The End Of The Bulb As We Know It? Not Quite

Jan 2, 2014

Jan. 1 marked the end of the era of your standard, soft white Edison-designed incandescent bulb in the U.S. — at least in theory.

Loopholes in the law will make the incandescent still widely available if you really want it.

On a recent day, Bruce Cudmore, purchasing manager at Carr Sales & Lighting Center in Spokane, was down to his last few 40-watt bulbs, or “lamps,” as they say in the business.

“Over that past couple of weeks, we’ve had a run on these lamps and they’ve wiped them out here and in my back stocks, too. So I’m sold out of the lamps,” he said.

But Cudmore has another big shipment coming later this week. The 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act doesn’t ban selling incandescents; it just phases out making and importing new ones.

Cudmore still has 100-watt bulbs for sale and those were eliminated on Jan. 1, 2012. And even when the supply does run out, the law exempts what are known as rough-service or vibration-resistant incandescents. They’re designed for machinery, but many stores plan to start carrying them for customers who demand that incandescent glow.

Still, Cudmore encourages people to make the switch to the much more efficient compact fluorescent, LED or halogen bulbs.

“The idea is to reduce the general wattage, load of lighting out of America, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said.

Cudmore says you can avoid that unflattering blue tinge the curly bulbs are notorious for. Look for labels that say 2700 Kelvin, “warm white,” or “soft white.” 

The Energy Independence and Security Act ends production and import of 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs on Jan. 1, as it did with 75-watt bulbs in 2013 and 100-watt bulbs in 2012.

Some specialty and low-watt incandescents are exempt from the law, including certain bulbs for recess lighting and flame-shaped candelabra bulbs. Cudmore says the newly trendy (if hugely inefficient) old-fashioned filament bulbs that mimic Edison’s original will be safe as well.