ELKHART — Rod Adkins is not seeing any mass rush to buy traditional incandescent light bulbs as the new government-induced ban eventually arrives, but that doesn’t mean he’s not hearing complaints.
Adkins, an “electrical pro” at Lowe’s on C.R. 6 in Elkhart, estimated one out of every two or three customers shopping for light bulbs are angry enough to mention the new regulation.
He heard it again Thursday morning.
“I just had a couple here this morning, saying ‘Why doesn’t the government just leave the light bulbs alone?’” Adkins said.
The anger is fueled by the fact that beginning Jan. 1, the manufacture and import of 40-watt and 60-watt light bulbs will be banned in the United States. The brighter 100-watt bulbs were banned two years ago as part of legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007.
Despite the ban, consumers will be able to purchase the bulbs until supplies are exhausted, and that’s not expected to happen overnight.
The phase-out is an effort to improve energy efficiency. By some accounts, the incandescent bulbs are considered to be 90 percent inefficient, with much of the energy resulting in a release of heat rather than light. The new bulbs, including compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and light-emitting diode (LED) and halogens are considered much more efficient.
The transition has angered some folks, including some conservatives who feel it is a heavy-handed infringement on their rights as consumers.
Those who like the traditional bulbs point to the lower purchase price compared to new types of bulbs. They also dislike that CFLs contain mercury, need to be recycled and can represent a health concern if broken. Still others like the warmth emitted by the bulbs.
Adkins said he’s noticed some people stocking up, but they’re not exactly filling their baskets or cleaning the shelves in a manner associated with hoarding.
While the ban sounds ominous to some, that doesn’t mean they’ll quickly disappear.
In fact, Ace Hardware has stocked its warehouses with bulbs as the deadline approaches, said Dave Butcher, manager at the Ace store near C.R. 17 and Six Span Bridge in Elkhart.
The company did that with 100-watt bulbs two years ago and the store still has them available, albeit just one brand.
Retailers “could run out of 60s before they run out of 100s,” Butcher speculated. “You never know (about) demand.”
Adkins said he doesn’t think Lowe’s will make such a move. When they’re gone, they’re gone, he said.
“I think we’re finding that people are getting a lot more interested in the new ones that are coming out because of the efficiency,” Adkins said.
Adkins said he thinks the new LEDs will become more popular than the CFLs, but the LEDs are still significantly more expensive.
Butcher also advocated some of the benefits of the new bulbs.
More improved CFLs are coming out “and now you’re getting the LEDs showing up and prices are starting to come down a bit,” he said.
Both Adkins and Butcher suggested consumers will have a learning curve when figuring out which types of bulbs best fit their needs.
Most importantly, people will have to change the way they assess brightness. Watts are left to describe the amount of energy expended by a bulb while lumens are now the standard measure of brightness.
Butcher is using some LED bulbs at home.
“If I put four of those in there I got ... 18 watts of energy use versus 240 for the same light and the life expectancy for those are a lot longer,” Butcher said.
Traditional bulbs at Lowe’s have been relegated to the bottom shelf on the lighting bulb aisle while the newer bulbs are given a higher priority physically. The store on C.R. 6 still has some 10- watt bulbs, but those are no longer stocked with most because they ran out of room. Instead, they can be found in another aisle with other types of outdoor lighting, Adkins said.
At the Ace Hardware store in Goshen, the transition is in full swing.
Store manager Cynthia Garcia said they have just three 4-packs of the 100-watt bulbs remaining as of Thursday afternoon.
The store no longer stocks any 40-watt bulbs. While they have plenty of 60-watt bulbs available, Garcia said they plan to run a sale on those soon.