Light bulb switch leads to hoarding

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - People have been hoarding light bulbs, yes light bulbs, ever since incandescent bulbs were phased out in Europe. And they're about to be phased out in the U.S.

At the Wolff Fording/Main Street Dancewear Factory, they make dance costumes. Now they're facing the cost of converting their 400 lights to energy efficient bulbs.

"We are priced for doing it ourselves and that's about $15,000. If we have someone else do it, it's over $30,000," said president Stuart Feldstein.

The federal Energy Independence and Security Act requires the T12 fluorescent bulbs many companies use to be discontinued next year. They'll swap them out for efficient T8 or T5 fluorescent bulbs.

"That's going to involve having to change not only the bulbs, but the ballasts or the transformers that run those fixtures," said Atlantic Electrical Supply's co-owner Steve Levet.

Manufacturers will also stop making the 100 watt incandescent bulb next year, followed by the 75, 60, and 40 watt bulbs over the two following years. When the conversion happened in Europe and Australia, people started hoarding bulbs.

"There are some people who were buying, they're trying to stock up on ballasts and on bulbs. But that only creates an eventuality. It's going to happen," Levet said.

Some people complain it's costing jobs. GE closed its incandescent plant in Winchester, Virginia, and most energy efficient bulbs are made in China. Others just don't want the government telling them what to do.

"It's a pain in that we're being forced to do it. But the energy efficiency in the end is probably good," Feldstein said.

Some folks just plain don't like energy efficient bulbs because most are not dimmable and they're slower to reach full brightness. But Levet says to get the same amount of light, look at the lumens rather than the watts.

"If you want something to be similar to the color of a 60 watt light bulb," he said, "you want a 2700 degree bulb."

Businesses are expected to recoup their costs over two years and enjoy up to 75 percent energy savings. There is a federal tax break and Dominion Virginia Power offers companies rebates for converting to energy efficient lighting.

Feldstein started buying up ballasts, but now says, "Maybe I'll put them all on Craig's List and see if someone local will buy them, including the old bulbs once we do it."

Some light bulbs are exempt, such as 3-way bulbs, candelabras, and colored bulbs.

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