2013 Will Bring Phase-Out Of 75 Watt Incandescent Light Bulbs

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In 2012, 100 watt light bulbs were told to get lost. In 2013, 75 watt bulbs will join them in their demise.

On January 2, 2013, 75 watt incandescent light bulbs were banned in the U.S. as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Whatever is left on store shelves and in warehouses can be sold, but once they’re gone, they’re gone – for good.

The Energy Independence and Security Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush as a method to move our nation towards energy independence and to meet his “Twenty in Ten” challenge goals to reduce gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years. It was originally named the Clean Energy Act of 2007.

There are, as to be expected, quite a few people who aren’t happy that their favorite incandescent light bulbs won’t be sold in stores anymore. In fact, some people are hoarding them whenever they find them for sale. Government intervention, the taking away of rights, the fear of toxicity issues with CFLs – whatever the reason, incandescents are a hot-ticket item when on store shelves. This new ban, on 75 watt bulbs, should really get some blood boiling.

incandescent light bulb

Not all is bad, though. By forcing the conversion to energy-efficient light bulbs we will:

  1. Reduce the amount of energy we use to light up our homes. A single CFL in each home saves enough energy to light 3 million homes.
  2. Reduce the levels of mercury pollution spewed from power plants
  3. Have light bulbs that last up to 10 times longer, reducing waste

One of the main concerns with CFL bulbs is that they each contain a small amount of mercury. Mercury can be toxic and you have to be careful not to break these bulbs in your home, but the danger has been widely overblown. Helen Suh MacIntosh is a professor in environmental health at Harvard University and had this to say about mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs:

A CFL containing 5 mg of mercury breaks in your child’s bedroom that has a volume of about 25 m3 (which corresponds to a medium-sized bedroom). The entire 5 mg of mercury vaporizes immediately (an unlikely occurrence), resulting in an airborne mercury concentration in this room of 0.2 mg/m3. This concentration will decrease with time, as air in the room leaves and is replaced by air from outside or from a different room. As a result, concentrations of mercury in the room will likely approach zero after about an hour or so. Under these relatively conservative assumptions, this level and duration of mercury exposure is not likely to be dangerous, as it is lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard of 0.05 mg/m3 of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours.

Of course, there is an alternative that contains no mercury: LED light bulbs. While they are expensive, they are nontoxic, use even less energy than CFLs do, and they last even longer. If you are concerned about mercury, LEDs may be the way you should go at home.

Banning incandescents may seem extreme, but there are solid reasons as to why it is being done. It is not a government conspiracy to poison citizens with mercury or enrich the makers of CFL and LED lightbulbs. Rather, it’s to save energy and reduce pollution. Both of those reasons are real winners for the environment.

In 2014, 40 and 60 watt incandescent light bulbs will be added to the ban, so be ready!

Bulb image from BigStock.

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