Would you pay $50 for a light bulb?

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 articleHow 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.



  1. It’s better and cheaper for me to dump my garbage in my neighbor’s yard than to pay Waste Management to pick it up.  Shouldn’t I be allowed to decide this rather than have the government decide where I put my garbage?  Of course, the smelly horse manure I just put in a big old pile in the public park near my home.  Why should I care what is better for my neighbors or the community at large if it will save me some money in the short run and so long as I can do whatever the heck I want regardless of the consequences for everyone else?  

    1. In order to protect your own property rights, you have to respect the property rights of others.  That’s why.

      1. The crux of the differences in these debates seems to center on the elevation of private property rights and individual rights over the right of the commons. 

        Perhaps you are suggesting that without any government intervention, mutual respect of one another’s rights will solve our problems; kind of an “invisible hand of the community welfare”.   Not so.  Short-term profit and self interest in the American way and, lacking intervention, the powerful will protect their financial interests first, last and always.

      2. “In order to protect your own property rights, you have to respect the property rights of others.  That’s why.”

        You are suggesting “self-regulation”?

      3. Here we have the difference between statism and freedom.  You would subject us to what some authority deems the “common good.” That is the theme of Atlas Shrugged.  The “common good” comes from each individual being free to seek his/her own potential.

      4. “That is the theme of Atlas Shrugged.  The “common good” comes from each individual being free to seek his/her own potential.”

        This is just where you and I differ, Jonathan.  I think of Ayn as demented and her philosophy as abhorrent.  Obviously you think differently. 

        It’s not so much the “individual seeking his own potential” that concerns me as the corporation seeking freedom to generate the maximum profit.  This is after all, the only obligation they have: return to shareholders.  If “mutual respect” was sufficient, I doubt we’d have corporations engaged in mountain-topping and destroying entire communities in the process.  I still think we need to keep business on a very tight leash.  

  2. At this stage in the game, I have to wonder… what about 3-way bulbs? Also, CFLs are not dimmable. What about automotive incandescent bulbs? I don’t suppose our illustrious law-makers have considered these special-use situations?
    With that being said,  I think there is a subsidy of sorts going on with CFL bulbs. I was recently at a $0.99 store, and they were selling dual-packs of CFLs (100W comparable bulbs) for $0.99…. Personally Ive never seen them so cheap. I thought “seems like a good deal” and picked a few up. This particular location had an entire pallet of these bulbs. I went back a few weeks later, and they had just as many on the floor. I have to wonder…
    At the same time, I think CFLs on principle are a good idea though.

      1. I installed one for my outside light, and it’s been in for about 3 or 4 weeks so far. It seems brighter than the bulb I replaced it with. I guess we’ll see how it does.
        Also, the article alluded to mercury and possibly other toxins in these bulbs. Does anyone know what the recommended procedure is if you should break one?

      2. The outside light is where I’ve had the best luck.  As for the procedure to take if you break one, see the link above about haz-mat suits.  That gives the EPA recommended procedure.

  3. Have many LEDs in my house from EarthLED.  Their website http://www.earthled.com has  detailed information and specs about their products and will more than likely answer most questions.  Their prices are far more competitive than the aforementioned retail giants and the 3-year warranty for their bulbs is certainly an added bonus.  
    Usually things worth doing, such as changing over from incandescents to LEDs, aren’t always easy, however, in the long run it almost always pays off. 

  4. So, by 2014 we will be paying 50 dollars for a light bulb,  along with exorbitant electric bills for   renewable energy  and energy efficiency fees,  all  for the “common good”?  And will this really have any impact on climate change?  Not at all.   The green energy scheme is the next economic  bubble waiting to burst.Stand up for free choice.  Demand repeal of the ban on incandescents;  and tell your governor and   legislators to quit dictating  our energy needs. 

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