exploring green interiors – energy efficient light bulbs

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exploring green interiors –

how many lawmakers does it take to change a light bulb?

As January 2012 creeps closer, many designers and homeowners have begun stockpiling incandescent bulbs due to fear of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, that takes effect in just six months. This article focuses on the portion of the bill that requires a 25 percent increase in light bulb efficiency starting in 2012. I have heard countless stories of people ordering bulbs in quantities of thousands—yes, thousands—for fear of running out. It actually reminds me very much of the Y2K scare over a decade ago.

Many people fear losing the soft luminous glow of Edison’s design. Consumers have not been given the necessary information to really educate themselves about what the new law entails and exactly which bulbs are affected. Before you start stockpiling, make sure you’re aware of the changes being implemented.

In past columns we’ve discussed the alternatives to incandescent lighting and how far these alternatives (such as compact fluorescent fixtures) have come. Learning about Kelvins and wattage, we know that we are not doomed to blue lighting forever. It is true that incandescent lighting styles available are loved by designers for a reason, but an incandescent bulb is estimated to use less than 10 percent of the energy it consumes to actually produce light (the rest is heat). While the CFL maximizes energy levels closer to 80 percent, there are some disadvantages, most notably dimming capability, and, of course, the color quality. The CFL hasn’t been perfected (yet!) but it is the most advanced alternative.

The most important thing to note about the new law is that not all bulbs will be banned from manufacture or use. There is no need to worry about your refrigerator lights, chandelier bulbs, or any other type of specialty light. The most basic requirement of this new law is not to ban them, but to make incandescent bulbs more efficient, by about 30 percent. Essentially, an upgrade!

The standards will start with 100 watt bulbs, and by 2014 will phase down to 40 watt bulbs. We think it’s safe to say that right now somewhere, someone is working tirelessly to invent the energy efficient equivalent to the original design.

As is the story with many major government-implemented energy use changes, media outlets tend to embellish storylines for dramatic effect. Yes, new $50 LED bulbs have been created that will last for 25,000 hours, but the new legislation does not require homeowners to purchase these bulbs. Nor are you required to purchase CFLs. Of course, eventually you will not be able to purchase the incandescent fixtures we have used for years and the government is working to make the switch easier.

Some upgraded incandescents are already available, but to help educate consumers about incandescent alternatives, the Federal Trade Commission is requiring light bulb manufacturers to include “Lighting Facts” labels on packaging of all new bulbs. These labels will provide consumers with information about each bulb, including color rendition, yearly energy cost, brightness, etc. These labels will be on the market at the beginning of 2012.

The average consumer savings after switching from the incandescent are significant, not to mention the positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Many big box retailers are on board and are lowering prices to make these bulbs more affordable and widely available for the masses. So fear not! There are more lighting options than ever before, and incandescent bulbs will continue to be one of them.          
—By Maggie McClure of Beth Haley Design  

Editor’s Note: Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm, focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes. Maggie McClure is an allied member of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers).
E-mail your questions to her at ngregg@ ngregg.com or visit www.bethhaleydesign.com.

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