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Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Silhouette of Man Walking in a Pedestrian Tunnel with Light in the End

If you’re having trouble finding traditional 40- and 60-watt light bulbs, you’re not alone. Due to government-mandated efficiency standards, starting this year, light bulb manufacturers have stopped making these popular incandescent bulbs. This follows the phasing out of incandescent 75- and 100-watt light bulbs in 2013.  And if you’re still using a high-wattage halogen lamp, it would be a good idea to make sure you’ve got renters or homeowners insurance – more on this later; keep reading.

It all began with the Energy Independence and Security Act signed by President Bush in 2007.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 10% of the energy from traditional light bulbs is converted into light – the other 90% is wasted as heat.

So given your favorite light bulb is no longer available, what are your choices? Basically, your choices are halogen, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs), Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), or high-efficiency incandescents (regular incandescents that have the filament wrapped in gas).

High-wattage halogen lamps

High-wattage halogen lamps present a very real fire danger in the form of an estimated 30-40 million free-standing torchiere lamps found in use today. These floor lamps use either a 300- or a 500-watt halogen tube.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) notes that at least 100 fires and 10 deaths nationwide have been associated with torchiere lamps containing tubular halogen lamps.

  • Creates four times more heat than the average incandescent bulb
  • A 500-watt halogen hits temperatures of over 1,200 degrees – creating a serious fire hazard.
  • Curtains and other combustible materials can easily ignite if too close to the lamp.

In 1995, fire caused by a halogen pole lamp at the Arkansas Hendrix College dormitory resulted in $450,000 damage. Hope those students had renters insurance coverage.

Follow these tips from the CPSC for safer use of halogen lamps:

  • Purchase and use only fixtures tested by a recognized testing laboratory, such as U.L.
  • Place torchiere halogen lamps away from curtains and combustible wall decorations.
  • Use the lamp only for its intended purpose; clothing and towels should never be draped over a lamp.
  • Turn off a torchiere halogen lamp when you leave the room or are not home.
  • For torchiere halogen lamps equipped with a dimmer switch, operate the lamp at a setting lower than the maximum whenever possible.
  • Keep halogen torchiere lamps away from bunk beds and lofts where bedding may get too close to the tubular bulb.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)

CFLs contain a small amount of Mercury, a hazardous material that’s dangerous to human health and the environment.

If a CFL breaks, the cleanup procedures are detailed, including:

  • Removing all people and pets from the room
  • Airing out the room for 10 minutes
  • Do not vacuum (vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor)

In addition, discarded CFLs usually must be taken to a recycling center — not thrown in the garbage. For that reason, many people are now choosing safer LED lights or other lamps instead of CFLs.

See complete CFL cleanup and disposal instructions from the EPA.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs)

LED advantages versus compact fluorescent bulbs:

  • They turn on instantly
  • Don’t contain mercury
  • Provides warm light similar to an incandescent
  • Works well in the cold
  • Lifetime is unaffected by cycling on and off
  • Lifespans of 30,000 or more hours

Whatever light source you choose, be sure you’ve got a good renters or homeowners insurance policy. It’s worth its weight in gold when you need it.

Have you had a hard time finding incandescent light bulbs? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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