Boulder Creek Hardware

Here’s a bright idea for this month…Light bulbs! Is it lights out for the incandescent? How much mercury is in one of them squiggly things and what is an LED? Let’s talk light bulbs.

Did you know to power a 100 Watt bulb for twenty four hours a day, for one year takes 714 pounds of coal? So it makes sense that if you look globally, Thomas Edison’s light bulb is dimming away. If we keep the politics out of it here in the US we should be in line soon with the rest of the world offering other alternatives. So many laws both Federal and State have passed and not passed, that it has muddied the issue to create much confusion. So, as of today, you can’t walk into your hardware store, Boulder Creek Hardware, and buy a regular 100 Watt bulb anymore. No legislation has been passed that will change that. But in Texas, oh yeah got to be Texas, they passed a law that they can sell 100 watt bulbs, but they must be manufactured in Texas. Our California State assembly passed AB 1109 to phase out most types of incandescent by 2018; this was made law in 2007. California, being California, was one year ahead of the rest of the nation on the ban.

So with these changes in lighting there is some new nomenclature we now use. So watt does that mean? We don’t use watts anymore. Lighting is now measured more often using lumens not watts. Wattage refers to power but most manufactures will include both on the package like 1160 lumens = 26 watts for a CFL or 100 watts for an incandescent. Lumens are a measurement of the total amount of visible light emitted by a source.

So yes, it is lights out for many incandescent bulbs so where does that leave us? Don’t worry your not forced to buy the squiggly CFL (compact florescent lamp) if you don’t want to; but be aware they are much better than in the past. The early ones were very disappointing to my customers. It reminds me of the low flow toilets debacle; but that’s another exciting article. Now the CFL's have improved color range because of improved phosphor formulations, come on in an instant and are dimmable. The prices are coming down too. The down side is they contain mercury. The amount had been an average of 5 mg, enough to cover the tip of a ball point pen. Now some are as low as 0.8mg and researchers are experimenting with other alternatives like amalgams, an alloy that would further reduce the mercury content. Be aware these must be disposed of properly.

Many manufactures are recommending Halogen lamps as a replacement for the traditional incandescent. In the past we knew these types as tungsten or quartz iodine lamps. Really it’s still an incandescent with halogen gas to produce what is known as a halogen cycle. This creates a bulb that can be run at a higher temperature resulting in a higher color making some of them energy efficient enough to pass the new standards. These are more expensive than traditional incandescent but do burn longer. These are also the same family of bulbs you might know as the ones not to touch, as the oils from your skin might make them blow out prematurely.

If you can’t settle on the squiggly CFL and you’re too not warm about halogen, it’s time to look at the LED (light emitting diode) lamp. Russian Oleg Vladimirovich Losev reported creation of the first LED in 1927, but it wasn’t until 1961 when Texas Instruments actually received a patent for the first LED.

Unfortunately to relamp your home with good LED bulbs you might have to go hit up Liberty Bank for a loan. A typical good LED bulb will cost about $35.00. There are cheap imports out there but be aware the quality is inferior. This is one area for now that you truly get what you pay for. LED bulbs energy savings are amazing. An LED that is equal lumens (remember that’s how we talk now) to your antique 100 watt bulb will only use 3 to 4 watts! The life is also incredibly long, typical LED lights last about 20 years. LEDs are better for fixtures that get turned on and off often and are less apt to break like other bulbs. Fluorescent and incandescent bulbs are fragile; LEDs being solid state components are difficult to damage with shock. LEDs can emit light of an intended color without using any color filters as traditional lighting methods need. LEDs can very easily be dimmed either by modulation or lowering current. The color spectrum has been improved and now they come in multiple colors, styles and applications. LEDs do appear to be the future in lighting and the prices are going down. Maybe you or your neighbor has even bought LED Christmas lights in the last few years. I know these have slowed down my meter during the holidays. The downtown merchants have been holding a “Can-pain” to raise funds to relamp our old incandescent downtown holiday lights using LED. That would be a huge savings on our utility bill for sure.

So as of today I can’t sell you any incandescent 100 watt bulbs and soon that will be true with 75 watt, 60 watt and so on. I don’t think anyone likes things forced upon them, but truly the energy savings will keep money in your pocket and not in the utility providers. Seems like a good idea…Oh yea there is that good for the earth part too…

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Doug Conrad, is the owner of Boulder Creek Hardware, your hardware store. Boulder Creek Hardware is the valleys oldest hardware store. Be sure to look at the restored store facade next time your in downtown. Doug can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it "> This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 8-6833.