Old-style light bulbs will keep burning, for now

Posted Dec. 19, 2011, at 5:29 a.m.

A federal mandate expected to phase out 100-watt incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy-efficient devices was switched off in Washington as members of Congress tussled over a recent spending deal.

While the so-called “bulb-ban” will remain on the books as of Jan. 1, the spending plan does not provide the Department of Energy with funds to enforce it.

U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., said the move is a small, albeit temporary, victory for consumers.

“We Americans are perfectly capable of deciding for ourselves what type of bulb is best for lighting our homes and offices,” Guinta said Friday in a statement to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “We don’t need a nanny government in Washington mandating which type we can use and which we can’t.”

Shopping at Home Depot on Friday, Arthur Hebert couldn’t agree more.

“I don’t like the new bulb; they don’t seem as bright,” said Hebert, a public works employee with the town of Bedford. He prefers incandescent bulbs, but said his choices are already limited. This past summer, he was forced to purchase a compact fluorescent when he bought a bug lamp.

Hebert said he plans to stock up on the incandescent bulbs before Jan. 1. He was at the right place. Inside the main entrance, Home Depot has a display filled with incandescents.

According to the Department of Energy, the new law doesn’t actually ban — as many believe — any particular bulbs. It just requires them to use about 25 percent less energy.

Although compact fluorescent lights are more efficient, opponents note they have their own drawbacks, namely in disposal because the bulbs contain mercury. Fluorescent bulbs also cost more to purchase.

“I know the price is going crazy,” said Shaun Mulholland, a New Boston resident who is a price analyst for the electronics industry.

He questioned what effect the phase-out will have on his household. Most of the bulbs inside his house are 75 watt or less.

And he said the phase-out of the incandescent bulbs will probably help consumers.

“Once people start shifting (to compact fluorescent) it drives prices down,” he said.

But to Guinta, the idea of being told what to buy — regardless of the product — does not go over well.

“Get the government out of the way and let the free market determine the right light bulb for our needs,” Guinta said.

The delay in Congress affects consumers much more than state government. New Hampshire state facilities have been replacing incandescent lights for years, according to Mike Connor, director of plant and property management for the state Department of Administrative Services.

Even the chandelier bulbs that light the Capitol building in Concord are fluorescent, Connor said Friday afternoon.

(c)2011 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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