Thursday, January 7, 2010

Lights Out – The clock is ticking

The second annual “Sylvania Socket Survey” is full of surprises.

Okay, it says 74 percent of participants have switched to energy-saving light bulbs in the past year. That may be true, but there are more than 74 percent of shoppers at stores I frequent buying standard bulbs or the stores are foolishly filling shelves with the outdated bulbs.

That was surprise one. But No. 2? Almost 75 percent of respondents didn’t know that incandescent bulbs are headed for a phase-out beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

Count me and everybody I know in that group. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true. A press release about the survey says the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 calls for the transition to start with traditional 100-watt bulbs and continue from there.

At the bottom of the release is the explanation that the survey involved only 300 adults. That makes some of the findings make a little more sense, but I wonder if some of the them are really true. How does compact fluorescent lights get into “71 percent of homes in America” but rank second to traditional bulbs in terms of use? Are the CFLs not turned on or do people only use them in a few lamps, using the usual bulbs in all the others?

I don’t get it.

Anyway, here’s the rest of the results.

66 percent of respondents said they are likely to purchase a compact fluorescent light (CFL), halogen or light-emitting diode (LED) bulb in the future.
Halogens are used in 40 percent of homes.
12 percent are using LED lighting.
52 percent said price is a key consideration in purchasing; the responses reflect a 12 percent spike compared to 2008.
Just 13 percent said they plan to buy extra 100-watt bulbs before the phase-out.
16 percent say they will shift to lower wattage incandescent light bulbs.
91 percent said they consider energy consumption per bulb to be an important factor.

I don’t get it.

But then there's the recycling. CFLs have mercury in them, so don't throw them in the Dumpster, experts say. And you might want to use a drop cloth when changing bulbs because you don't want to have to sweep up a toxic mess.

But wait, there's more!

The phase-out will happen over two years, and by 2014, maybe there will be more choices, but the main option now is CFLs. Just be careful you get the right kind. There is a special kind if you have a dimmer switch, and you have to get the right temperature bulb, for some reason measured on the Kelvin (not my idea) scale, to get the type of light you want from yellowish to blueish. The Energy Star folks have a good illustration, but this seems a little complicated.

Nevertheless, the idea is to save energy, and that's a good thing says Andrew deLaski, director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project in U.S. News & World Report.

"It's hugely important," he says. "A 60 to 70 percent reduction in light bulb energy use will save as much energy annually as that used by all the homes in Texas last year."

I guess disrupting my life is worth that.

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