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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Reinventing the Incandescent Lightbulb

For the first time in more than 100 years, the basic incandescent lightbulb is getting a facelift. To accommodate new energy efficiency standards set by Congress (which require lightbulbs to be more efficient starting in 2012), a new generation of incandescent lightbulbs has entered the marketplace. These products boast energy savings of 25 percent and a lifespan up to three times longer than their soon-to-be extinct predecessors.

“Up to 12 percent of a typical monthly electric bill pays for lighting, so removing energy-wasting bulbs from the market will have a big impact on America’s energy use,” explains Erik Sorenson, a project manager with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), which represents companies that make products used in the generation, transmission, distribution, control, and end use of electricity.

Retooled incandescent bulbs contain a small capsule of halogen gas that surrounds the filament, which increases efficiency and improves longevity, while retaining the shape, color choices, and dimming capabilities that consumers have favored in incandescent bulbs.

Under the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, lightbulbs must be 28 percent more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs (which use 90 of their energy producing heat) starting in 2012, and by 2020, they must be 70 percent more efficient. NEMA estimates the new standards could save Americans up to $15.8 billion per year.
Other options

The new generation incandescent bulbs will join compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as energy-efficient lighting options. CFLs and LEDs both are about 75 percent more efficient than traditional incandescents. CFLs last about 10 times longer; LEDs about 25 times longer. But CFLs are the more economical choice at the moment. The cost of LEDs is expected to come down as the technology advances.

“With lighting legislation mandating more efficient technologies and consumers looking for every opportunity to save, navigating lighting solutions has never been so important,” emphasizes David Schuellerman, GE Lighting’s public relations manager.

Sources: U.S. Department of Energy (EnergySavers.gov), National Electrical Manufacturers Association, GE