Incandescent lights aren't being banned

Q: I'm worried about the effect the ban on incandescent lights will have on my life. I'm hard of hearing, and I use a signaling device to let me know when the doorbell sounds, the phone rings or the baby cries. The system is linked to a lamp that flashes — a different pattern for the door, phone or baby — to tell me what is happening. But those systems don't work with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). When the ban on incandescent lights takes effect, what are the hard of hearing going to do?

A: Don't worry. Contrary to what we've been repeatedly told, there is no ban on incandescent light bulbs. And it's not true that they will disappear and that you won't be able to buy them. The 2007 Federal Energy Independence and Security Act, which addresses incandescent lights, simply has standards for making light bulbs more efficient. There's also a long list of exceptions: three-way bulbs, 40-watt appliance lights, rough-service light bulbs — 22 in all. One of those bulbs will work with your signaling device.

Critics say the bill effectively bans incandescent lights because those bulbs can't meet the new standards.

They claim that CFLs do, so that's what manufacturers will make and consumers will have to buy.

That's not exactly right, either.

Incandescent bulbs, as they have been made for generations, waste energy. For years, nobody cared. There was plenty of energy, and it was cheap. That has changed.

While it's true that traditional incandescent bulbs won't meet the standards, it doesn't mean consumers will be forced to use CFLs. The bill was meant to prod manufacturers to improve their products, and they are. An incandescent light bulb that meets the new standard is on store shelves now.

The bulbs are similar to traditional general-duty 60-watt and 100-watt light bulbs: no curly pig tail, no hazardous mercury. Like standard incandescent lights, they use a filament inside a familiar-shaped bulb. Because the light is efficient, a 40-watt bulb can substitute for a 60-watt, a 70-watt for a 100-watt.

These energy-efficient, incandescent-like bulbs use halogen. They perform like a traditional incandescent light, so you'll likely be able to use them in your signaling device, said Ed Brink of Sonic Alert, a manufacturer of signaling devices for the hard of hearing.

More light bulbs meeting the new energy standards are being introduced, including LED models. They cost more than traditional incandescent light bulbs, but they use less energy and last longer.

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