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With pending ban, people hoard light bulbs

Sales of 100-watt incandescents have spiked before new energy-efficiency standards take effect on Jan. 1.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 19, 2011 12:17PM

This post comes from Anne Kadet at partner site SmartMoney.


SmartMoney on MSN MoneyKaren Beseth is all about energy conservation. She shuts off the lights when leaving the room and sets the thermostat at 67 degrees through her small town's blustery winters. But there's one concession the DeWitt, N.Y., insurance consultant won't make -- she loves her incandescent light bulbs.


No surprise then that in advance of the federal phaseout of traditional bulbs starting Jan. 1, she's stocking up. Her garage and basement shelves are filled with 100-watt four-packs. "There's just some things we put our foot down on," she says.


Polls show that many Americans aren't even aware of the pending ban, but 13% say they are hoarding to prepare for a time when the 134-year-old technology joins heroin and sea-turtle meat in the banned-products pantheon. Home Depot, which supplies nearly a third of the bulbs that plug into the nation's 4 billion light sockets, says that as 2011 draws to a close, incandescent sales have jumped.


House Republicans succeeded in eliminating funding for enforcement of the new efficiency standards from the Department of Energy's budget last week. However, major makers of light bulbs have already made the switch. Also, to be clear, the new standards don't ban incandescent bulbs, but require that they be more efficient.


Experts like Bill Hamilton, Home Depot's merchandising VP for electrical, say alternatives to old-style incandescents have vastly improved -- light quality is up, and prices are falling fast. But not everyone's convinced. Post continues below.

I just tried replacing the incandescent bulb on my nightstand lamp, and the results weren't pretty. The $3.50 halogen bulb was decent, but halogens don't save many watts. LEDs use 80% less energy, but the $40 bulb was dim and the angular device looked clunky in my lamp. The real shocker was the $6.50 compact fluorescent. Its thin, cold glow gave my bedroom the look and feel of a state-run psych ward (don't ask me how I know this). Even my dog looked sickly.


Of course, for many folks, the objection to the bulb ban goes beyond aesthetics. CEO Mike Connors says most of his business clients, like hotels, happily embraced the new technology -- they love the savings. The hoarders are often consumers with a political agenda: They don't like the government dictating choices. "There's a combative feeling," he says.


In the House of Representatives, some Republicans are still hoping to see the ban repealed. And in Texas, the state legislature passed a bill declaring it legal to manufacture and sell incandescent bulbs within state lines -- never mind the fact that there's not a single bulb factory in Texas. "Everyone loves it," says a spokesperson for George Lavender, the representative who wrote the bill.


This is hardly the first product ban to meet resistance. The Department of Energy recently cracked down on showerhead makers that were circumventing water-flow restrictions with multiple-head systems. On eBay, opportunists sell used '60s-era toilets that offer a "big flush" -- for $700.


John Maly, a Colorado intellectual property strategist who uses a high-flush toilet imported from Calgary, Alberta, says he gets several hundred hits a day to his website,, which provides instructions on how to install your own commode and jimmy your showerhead to remove the regulator.


Of course, the light bulb ban could create new opportunities. In Europe, where the phaseout launched in 2009, retailers that stocked up are making out like bandits. LightBulbs Direct in the U.K. says demand is huge for its stash of 100- and 60-watt bulbs, which sell for about $1.50 -- a fat markup over the pre-ban price of 60 cents or so.


And in Germany, a genius entrepreneur concocted the ultimate work-around. He's marketing his bulbs as miniature space heaters. Billed as "the best invention since the light bulb," his "heatballs" sell for about $2.30. Who says government regulation stifles creativity?


More on SmartMoney and MSN Money:

Dec 19, 2011 5:02PM

While some are standing by the new light bulbs, they should start reading up on them. The green peace idiots have no idea what they are creating. Fluorescent light bulbs are more efficient energetically but they don't share the advantages of the incandescent light bulbs. Photographs taken under these light bulbs don't look great. Moreover, they use mercury and mercury is a poison that pollutes unpredictable places of the environment. The mercury from one fluorescent light bulb  can pollutes, according to some scientific communities  6000 gallons of water beyond levels safe for drinking. In 43 U.S. states, it is legal to dispose fluorescent bulbs as universal waste. Which means all you save the planet freaks are doing just the opposite and don't even know it. If you think Fluorescent light bulbs are good, be careful what you wish for. You are probably making the environment worse.

Dec 19, 2011 4:35PM

the manufacturing ban is stupid. I can only guess it was submitted by a congressman who has stock in CFL producers, or is getting money from a CFL lobbyist, or is getting porkbarrel money


Do CFLs work in closed fixtures? no

Do CFLs work outside in 5 degree weather? no

Can you find a candelabra-based dimmable CFL? no


To remove incandescent lights, I would have to replace half the fixtures in my house - the switch would cost me about $7000.


And, CFLs have about 1.5 times the life of incandescent, no more than that.

And their rating is abused - a "60 watt equivalent" CFL only produces about 85% of the light of a 60watt incandescent. So, to get what you know as 60 watts of light you have to get a "75 watt replacement " CFL.

Dec 19, 2011 4:56PM
As for paying 50 cents a bulb to have the CFL's properly disposed of, get real.  Almost no one will do that and these things will come backl to bite us in a few years.  Whatever idiot thought that they could force people to use them AND get them to properly dispose of them is living in lalaland.  People will be tossing them in their garbage right and left.  Duh!
Dec 19, 2011 4:49PM

The stupid thing about these worthless lightbulbs is not so much the crappy light they give off, but the fact that not one of them is manufactured in the U.S.

Way to go dems, lets build a better economy by FORCING! Americans to purchase foreign products.

Dec 19, 2011 4:59PM
Everyone keeps saying how much money they save with these bulbs, but I don't notice any difference on my electric bill.  I do notice how much less light I have and I notice that, in spite of the fact that these bubls are billed as lasting longer, they don't.
Dec 19, 2011 4:50PM
Every package of the "new" bulbs I have checked says "DO NOT PLACE IN TRASH.  MUST BE DISPOSED OF AS HAZARDOUS WASTE.  CHECK WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES FOR PROPER PROCEDURES".  And THIS is going to save me money?!?
Dec 19, 2011 4:49PM
How many jobs where lost due to the ban. Now all the bulbs will be made in China.
Dec 19, 2011 5:21PM

It was deemed extremely important by the government that in the middle of a recession, an environmentally safe product made in the USA would have to be banned and factories here shuttered so a mercury filled and inferior product made in China could be required instead.


The mercury bulbs burn out as fast as conventional ones for me, at least in my fixtures, and they are more expensive and full of percury. One popped in a room I was in a couple years back and I had trouble breathing for two days. The worst thing is the possibility they will make their way into schools or homes with kids. Read the instructions on how do dispose of one sometime, it's like a bomb disposal manual. I, like most people, can't find a mercury disposal center so wrap them in plastic newspaper bags and toss in trash. It isn't like the government has made any effort to get proper facilities to deal with them set anyway. But hey, Americans get thrown out of work & more jobs and money go to China, that's the important thing for the "Party of the Blue Collar Worker" and the "Party of the Little Guy."


It is one of the stupidest ideas I have ever heard of, and

Dec 19, 2011 5:00PM

bow this just take the cake!  I have several VERY old ( going back to the 20's ) lamp fixtures that have shades that actually attach to the light bulb itself.  The biggest problen with the curly bulb is just this; yes they save SOME mony on usage but noone has yet been able to determine the best way to dispose of them as they contain mercury, and we all know the damage mercury can do!


Dec 19, 2011 5:05PM
The new spiral fluorescent bulb replacements when placed spiral up so that heat dissipates away from the base, work as advertised. HOWEVER, when placed spiral down in recessed ceiling lights with reflector cones (a common item in refinished basements), the heat is concentrated into the base of the bulb causing premature burnout. I get much LESS LIFE from the fluorescent bulbs than from the old bulbs. Fluorescent bulbs having a greener footprint is a myth if used in those fixtures.  Better heat resistant fluorescent bulbs need to be produced. Until that is done, we still need our incandescent lights.
Dec 19, 2011 5:27PM
Just remember the Department of Energy was commissioned to save on oil prices back when the price of gas was under a dollar. See what our wonderful government has done for us since. I love paying twice as much for a light bulb and three times as much for gasoline. But remember they know what is best and have wasted trillions of dollars proving it.
Dec 19, 2011 4:58PM
Thomas Edison would be sad for the ban:) kidding aside, The newer lights are energy savers and mostly put out enough light., but as some have pointed out, they have restrictions where they can be used. The old ones fit in most eveything and banning them is a mistake.
Dec 19, 2011 5:24PM
Saving the environment....are you kidding?  do you honestly think that americans changing the bulbs in their living rooms is gonna save the planet?  Russia, China and most of the third world don't give two hoots about the environment and without them, our efforts are a bust. 
Dec 19, 2011 5:13PM
I still want a choice, I always try and leave a light on when go out and twice have seen these bulbs smolder.  Once, the outside porch light went out and was smoking and the other time a bathroom vanity light was stinking and smoking.  I always leave on the old fashioned ones.  Also regarding my favorite 3 ways; The new type are either too tall or too wide and the glow is unpleasant and I've tried many different ones.  Halogens are hot and too delicate.  I recently stayed in a motel with all enegry savers and felt like I was in a display case.  Take your new bulbs and stick them where the sun and the power saver bulbs don't shine!! 
Dec 19, 2011 5:33PM
I've been hoarding for at least a year and a half.  F**k  'em.  I have 100 watts, for example,  I estimate, to last 25 to 30 years.  Plus candelabra base and all others for a lifetime.  Again, I say, f**k 'em!!!
Dec 19, 2011 6:35PM

Why is it we have to have it just one way!   For the people that think these new bulbs will save the planet use them, for the others that don't think it makes a dimes worth of difference, let us use the old bulbs. If they cost us more money to use, the last I heard it’s ours to spend any way we like.   It seems that everything has to be the environmentalist’s way without regard to the 90% that don't think it really matters.   I don’t care who signed the bill, it should be repealed.   If someone invents a better light bulb that uses less energy and is as good as an incandescent bulb, people will not have a problem using them, but until that day comes, we should be free to use the light bulb we prefer.


Dec 19, 2011 5:28PM

"This post comes from Anne Kadet at partner site Smart Money" on Mon, Dec 19, 2011.  Maybe they should check facts before writing.  The ban doesn't start Jan. 1st.  It was pushed back until later in the year while they talk about a possible repeal of the ban.  And I say it's a good thing too.  I for one am tired of being force fed government regulations on everything and told what I can and can't buy.    Also at a time when we need to be saving jobs this ban will be destroying good paying jobs because some bulbs are made here in the USA.  (I work at a GE plant). 

Dec 19, 2011 5:28PM
This ban is symbolic of why this country is falling apart.  Too many dumb social issues interfering with the free market. 

Personally I prefer to use a mix of bulbs - fluorescent for lights that stay on for a long time, and incandescent for lights that need a quick fire up and are on for a short time.  Without incandescent,  I'll have to deal with dim lighting because of some hippy nonsense.   And I'm not paying 30 dollars for an led bulb either.
Dec 19, 2011 5:36PM
I refuse to use any bulbs other than the old kind.  The newer ones are not bright enough and half the time they are so cold you cannot generate any heat.  I have lizards that require room to be at a certain temperature.  Additionally, i will not allow my own US Government agencies to dictate what i have in my home and i how i live my life.  They should mind their own business lord knows they cant get anything right.  Our own free society is turning into a dictatorship with the government trying to run peoples lives when they cant even run the government due to high paid lobbyists from big corporations.
Dec 19, 2011 4:09PM
The human eye has evolved to accept full-spectrum continuous light from the Sun.   Productivity decreases under florescent lights because of their thin spectrum and vibration.
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