFLs and LEDs consume less energy and boast longer life spans than incandescent bulbs. Considering the cost of use and the cost of replacement, CFLs and LEDs will ultimately conserve fiscal resources as well. Energy efficient bulbs can save $40 to $135 in utility costs every year, per the Environmental Protection Agency.
Although they have many advantages, CFLs and LEDs do have some drawbacks. CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury but should not pose a threat to the environment or to public health if the bulbs are handled and recycled properly. CFLs do not achieve immediate, full illumination, and they can be susceptible to humidity. They are also initially more expensive than incandescent bulbs. While a standard incandescent bulb costs about $0.50, a comparable CFL costs about $3.
LEDs are perhaps the most environmentally sound and most expedient alternatives since they contain no mercury and provide instant, full illumination. Additionally, they are more durable than incandescent bulbs or CFLs. However, since each LED bulb costs an average of $10 to $30, they are also the most expensive alternatives to the incandescent bulb. Despite these concerns, new technologies and increased demands will lessen the environmental impacts, public health concerns and initial costs tied to CFLs and LEDs, and in the end, their minimal power consumption and their impressive life spans will create a significant return on investment.
Energy efficient light bulbs will contribute to a decrease in America’s energy consumption as these alternatives become the standards for home illumination. As we decrease our energy consumption, we will also decrease our utility costs and decrease the environmental pollution associated with energy production. Furthermore, we will decrease our demand for finite and foreign sources of energy, and we will eventually reach our goals of energy independence and security.
For more information on energy efficient light bulbs, visit the Consumer Reports Light Bulb Buying Guide at www.consumerreports.org/cro/lightbulbs.htm.
And, for more information on the environmental program at Fort Bragg, visit http://sustainablefortbragg.com or www.facebook.com/sustainablefortbragg.
(Part one of a two part series)