New light bulbs mean energy savings, safety precautions - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

The Battle of the Bulbs

Many people are already making the switch to new, more energy-efficient light bulbs. But soon, you won't have a choice.

Beginning this year, the incandescent light bulbs that you've been using for decades will start disappearing from store shelves. The future looks dim for those traditional light bulbs. Under federal law, the incandescent bulbs are being phased out.

"As of January 2012, manufacturers can no longer produce this bulb in the U.S., or we can no longer import this bulb into the U.S.," said Melvin Wilson of Mississippi Power Director of Sales and Efficiency Planning.

The bulbs are being replaced by Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs, or CFLs. You know them by their swirly design.

"The idea is they're going to last longer and they're more efficient, so they'll cost less to use over time," said Wilson. 

CFLs produce the same amount of light as the common bulbs, but they waste less energy.    

Wilson pointed to the wires inside an old bulb and said, "The electricity is actually in those wires and those wires get hot and that's what makes the heat. So 90 percent of it is just heat."

Making the switch will mean savings on your power bill.

"According to the Department of Energy web site, if you change out 15 old incandescent bulbs in your home and replace them with 15 new CFL bulbs, you can potentially save up to $50 a year," said Wilson.

Much like the fluorescent lights you see in some homes and businesses now, the new bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury. So if they burn out or break, you should never throw them in the trash.

"The EPA does have specific directions on their web site about how to dispose of CFL bulbs," said Wilson. "Some of your home improvement stores actually have a way for you to take the bulbs to those stores and they'll actually dispose of them for you."

But not everyone is warming up to the idea of changing their light bulbs.

"Some say the reading by some of the lights isn't as good as the old incandescence. But the lights are getting improved," said Wilson. "In the next few years, you'll see more of what they call an LED light bulb, which is even more efficient than CFL bulbs."

Like it or not, this next generation of light bulbs will become a fixture in every home.

The phase-out of incandescent bulbs begins with the 100-watt bulb in 2012, and ends in 2014 with the 40 and 60-watt bulbs. Stores that have them in stock can still sell them until they run out. The law does not affect specialty bulbs, like heavy duty or three-way bulbs.

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