NORTHFIELD — Few people miss the higher-wattage incandescent light bulbs that are slowly vanishing from store shelves as much as Erica Gordon.
“I’m very disappointed,” said the interior decorator, who owns Somers Point’s Associated Design Studio. “I think that incandescent light bulbs provide light that is flattering to skin tones, any skin tones.”
But like it or not, federal laws are helping make compact fluorescent lights and LED bulbs more and more a part of every day life.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandated, among other things, more efficient light bulbs starting in 2012. As a result, production of 100-watt incandescent bulbs essentially ended in January 2012, and 75-watt incandescent bulbs went dark this year. The big change will happen next year, when the same holds true for 60- and 40-watt incandescent bulbs, recommended for many appliances.
Lawmakers targeted those bulbs because incandescent bulbs are one of the less-efficient ways to create light. It takes 60 watts of electricity for an incandescent bulb to produce 800 lumens, a standard measure of light, according to the California Energy Commission.
But a halogen bulb can produce the same amount of light with 43 watts, a compact fluorescent 15 watts and an LED light with 12 watts.
For now, though, retailers can continue to stock and sell those bulbs they have on hand. And for others, the bulbs can be found, for a premium, at many online outlets.
At Northfield’s Ace Hardware store, manager Roberta Jensen said that customers have grumbled over the vanishing bulbs.
“They say, ‘what do you mean, I can’t get that bulb,’” she said. “I don’t think it’s hit home yet, because you can still get a lot of those bulbs. But once they go, they’re gone.”
Complaints include color, the warm-up time needed for fluorescent bulbs, and the price, she said.
The store stocked a variety of bulbs in different technologies. The most expensive was a 60-watt equivalent LED bulb that sold for $79.99.
In the store’s light bulb aisle, Bo Liu was ambivalent.
“If they really last long enough, then I guess it would be worth it,” said Liu, 50, of Northfield.
He was looking for a small directional replacement bulb, he said, holding it up. A plethora of choice faced him, and he took his time, contemplating his options. “Let say it saves the energy it says. It’s good, but people come to different conclusions.”
Gordon said she was considering stockpiling the 40- and 60-watt bulbs as their time drew short. She has had clients who replaced incandescent bulbs, only to call her later disappointed. “They say, ‘Can you come take a look? The paint doesn’t look so good.’”
“You look better under incandescent light,” she added. “That’s the reason most residential installations use it.”
Maria Toczylowski, owner of Beach Dwellings Design in Avalon, similarly doesn’t want incandescents to go. In a telephone interview Friday, she said, “I’m actually home today. I bought some long-life (fluorescent) ones for my recessed lights and they are driving me insane because they’re flickering.”
While there have been improvements, she said those are not enough. “I haven’t found any (replacement bulbs) that were not glaring and institutional.”
Contact Derek Harper:
Follow Derek Harper on Twitter @dnharper