Standard bulbs phased out; alternatives can be turnoff for shoppers

It's lights out for the standard 100-watt incandescent light bulb after new national energy-efficiency laws took effect Monday.

Consumers in Beaufort County, however, may have already noticed a shortage of the particular pear-shaped bulbs because most stores in the area stopped carrying them months ago as manufacturers phased out their production.

The legislation, signed into law by George W. Bush in 2007, gave manufacturers nearly five years to increase energy efficiency in certain bulbs by at least 25 percent. The 100-watt bulb used too much energy to meet the law's requirements, prompting many companies to discontinue them.

"Some of the better brands -- GE, for example -- have stopped making them," Debbie Teresi, showroom manager at Bluffton's Graybar Lighting Showroom, said Tuesday. "We sold all ours about a month ago."

The bulb was commonly used in bathrooms and other spaces where consumers desired a well-lit room, electrical contractor John Kruger of Kruger Electric said.

Dimmer incandescent lights in the 40- through 70-watt range are still plentiful in stores but will be held to the same standards by 2014, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website.

Like Graybar Lighting, the Bluffton-area Home Depot and Target, the Walmart on Hilton Head Island and the Lady's Island Grayco ran out of the 100-watt bulbs months ago. Walmart and Target instead offer a 72-watt halogen bulb -- equally bright but much hotter, according to the EPA.Shoppers also can switch to compact fluorescent or LED lights. The choice rests on the amount of light desired and how much one is willing to pay.In terms of price, the spiral-shaped compact fluorescent lamps are comparable to incandescent bulbs. They last up to 10 times longer and use only a quarter of the energy, while providing the same amount of light, according to the EPA.

Some buyers, however, are bothered by the color fluorescent lights emit, according to Arthur Marschel of the Grayco on Lady's Island.

"A lot of people don't like them," Marschel said. "They don't give off true colors, or you have to pay extra for color balance."Most customers opt for dimmer incandescents, Marschel said.

Several lighting specialists, including Teresi, Kruger and a Home Depot store manager, said LED lights -- some of which last 25,000 hours, or 12 times longer than incandescents -- provide the most versatile, sustainable and natural light.

But they also cost much more than incandescent bulbs.

"I try to take customers straight to the LEDs," said Home Depot store manager Drew Grinde. "That's the way of the future."

Kruger said people probably will only see the energy-efficient lights pay off if most or all their appliances use them. One or two won't reduce the power bill.

"The right thing to do is get the LEDs," he said, though the high costs are often a turnoff. "... I'd love to see the federal government offer LED rebates."