The light bulb has come a long way since its creation more than 150 years ago.

Thomas Edison is credited with improving the technology behind the incandescent light bulb as he developed one that would last for more than 1,000 hours in the late 19th century. Since that time, technology behind the incandescent bulb has improved and is available in a variety of wattages and shapes and sizes.

But due to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, those incandescent light bulbs will begin to be phased out in the United States starting in 2012.

Most stores will continue to sell incandescent bulbs, but there is one retailer who is already ahead of the curve: IKEA. The Swedish retailer recently announced it has pulled all incandescent bulbs from shelves and claims to be the first to do so.

"It's a little step with a big impact on our planet," Tempe IKEA spokeswoman Jackie Terry said in an e-mail. "Eliminating incandescents is a simple way to lead the charge for IKEA customers to use energy-saving light bulbs, thus reducing energy consumption and reducing the amount of greenhouses gases."

The popular alternatives, compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen and LED bulbs, last longer and consume less energy. An LED lamp is 70 percent more energy efficient than its incandescent counterpart and can last 20 times longer, according to IKEA. The average life of an incandescent bulb is 1,000 hours compared to between 6,000 and 10,000 hours for CFLs, 2,000 to 4,000 for halogen and up to 20,000 hours for LEDs.

The biggest drawback is the price. A CFL can cost up to five times as much as an incandescent bulb and LED bulbs can be even pricier. But, in addition to improving the "carbon footprint," making the change to a more efficient bulb will spell long-term energy savings, officials said.

One local hardware store is trying to make the transition easy for its customers. Ace Hardware store manager Katie Fanning said they offer sales, including a five pack for $5 currently.

"We look at it like you can buy them when they are on sale and when your (incandescents) die out, then you already have a backup," Fanning said. "We haven't had too much concern about phasing them out yet, but when we get closer to those dates, that will probably change."

An expert in lighting and former owner of Ace Hardware in Maricopa, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Frank Polimene, said that as far as the alternatives to incandescent bulbs have come, they still fall behind in certain situations.

"They certainly do not do well at all in low dimming situations," he said. "Light is measured in bandwidth. Incandescent bulbs have a very broad bandwidth comparatively. Application-wise, they just haven't been perfected enough for people to flock to change to (alternatives)."

Polimene, in addition to his background in engineering, saw first hand how much more efficient LED bulbs can be. Last year, he finished replacing the lights for his annual Santa Train event with 18,000 LED bulbs.

"They will all run on one 15-amp circuit," he said. "Before, I would have to use six amps."

Like IKEA, Polimene believes that technology will continue to improve, making the transition to CFLs, halogen or LEDs that much easier.

(2) comments

The Teach

Why do we continue to ignore the problems we will develop with CFL's if people do not recycle them. As more of them enter the landfills the mercury in them will leach into nearby streams and into our water system. Also, the precautions on them are not being fully understood by most of the folks I have spoken with here in NC. If one should break in your home and you have carpeting under it, the standard is to replace the carpet because of the mercury. Never vacuum the mess either for it will enhance the mercury vapors in your house. CFL's do not like cold weather either and take several minutes to warm to full illumination. And how about those individuals who use the incadescent bulb to keep their wells from freezing? Now they will have to use a heat strip which is more diffucult to see if it is working. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction! Newton got it right!


Making more efficient use of electricity is a good thing. But, have the savings from energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs been oversold?
Electric utilities in states like California and Arizona have been directed to implement programs to reduce consumer demand for electricity. In Arizona, the Arizona Corporation Commission implemented rules that require investor owned electric companies to reduce electricity sales by 22 percent over the next 10 years. To achieve this aggressive energy efficiency target, the utility companies are implementing programs, like subsidizing the cost of CFLs, which are more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs.
But, evaluations done by regulators in California indicate that energy-saving CFLs, burn out faster than expected thereby reducing the expected cost effectiveness of the program.
The ACC should keep the California results in mind as it moves forward with implementation of its energy efficiency rules. Is the aggressive EE target set by the ACC realistic or achievable and when should it be tweaked?

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