Pulling the plug on incandescent bulbs - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

Pulling the plug on incandescent bulbs

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 2:00 pm

The light bulb has come a long way since its creation more than 150 years ago.

Thomas Edison is credited with improving the technology behind the incandescent light bulb as he developed one that would last for more than 1,000 hours in the late 19th century. Since that time, technology behind the incandescent bulb has improved and is available in a variety of wattages and shapes and sizes.

But due to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, those incandescent light bulbs will begin to be phased out in the United States starting in 2012.

Most stores will continue to sell incandescent bulbs, but there is one retailer who is already ahead of the curve: IKEA. The Swedish retailer recently announced it has pulled all incandescent bulbs from shelves and claims to be the first to do so.

"It's a little step with a big impact on our planet," Tempe IKEA spokeswoman Jackie Terry said in an e-mail. "Eliminating incandescents is a simple way to lead the charge for IKEA customers to use energy-saving light bulbs, thus reducing energy consumption and reducing the amount of greenhouses gases."

The popular alternatives, compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen and LED bulbs, last longer and consume less energy. An LED lamp is 70 percent more energy efficient than its incandescent counterpart and can last 20 times longer, according to IKEA. The average life of an incandescent bulb is 1,000 hours compared to between 6,000 and 10,000 hours for CFLs, 2,000 to 4,000 for halogen and up to 20,000 hours for LEDs.

The biggest drawback is the price. A CFL can cost up to five times as much as an incandescent bulb and LED bulbs can be even pricier. But, in addition to improving the "carbon footprint," making the change to a more efficient bulb will spell long-term energy savings, officials said.

One local hardware store is trying to make the transition easy for its customers. Ace Hardware store manager Katie Fanning said they offer sales, including a five pack for $5 currently.

"We look at it like you can buy them when they are on sale and when your (incandescents) die out, then you already have a backup," Fanning said. "We haven't had too much concern about phasing them out yet, but when we get closer to those dates, that will probably change."

An expert in lighting and former owner of Ace Hardware in Maricopa, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Frank Polimene, said that as far as the alternatives to incandescent bulbs have come, they still fall behind in certain situations.

"They certainly do not do well at all in low dimming situations," he said. "Light is measured in bandwidth. Incandescent bulbs have a very broad bandwidth comparatively. Application-wise, they just haven't been perfected enough for people to flock to change to (alternatives)."

Polimene, in addition to his background in engineering, saw first hand how much more efficient LED bulbs can be. Last year, he finished replacing the lights for his annual Santa Train event with 18,000 LED bulbs.

"They will all run on one 15-amp circuit," he said. "Before, I would have to use six amps."

Like IKEA, Polimene believes that technology will continue to improve, making the transition to CFLs, halogen or LEDs that much easier.

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