Changing the Lightbulb as We Know It

In late 2007, President Bush signed a federal energy bill that established energy efficiency standards for the everyday lightbulb.

These standards essentially retire the 130-year-old incandescent, which is so inefficient that 90 percent of the electricity it uses is wasted as heat.

As there are around 4 billion screw-based sockets in the US, this is a really big deal.

Once in full effect, the standards will:

  •  Cut our nation’s electric bill by $13 billion a year.
  •  Eliminate the need for 30 large (500 MW) power plants.
  •  Prevent more than 100 million tons of CO2 emissions, the main pollutant responsible for global warming.

To put this into perspective, these standards will save as much electricity each year as that used by all the homes in the state of Texas. 

Unfortunately, some have decided to launch a campaign to “save” the inefficient incandescent lightbulb. Last month, Representative Joe Barton of Texas introduced legislation that would return us to the past; its backers are spreading loads of misinformation along the way. The legislation represents a disturbing trend of bashing energy efficiency regulations across the board, regardless of their benefits. 

Interestingly enough, the lighting companies are not in favor of such a rollback. Flip-flopping policies are the last thing they want.

To its credit, the lighting industry’s trade association issued a press release that sums up its ongoing commitment to meet and exceed the new lighting efficiency standards. These companies have made major changes to their supply chains and invested billions of dollars in research and development and new production facilities. Preserving the most inefficient lightbulb is no longer in their financial interests.

Barton’s bill also ignores exciting new energy saving lighting products that are beginning to hit market. These replacement bulbs provide just as much light as today’s incandescents and last much longer, which means fewer trips up the ladder and significant cost savings for the user.

Not surprisingly, Edison’s 125-year-old bulb is a really bad deal in today’s economy. While today’s incandescent bulbs cost 25 cents to 50 cents per bulb when bought in a 4 pack, they are a really bad deal both for your pocket and the environment. That’s because energy saving alternatives such as compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use 4 times less energy to create the same amount of light. Over a five-year period, a 100W incandescent bulb will cost $40 more than the comparable 25W CFL. 

Unfortunately, many consumers are unable to get past the slightly higher first cost of the CFL, $2 (in a multi-pack) to $5 (when bought one at a time), and unknowingly are being hit with higher electric bills.