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Future dims for incandescent bulbs

As new energy regulations take effect, old-style light bulbs being phased out

DG Ace Hardware sales associate Scott Higgins said he saw his electric bill cut in half after replacing his household light bulbs with more energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs.

“They are more expensive to buy, but in the long run, you save money,” Higgins said.

Consumers’ options are dwindling as a result of federal light bulb legislation that is phasing out incandescent light bulbs. Common household light bulbs, which traditionally have used between 40 and 100 watts, will use at least 27 percent less energy by 2014 as part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

Because of the legislation, production of 100-watt bulbs stopped after Jan. 1, 2012, and production of 75-watt bulbs stopped in January 2013. Stores are allowed to sell their remaining bulbs until they are gone.

Production of 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs will stop in January 2014. Christi Hartigan, owner and manager of DG Ace Hardware store in St. Charles, said not all of her customers are thrilled with the new regulations.

“Some people think the government is trying to run their lives,” Hartigan said. “A lot of times people are pretty resistant to change. I think being energy efficient is a good thing.”

The store’s stock of 75- and 100-watt light bulbs is getting depleted.

“People are stocking up on 100- and 75-watt light bulbs,” she said. “The 100-watt bulbs are just about gone.”

Under the new law, screw-based light bulbs will use fewer watts for a similar lumen output.

For example, today’s 60-watt bulb will be required to use 40 watts starting next year, and a 40-watt bulb will be required to use 29 watts.

Hartigan also has been making the switch to more energy-efficient bulbs.

“CFLs do last a long time,” Hartigan said. “I haven’t tried LED bulbs. I want to see how the lighting is and how long they last.”

CFLs last 10 times longer and use 75 percent less electricity than traditional incandescent light bulbs, according to Kane County’s recycling website, Using CFLs reduces emissions of mercury into the atmosphere from coal-fired power to about a quarter of what is produced for an incandescent light.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 103 metric tons of mercury emissions are released in the United States every year and that more than half of these emissions come from coal-fired electric power.

The Geneva Ace Hardware also is selling out of its stock of 75- and 100-watt bulbs.

“Right now, we are in pretty good shape,” general manager Rob Livingston said. “It is all supply and demand. A lot of people still use incandescent light bulbs. It’s what they had for years and years.”

A CFL does contain about 4 milligrams of mercury, a small amount compared to your average home thermometer that contains up to 500 milligrams of mercury. Drop-boxes for recycling CFLs can be found at many hardware stores.

The Ace Hardware store in Batavia has seen an increase in the number of customers buying CFLs.

“There are a large number of people that buy fluorescent light bulbs,” said Chris Rioux, store manager of the Batavia Ace Hardware. “A majority of people are buying CFLs versus incandescent light bulbs. As long as they can get a comparable light bulb, they are happy.”

He thinks the new standards for light bulbs eventually will become as common as unleaded gasoline. Standards to phase out leaded gasoline were first implemented in 1973.

“The less electricity we all use, the cheaper electricity will be,” Rioux said.

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