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Hardware Guy: Casting a little light on bulb law not easy

| Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, 11:48 a.m.

Have you ever been confused?

Of course you have. Many things confuse me — computers, modern art and the metric system come to mind.

Every once in a while though, something monumentally bewildering comes along which confuses us all equally. The current light bulb legislation is a case in point.

We all remember the good old days when there was no such thing as light bulb legislation and, while those days were good, the future might be — pardon the pun — bright. Let's begin by clearing up some details of the law.

In plain language, all light bulbs must now meet new efficiency standards. This means that lights that use a given amount of electricity (watts) must have a certain amount of light output (lumens).

Traditional incandescent bulbs are largely incapable of achieving the new standards and are therefore being phased out.

Starting in 2012, most 100-watt incandescent bulbs became illegal to produce in the United States. Soon 75-watt and even 60- and 40-watt traditional bulbs will follow. Special purpose bulbs such as rough service, high wattage and three-way bulbs are excluded from the legislation.

Some retailers still stock regulated lights and yes, you are still allowed to use “outlaw” bulbs. But purchasing them in the future will become more and more difficult. On the other hand, it will become easier to find and purchase suitable substitutes.

For a while now compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have been available as an alternative. Consumers have been slow to embrace CFLs due to the poor light quality and short life span of the early versions.

Another fascinating innovation in lamp technology is the trendy light emitting diode, better known as LED. LED lighting is crisp and remarkably bright. It uses little electricity and is becoming available in more and more bulb styles. LEDs are pricey right now, which makes them seem impractical to most consumers. But as the market changes, I am confident that the price will come down.

Additionally, the savings on the electricity cost is substantial.

The third alternative to traditional bulbs is the halogen bulb. Like the LED, halogen lights are bold and bright. They are now made in the shape of a typical light bulb. Halogen lights have been used extensively for years in spot and flood lights because of their clarity and long lives.

Although halogen lights are a bit more expensive than incandescent, they aren't ridiculously expensive and, like the other new bulbs, they use less electricity.

When it comes to understanding light bulb legislation, I suggest keeping it simple by knowing the fundamentals. That way, you can make wise purchases at the right time. However, if you relish complete confusion, read the legislation in its entirety. If you can wrap your head around that, you must be pretty smart. If, in fact, you are smart, give me a call … maybe you can explain the metric system to me. I still can't figure out how many kilometers are in a foot.

Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars. If you have hardware-related questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.

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