In 2007 Congress, in its wisdom, mandated that incandescent light bulbs be phased out. Next year, we will not be able to buy 100-watt bulbs. Bulbs of lower wattage will be banned in 2014. What about 3-way bulbs?
The first solution was to be CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent light) which were touted to last much longer and use less electricity than incandescent bulbs. They also cost about five-times more. I’ve tried CFLs in various applications around my house. In most applications, the CFLs burned out at about the same rate as the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs. More recently, there have been several reports that CFL catch fire. More troublesome, is the fact that CFLs contain mercury and if broken, they require extensive cleanup. See my article “How many haz-mat suits does it take to change a light bulb?”.
Enter the next panacea: LED (light emitting diode) bulbs. These are touted to last much longer and use less electricity than incandescent bulbs. Principal manufacturers are Philips, a Dutch company, and GE which produces them in China. LEDs have been around in special application for a long time, but use for main household lighting is a different matter. Home Depot has been selling LED bulbs, the equivalent of a 60-watt bulb, for $40 each and the replacement for a 100-watt bulb is estimated to sell for $50 each. An LED can last up to 30 times the life of an incandescent bulb (but costs 50 times the price).
LEDs are said to generate little heat, but in certain fixtures what little heat they do generate quickly degrades the bulb’s efficiency and life. LEDs produce focused light which may make them undesirable for broad area lighting. Another potential problem is color rendering. That depends on the phosphors used and even on the angle of viewing. LED light is generally harsher than the light of incandescent bulbs. Many LEDs do not work with dimmers.
While LED bulbs contain no mercury, according to a study of LEDs from the University of California, Irvine, LEDs ” contain lead, arsenic, and a dozen other potentially hazardous substances…”
So, how many $50 light bulbs are you willing to buy? Maybe one of these days Congress will see the light, repeal their mandate, and allow consumers to choose the type of lighting that suits their needs.