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Complaints about the new compact fluorescent bulbs range from the high price, the lack of quality of the light, the sound or humming that the bulbs make after time, and the fact that it can take up to a minute before the light emitted from the bulbs is as bright as light from incandescent bulbs. Many Americans have started to wonder if they should start to stockpile incandescent bulbs.

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As of August 31, 2009 stores in the European Union are no longer allowed to purchase incandescent light bulbs.  This “light bulb ban” is part of a new law designed to cut energy usage in the E.U. by 10% over the next decade.  Over the next two years, various types of outdoor, halogen, and fluorescent light bulbs will fall under the same restrictions.  One week into the ban, and already stories have come out to the international press of Europeans who have started to stockpile the “old” bulbs.  Complaints about the new compact fluorescent bulbs range from the high price, the lack of quality of the light, the sound or humming that the bulbs make after time, and the fact that it can take up to a minute before the light emitted from the bulbs is as bright as light from incandescent bulbs.

What many of these news reports don’t mention, however, is that the United States will be banning incandescent bulbs starting in 2012.  While it is possible that this law could be repealed or relaxed in light of the problems in Europe, many Americans have started to wonder if they should also start to stockpile incandescent bulbs.


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The main problem for many Americans is the price of the new bulbs.  While an incandescent  light bulb could be purchased for about 50 cents, a compact fluorescent light bulb can cost almost $8.  Originally, packaging for compact fluorescent bulbs carried the claim that the bulbs would last for up to seven years, making many consumers believe that their cost would even out in the long term.  Many consumers soon learned, however, that using the bulbs in a residential setting, where the lights are turned off and on several times a day, meant that the bulbs had a life closer to two or three years.  The claim has since been removed from the packaging of many brands of these bulbs.  The claim that consumers would see significant savings in their energy bills, since many of the bulbs use about 25% of the power required by incandescent bulbs, has some moderate success.  While many consumers report that their power bills have dropped, the savings are closer to 3% rather than the 7%-10% that many consumers were promised.  These facts, combined with the high cost of the bulbs makes replacing all of the light bulbs in a house an expensive undertaking. 

Many consumers have simply decided to switch out light bulbs as they blow out, rather than replace all of the lights in their house at one time.  The high cost can have some unintended consequences, however.  Recently, Dan Rellar purchased a new home and upon moving in realized that the builder had not put any light bulbs in.  He went to the store expecting to spend about $20 for the 48 sockets in the house.  “All the store had available was CFL bulbs.  I spent over $300, just on light bulbs”.  Although he has lived in the house for less than six months, he has already had to replace one of the bulbs. 

 Should Americans start stockpiling incandescent bulbs like the Europeans?  In many communities, people have already started.  “I use the CFLs in places where I don’t need good light, but I use the old (incandescent) bulbs in my reading lamps,” says on New Mexico resident.  “I’ve started buying the old ones whenever I see them on sale.  I have a pile of about 50 or so in my garage.  When they’re gone, hopefully the new bulbs will be better and cheaper.”  Many Americans are inclined to agree with him.  Sales of incandescent bulbs went up after the law banning the bulbs by 2012 was signed by George Bush.  Stores that stopped carrying incandescent bulbs in preparation of the ban have quietly started to bring them back. 

Keeping a few years worth of incandescent bulbs on hand might be a good idea if you do not like the quality of the CFL light, or if you might need a cheaper alternative to CFLs over the next few years.