Final phase of ‘bulb ban' sparks conversation, hoarding, opportunity
February 21, 2014,
American Lighting Association
Past deadlines in the act removed 100-watt (2012) and 75-watt (2013) standard incandescent bulbs from the marketplace, but with the much-beloved 60-watt (as well as 40-watt) bulbs now on the chopping block, the talk of light bulb hoarding has spiked. There are still plenty of these bulbs available, but as the retailers and suppliers work their way through inventories, but by late this spring, they are expected to be widely unavailable.
According to the sixth annual Socket Survey by lighting producer Osram Sylvania, 59% of Americans say they didn't know that the 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs will no longer be produced. The report is a tracking survey of U.S. consumer attitudes and behaviors around lighting options and includes input from 300 consumer interviews conducted in November 2013.
As a result of the new legislation, the Sylvania survey reports, most consumers say they will switch to newer technology bulbs, with nearly half planning to switch to compact fluorescents and a quarter to LEDs. But 30% said they plan to stock up on the incandescent bulbs and continue to use them rather than switching to more energy-efficient options.
A new label - similar to a nutrition label - is also required on all light bulbs per the regulations. The label shows the expected life of the bulb and the cost per year of operation, as well as lumen and wattage data. On compact fluorescent bulbs, there is a mercury-content notice, as well as a web link to directions on how to dispose of a broken or burnt-out bulb.
There has been a notable level of resistance to the switch. For some, it's the idea of government regulation and intrusion into the personal choices of American consumers that spurs the resistance. For others, the reasons for resistance include the quality, color and amount of light produced from the replacement bulb options, the cost of the replacements or the environmental safety of the new bulbs (specifically the CFLs which contain trace amounts of mercury).
That said, there are compelling energy saving reasons to make the switch, which lighting experts say will save so much energy over time that the higher up-front cost will be more than made up for over the (potentially very long) lifespan of the replacement bulbs.
According to Terry McGowan, director of technology for the American Lighting Association, consumers now have three main choices of compliant screw-in bulb technology, and the bulbs themselves are already on retail shelves.
There are several 60-watt replacement products currently available (see chart above). "There is a broad and growing range of LED bulbs where prices now reflect differences in color quality, bulb appearance and size, light output and dimmability features," McGowan wrote in a recent ALA newsletter.
The quality of LEDs is improving so quickly, that many experts have predicted that the CFL - the "curly" bulbs hated by so many for their slow response, cold color, mercury content and lack of or limited dimmability - will probably not be on the market for much longer themselves, as the superior LED technology solves nearly all of these problems. LEDs also offer substantially longer lifespans, as noted above, with 25 times the lifespan of an Edison-style incandescent or halogen incandescent, and 2.5 times the lifespan of a CFL. Eighty-three percent of the responders to the Sylvania survey said that the lifespan of the bulb is a influencing factor in which bulb to buy, tied with the amount of light produced and the price as the most important factors.
The cost of LEDs is still considerable at this point, and most consumers cannot afford to replace all their bulbs with even the least-expensive of the LED options. But, as with most things technology, the prices are coming down quite steadily, making them much more in reach of the average consumer, particularly when the long-term power bills savings are factored in.
And the energy savings, the primary driver of the "bulb ban," are quite significant, when viewed both at an individual household or macro-economic perspective.
The U.S. Department of Energy released its Residential Lighting End-Use Consumption Study in December 2013.
Some of the highlights, as reported by McGowan in the ALA's Technology Newsletter:
■ In U.S. residences, the average daily use per bulb is 1.6 hours.
■ The average bulb uses 47.7 watts. (Down substantially from the 67 watt average reported in the 2002 report.)
■ There are more than 67 bulbs in the average home (considering all home types: single family, multi-family, etc.); but single family homes average more than 85 bulbs per home. (The average reported in the 2002 report was 37 bulbs per home.)
■ The cost of energy used for residential lighting varies by region, but total home lighting energy costs range from $200 to 300 per year.
■ Bulbs in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens consume the most lighting energy in the average home.
■ Incandescent bulbs (2010 data) remain the most widely used light source in homes (They are in more than 62% of the sockets); but the use of CFLs and LED bulbs has increased with CFLs at slightly more than 20% of the sockets on average (also 2010 data).
"Since the 2010 data above didn't include the rapid growth in the use of LED bulbs during the past couple of years, I looked at another DOE report which uses the same database, but which analyzed the LED adoption rate over the 2010-2012 time period," McGowan wrote. Adoption of LEDs in Common Lighting Applications:
■ What the 2010-2012 report shows is that the conversion of residential sockets from standard incandescent to halogen incandescent, CFL or LED bulbs has rapidly increased.
■ Some of that increase is due to the phase-out of standard incandescent bulbs; but lower prices for CFL and LED bulbs, better bulb performance, more product choice and market activities such as rebates and the entry of new manufacturers into the market have all played a role as well.
■ Of the "A-line" bulb sockets, 62% of the 3.2 billion in homes contained standard incandescent bulbs in 2010. That number has now dropped to 55%.
■ But, LED bulbs, even though some 20 million have been installed over the last two years, still fill less than 1% of the total available sockets.
The next two years, however, will likely see a dramatic change in those numbers because of the phase-out of the standard 40 watt and 60 watt bulbs beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. Those two bulb types represent almost 60% of the standard bulb market.
All this to say that there is huge opportunity for purveyors of lighting to capitalize on all the changes. Consumers are ready to buy the new bulbs, but they need to be taught. The Osram Sylvania Socket Survey reports that the highest percentage - 53% of consumers - say they rely on in-store displays or employees to get information about which bulbs to purchase.
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