January 1, 2014

Shoppers stockpiling old-fashioned incandescent bulbs

The new types of light bulbs cost more but promise to last longer and use less electricity.

Maria Statton was busy buying all the light bulbs she could find this week.

Not just any kind. Statton wanted the 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs that will soon be a thing of the past because of a government-stipulated phaseout of the old-fashioned bulbs.

She bypassed the newer options — halogen, compact fluorescent, LED and revamped incandescent bulbs — to buy dozens of the old-style bulbs and add to her stockpile of about 200 at her Benbrook home.

“I don’t want anybody to tell me what I can eat or drink — or what kind of light bulbs I can use,” Statton, 63, said while shopping at Lowe’s in Fort Worth. “If [the stockpile] ever runs out, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

The light bulbs are being phased out under the last part of a 2007 federal energy law designed to help the nation use less electricity. It prohibits manufacturers from making traditional 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs or shipping them to the U.S. and creates new efficiency standards for the bulbs.

In response, manufacturers have introduced bulbs using different technologies that cost more but promise to consume less energy and last longer.

For people who have bought the same bulbs for years, the change has been blinding.

“People are confused,” said Forrest Cooper, manager of Lighting Etc. in North Richland Hills. “No one really understands what’s happening, when it’s happening, how it’s happening or what is changing.

“They just want to know if they can buy incandescent bulbs anymore.”

Cheryl May of Arlington isn’t sure what she will choose.

She, too, was stocking up on incandescent bulbs.

“I’m old and I don’t change very well,” the 55-year-old said with a wry grin, adding that she doesn’t like compact fluorescent bulbs.

Her husband said the couple will hunt for the best quality at the best price once they run out of incandescent bulbs.

“We will look for the one that’s going to give us the brightest lights,” Kenny May said. “You just buy what fits your needs.”

Statton and the Mays are typical of many consumers who want to keep using the same bulbs they have used for decades.

“About 90 percent of the people still want to go with incandescents,” said Alex Duran, a salesman at Fort Worth Lighting. “The retail consumer wants to buy the incandescents, and we still have incandescents left in our inventory.

“But they will run out,” he said. “When people come in, we show them choices.”

Those include incandescents that are more efficient. The boxes will say what the wattage is and how much energy consumers will save with them.

Consumers may also buy halogen bulbs — incandescents that use halogen gas and a filament to generate light. While these bulbs create a bright white light and tend to last, they are more expensive than incandescents and can be hot to the touch, according to the Light Bulb Buying Guide.

The swirled compact fluorescent lights, or CFLs, are available in various shapes, sizes and colors and are energy-efficient. They also cost more.

And there’s the light-emitting diode, or LED, which is also energy-efficient, doesn’t contribute to heat buildup and has a long life, according to the Lowe’s Light Bulb Buying Guide. But each bulb can cost $30 or more.

“The market is going toward the LED bulbs,” Cooper said. “It’s like flat-screen TVs. The price is a little high right now, but it keeps getting lower every three to six months.

“We do a lot of new homes, and we tell people to spend their money wisely,” he said. “If they want LED bulbs, we suggest they use them in places where they will be on the most — or on very high ceilings, where it’s hard to replace the bulb and they need it to burn for a long time.”

Those in the lighting business suggest that consumers consider how much wattage they need, read the boxes, carefully weigh their choices and determine how much they are willing to spend.

Descriptions on the boxes will discuss brightness, life expectancy, energy cost, wattage and appearance, according to the Philips website.

“We try to educate everybody who comes in asking about the bulbs,” Cooper said. “Right now, most people stick with the normal cheap light bulbs. But when the inventory runs out, people will have to make changes.”

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