Light Bulb Battle Heats Up and We Should Care Because…?

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energy efficient LED lights, CFLs and halogen bulbs give consumers more options

Statistical evidence of widespread light bulb hoarding has yet to emerge, but the anecdotes make such colorful copy that you would think everyone in the U.S. is rushing out to buy those good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs before they disappear. Seriously, let’s give ourselves a little credit for having some good old fashioned common sense. At least one survey shows that a significant majority of Americans are already trying new energy efficient lighting in advance of the federally mandated incandescent bulb phase-out.  There are a couple of obvious reasons – saving money and conserving energy – and there may also be some underlying currents at work, too.

Light Bulbs and Household Hazards

Part of the light bulb ruckus is over the small amounts of mercury used in the new high efficiency compact fluorescent light bulbs. Detergents, cleansers, insecticides, lawn products, paint thinner, bleach, prescription drugs, nail polish, hobby supplies and scores of other household products contain varying amounts of hazardous substances. Most Americans seem perfectly at ease with the idea that some  household products contain hazardous substances. In fact, some people passionately cling to their favorite hazardous substance-containing products.

Light Bulbs and Lifestyle

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are just one energy efficient alternative. Light-emitting diode (LED) technology and halogen technology are others. LEDs in particular are opening up whole new avenues for amateur home decorators and do-it-yourself fans in creative lighting design. We Americans are known as home fixer-uppers, do-it-yourselfers and gadget lovers, which could be another reason why the survey showed such widespread interest. The idea of sticking a high efficiency light bulb in a socket and being reasonably assured that you will  never have to change it until you move (the average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime) is also probably very appealing to most people.

Light Bulbs and People

Speaking of people, what is this thing about people? The new phaseout does not apply to individuals. It applies to companies. It phases in new energy efficiency standards for light bulb manufacturers. U.S. manufacturers had to decide if it was worthwhile to invest in the R&D needed to produce more efficient incandescent bulbs that could be retailed at a reasonable price. None of them were interested. People who really, really care about incandescent light bulbs will find a way to get them  for as long as somebody, somewhere, continues to make them. As for the rest of us, most people seem ready to move on.

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Image: LEDs by oskay on

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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