News and Tribune

January 12, 2014

Burning out the bulbs

As incandescent lights are phased out, customers flock to buy as many as possible

By JEROD CLAPP
jerod.clapp@newsandtribune.com

NEW ALBANY — Kim Kaiser sent her husband, Jim, out for incandescent light bulbs. He’s coming home with 15 cases of them.

As they have for the last two years, federal guidelines have axed different wattages of incandescent bulbs. This year, 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs are on the schedule of discontinued manufacture.

Like the Kaisers, some are buying up every one of them in sight.

“It’s just the warmer tone of the light is what I like,” Kim said. “I take a look at the LED and the others and they have a blue tone to them that I don’t like. Some of the new ones take a while to light up.”

In a push to encourage more efficient light bulbs, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 has cut production of bulbs starting in 2012. But since hardware stores can still sell existing stock of those bulbs, some customers are strongly resisting the change.

But once those bulbs are gone, it’s lights out.

Gary Staashelm, manager of Ace Hardware in New Albany, said the Kaisers’ order isn’t the first bulk request for bulbs this year. He said about five others have come through his store.

As the stock from other big box stores depletes, he said what’s left on his shelves are going quick, too — especially in 75-watt bulbs that were discontinued last year.

“If you want them, you better stock up on them,” Staashelm said. “It’s history.”

He said some of bigger orders have come through in the last two weeks or so. Some of his customers requesting bulbs by the case claimed the new lights don’t fit some of their fixtures.  

But he said there are a couple of other factors which may keep customers away from the new lights, one of them being price.

While some of the incandescents run between $2 and $4, a single LED bulb is $10 on sale at the store.

But Staashelm said the LED bulb isn’t just more energy efficient, it’s supposed to last about 18 years.

“I’m sure it makes sense to go ahead and bite the bullet to buy your LEDs versus the incandescent just because of the life of them,” Staashelm said. “It’s a nice bright light, uses less energy, but some people still want the incandescent because that’s what they’re used to.”

With their longer life expectancy, he said it wouldn’t surprise him to see renters take LED light bulbs with them once their leases expire.

Kaiser said her decision to keep incandescents on hand is just a matter of preference, not necessarily price or anything else.

“I’m sure it’s going to be environmentally safe and saving for me in the long run,” Kaiser said. “But for me, it’s simply a matter of liking the warmer tone of the light from incandescent.”

Staashelm said he uses a mixture of bulbs in his home right now, including compact flourescents and incandescent bulbs. But he said once those burn out, he’s got no problem with switching to the LED bulbs.

He said customers will likely embrace the bulbs as their price goes down and demand increases.

For Kaiser, once she burns her 720 bulbs, she said she’ll have no problem switching over.

“I’m sure I’ll choose that over a candle,” Kaiser said. “But I think I’ll enjoy the convenience of it at that point.”