Saturday, May 25, 2013
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs contain a small amount of mercury and must be recycled. But Mainers are lucky – the state offers a free program.
HOW TO CHOOSE A LIGHTBULB
HERE ARE SOME TIPS from the National Electric Manufacturers Association:
WHAT ARE YOU going to be doing in the area where you want to put the lightbulb? Is it in a kitchen, at a desk or in a garage? What type of light do you prefer in that area -- a yellowish white light, which many people prefer in places like living rooms? Or do you prefer a bluish light that more closely resembles daylight, and is commonly used in working areas, garages, or over the sink? Does the bulb need to be dimmable?
LUMENS IS A measure of brightness and has replaced the number of watts on a package of lightbulbs, which is a big change for consumers. The number of watts reflects the amount of power going into the bulb, while lumens is a measurement of the amount of light coming out. A 100-watt bulb, for example, produces a level of brightness equivalent to 1,600 lumens.
TODAY, CONSUMERS have the choice of incandescent bulbs; halogen bulbs, which are energy-efficient incandescents; compact fluorescents; or LEDs. Halogens use 28 percent less energy than regular incandescents. Compact fluorescents and LEDs both use about 75 percent less energy.
LIGHTBULB PACKAGES now carry a "Light Facts" label much like the Nutrition Facts labels found on groceries. They can be used to compare brightness, energy cost, the life of the bulb, appearance and the amount of energy used. CFL bulbs will carry a mercury warning.
TO ESTIMATE SAVINGS
THE EFFICIENCY MAINE website (efficiencymaine.com/at-home/residential-lighting-program) has a savings calculator where consumers can plug in the wattage and number of bulbs they're using, along with the number of hours a day the bulbs are on, and find out how much they'll save with compact fluorescents.
No, incandescent lightbulbs have not been banned, despite what certain radio talk shows may be telling you.
And no, the government is not going to force you to buy compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs.
So why are some people hoarding incandescent bulbs? It all started with a federal law passed in 2007 that requires lightbulb manufacturers to improve the efficiency of incandescent bulbs.
Some more inefficient lightbulbs are being phased out, beginning with the 100-watt bulb last January. Then, according to the schedule of rolling deadlines, on Jan. 1, 2013, manufacturers will no longer be able to manufacture 75-watt bulbs. The final deadline is Jan. 1, 2014, when 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs as we know them will go dark.
The bulbs that have already been made will remain on store shelves until they are gone.
But, again, this does not mean incandescent bulbs have been banned. It just means manufacturers are now required to produce more efficient ones, like the halogen incandescent bulb that uses 28 percent less energy than its cousin. It looks just like the old 100-watt bulb, except instead of a filament inside, it has a little capsule that allows it to burn more efficiently.
The law exempts all kinds of bulbs, so you don't have to worry about your refrigerator bulb, black lightbulb, bug lamp, infrared lamp, marine lamp, plant light, reflector bulb, three-way bulb or many other (more obscure) bulbs.
None of this is comforting to Michael Jubinsky, the owner of a baking school in Lyman. Jubinsky is one of the people stockpiling 60-, 75- and 100-watt lightbulbs in preparation for the time they disappear from store shelves. He thinks the whole issue is "all politics."
"I know they say it saves energy," he said. "What I have the real problem with is this whole thing was forced down our throats. There wasn't a manufacturer in the United States that made compact fluorescents. They were all made in China. I think that may have changed -- someone may be making them in the United States now -- but for the longest time, they were all made in China, and you can't just chuck them. They've got mercury in them. You've got to take them and dispose of them as a hazardous material.
"We're just screwing with the little people again, the people who have no voice."
Jubinsky estimates that he has about 50 packages of lightbulbs stored on a shelf in his basement. He finds them on sale or picks them up at Walmart.
"Every once in a while, one of the stores has them on sale, even supermarkets," he said. "They're trying to clear the shelves, apparently. I'll see them on sale and pick up three or four packages of them."
MANUFACTURERS ON BOARD
The transition to more energy-efficient bulbs is one environmentally friendly government mandate that manufacturers now support -- they've been preparing for it since 2007 -- but industry experts say there's not a lot of understanding among the public about what the law actually says. Consumers worry they'll be forced to pay more for a product they like less.
Joseph Higbee, spokesman for the National Electric Manufacturers Association in Rosslyn, Va., acknowledges that there have been lots of media reports of panicked consumers buying up 100-watt lightbulbs like they're the last batch of snickerdoodles in a roomful of cookie monsters. He chalks it up to "a lot of misunderstanding and confusion."
The more energy-efficient bulbs are indeed more expensive in the store, but prices are dropping, and manufacturers argue they will ultimately save consumers money over time.
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