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National Lighting Bureau says get ready for 2012 incandescent departure


January 11, 2011
By Anthony Capkun

Prepare to say good-bye to the venerable 100W ‘general-service’ incandescent bulb, advises the National Lighting Bureau (NLB), an independent, not-for-profit, educational foundation in the States. As of January 1, 2012, it will be a violation of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 (Public Law 110-140) to import the bulbs to the United States or to manufacture them there. (In California, state law banned the bulb as of January 1, 2011.)

“Light bulbs are now subject to the same kind of standard used to measure automobile efficiency; output per unit of input,” explained Mary Beth Gotti, a member of the NLB’s board and manager of GE Lighting’s GE Lighting Institute. “For automobiles, it’s measured as MPG… for light bulbs, it’s measured as LPW; that’s lumens—a measure of the amount of light produced per watt of electric power required to operate the bulb. Conventional 100W incandescent light bulbs produce about 17 lumens per watt, a rating that’s too low to meet the new standards.”

While the phase-out will help the States reduce electrical consumption and the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with the production of some electricity, continued Gotti, “the impact on consumers is not nearly as big a deal as some people are making it out to be”.

“Standard-compliant halogen bulbs are readily available for those who want to keep using incandescent technology,” said Gotti. A 72W halogen lamp that looks more or less identical to a conventional 100W incandescent is about one-third more efficient, achieving more than 20 LPW.

CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) produce about 62.5 LPW, about four times the amount of light as incandescents on a watt-for-watt basis, and last about 10 times longer. The 26W CFL that is used to replace a 100W incandescent costs about the same as a 72W halogen. Although the typical CFL is a coiled device, CFLs are available in many sizes and shapes. Some are manufactured with outer bulbs that make them look just like conventional 100W incandescents. Dimmable CFLs also are available (only those CFLs designated as dimmable will function properly when used with a dimmer).

Solid-state lighting, incorporating LED (light-emitting diode) technology, can also be used to replace incandescents. At 75 LPW, the 10W LEDs used to replace 100W incandescents are about 20% more efficient than CFLs, and can last six or more times as long. The impediment to widespread LED adoption is the comparatively high cost (about $30 or so for some 10W LEDs), but prices are declining.

Despite the drawbacks they share with 100W general-service incandescents, most 100W specialty incandescents are NOT AFFECTED by the ban, including: 3-way bulbs; appliance lights; ‘bug lights’; infrared and coloured bulbs; shatter-resistant, vibration-service, and rough-service bulbs; bulbs used in signs; and bulbs used for marine, mine and traffic applications.

Also affected are many of the incandescent reflector lamps now commonly used (bulbs identified with letters such as R, ER and PAR). Their import to—and manufacture in—the States will be banned starting July 14, 2012. However, a number of halogen-reflector lamps (i.e. PAR 20s, 30s and 38s) already meet the new standards.

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