Feds take dim view of less energy-efficient light bulbs

John Brannen
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As 2014 gets underway, it looks like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. But it better be coming from an energy-efficient bulb.

Central Home Improvement employee Rick McLaughlin checks out the last of the 100-watt bulbs at the store location in Stellarton. As of Jan. 1, Natural Resources Canada has revised the current minimum energy performance standards for light bulbs and aligned our standards with those in the United States, meaning the phase-out of the 100 and 75-watt bulb. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS

That’s according to Natural Resources Canada, which, as of Jan. 1, has revised the current minimum energy performance standards for light bulbs and aligned our standards with those in the United States.

While businesses can still sell their remaining stock of 100- and 75-watt replacement bulbs, they won’t be allowed to replenish them on shelves. For the bulbs- less-inefficient siblings, the popular 60- and 40-watt replacements, the phase-out will not come into effect until Dec. 31, 2014.

“The Government of Canada is introducing standards to improve the efficiency of typical residential light bulbs being sold in Canada,” noted Natural Resources Canada. “Improving energy efficiency reduces the amount of energy used and thus reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

While there were moves to have these restrictions in place soon, the government noted that it wanted to give ample time to both consumers and producers.

“(We wanted) to provide more time for the market to prepare for lighting standards including allowing for innovations in technology and giving consumers time to familiarize themselves with the various lighting options available to them.”

Those options available are halogen incandescent bulbs, compact fluorescent light bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

But for some, nothing compares to the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb and getting them before the phase-out was crucial. It’s something that’s been noticed at Proudfoots Home Hardware in Pictou.

“For December 2013, the sales of incandescent 100-watt bulbs were four times higher than their average monthly sales,” said Jim Proudfoot, operations manager of Proudfoots Home Hardware in Pictou. “Even for the 60-watt bulbs, which won’t be phased out for about a year, sales were up 2 ½ times the monthly average.”

Despite this increase in sales, Proudfoot said the phase-out shouldn’t come as a surprise to consumers.

“It’s been a long time coming and I think the vast majority were aware it was going to happen,” he said. “We sell more compact fluorescent bulbs anyways.”

Not only are people buying more energy-efficient bulbs, but the store’s selection of incandescent bulbs was slowly shrinking.

“We had to make more shelf room for the energy-efficient bulbs. Our sales there have been growing steadily.”

At Central Home Improvement in Stellarton, the transition away from incandescent bulbs has been smooth, according to Central’s head office purchasing manager Glenn Lozman.

“We’ve been driving this market toward LED and CFB,” he said. “With the new LED, they almost look as similar as a regular light bulb. They’ve come a long way.”

Kim McGraw, category manager for electrical working, noted that there hasn’t been any negative feedback.

“It’s worth noting that the 60- to 40-watt bulbs were a much bigger seller than the 100-watt bulbs and the former will be available until 2015.”

The government has allowed for certain exemptions where incandescent lighting products will still be allowed for sale.

“There are many exemptions from the standards where an alternative for an efficient bulb is not available; including oven lights, decorative lamps (light bulbs), appliance bulbs, three-way fixtures, chandeliers and rough service/utility bulbs,” the Natural Resources Canada website noted.

For a complete list of exemptions visit their website at http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/regulations/products/11476.

While some have concerns because of the presence of mercury in compact fluorescent bulbs, the government believes they are safe.

“(It) does have a small amount of mercury – less than would fit on the tip of a pen. However, efficient bulbs use far less electricity than traditional bulbs,” it noted. “By decreasing electricity powered from fossil fuels, efficient lighting also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the mercury levels from power production.”

A utility bulb, also known as a rough service bulb, is a similar bulb that has been built with more robustness to be able to sustain vibrations. It is designed for use in garages, barns, workplaces and other sites where a bulb might be especially prone to breakage. Utility bulbs do not currently have a high efficiency option and are exempted from the minimum performance standards. They will still be available for sale after the standards go into force.

According to the government, Canadians spent $163 billion on energy in 2010 – to heat homes and offices, to run equipment and to fuel cars. Energy efficiency is a means to reduce energy costs, and save Canadians money. Canada's regulations are a low cost measure to increase energy efficiency. In addition, regulations will help Canada meet environmental goals like reducing smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

 

john.brannen@ngnews.ca

On Twitter: @NGNewsJohn

 

A Bright Idea:

 

Halogen bulbs

Halogen incandescent bulbs use at least 28 per cent less energy, and can last up to three times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. There are two types of these bulbs available in a wide range of shapes and colors, that can be used anywhere an incandescent bulb is used and they produce more light for the same amount of energy. 

 

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs):

Improvements to CFLs since their introduction in the 1980s include: better colour rendering, less mercury content, elimination of buzz or flicker, instant start up, and dimmability. CFLs can produce the same light output and warm colours as incandescent light bulbs and are far more energy efficient. ENERGY STAR-qualified CFLs use up to 75 per cent less energy. Many CFLs last eight or more times as long as traditional incandescents. Some CFLs are encased in a cover to further diffuse the light, providing a similar shape to traditional incandescent bulbs and providing extra breakage protection. 

 

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs):

LED bulbs offer similar light quality to traditional incandescents, last 25 times as long, and use even less energy than CFLs. They are dimmable, start up fast and can operate in all weather conditions. They are available for many applications in a variety of shapes and colours.

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