Why Can’t I Buy Incandescent Light Bulbs Any More?

Why Can't I Buy Incandescent Light Bulbs Any More?If you were a fan of Looney Tunes when you were a kid (I still am), you may see some changes to these classic cartoons in the very near future. The iconic incandescent light bulbs that shine so prominently above a character’s head when they have an idea will now be replaced with energy efficient CFL or LED light bulbs. As of January 1, 2014, a ban on the production of incandescent light bulbs has gone into effect in the United States.

The gradual phase out of incandescent bulbs in the US is not unique. Many developed nations are making the shift.  So what’s happened to our favorite bright idea? It’s simple – they’re about as efficient as I am prior to 8:00 am without my coffee. And according to energy efficiency standards signed into law in 2007, by then-President George W. Bush, our old friend the incandescent bulb just won’t cut it.

The culprit in this case is the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which sets maximum wattage limits on most incandescent light bulbs. As classic incandescent light bulbs cannot accommodate the efficiency standards, this legislation paved the way for the demise of the technology that brought us light for over 130 years. Edison’s legacy of illumination won’t completely fade away, as a few exceptions have been made for specific types of specialty incandescent light bulbs.

While many of us will mourn the loss of the low cost and the soothing, warming glow of our beloved incandescent light bulbs, it’s worth noting that the new kids (i.e. CFL’s and LED’s) will play a big role in helping us reduce our energy consumption. These high-tech light bulbs are 70-80% more efficient than the incumbents, and they last a whole lot longer as well. And given the pace of innovation, it won’t be long before the cost comes down and the quality improves regarding the light they emit. Personally, I’m banking on LED’s, as they run longer than the tenure of Seinfeld, and unlike CFL’s, they contain no mercury.

Ultimately, I imagine jokes like “How many (fill in the blank) does it take to screw in a light bulb” will lose some of their charm as you’ll only need to change an LED bulb every 10 or so years.

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