-- The nation's light bulbs begin facing new efficiency and labeling standards starting Jan. 1, but don't expect old-fashioned incandescents to suddenly disappear from store shelves.
The congressionally mandated efficiency standards gradually phase out Thomas Edison's 131-year-old creation in favor of other light bulbs that use at least 25% less energy. The first to go, beginning Sunday, is the traditional 100-watt, followed in January 2013 with the 75-watt version and in January 2014 with the 40-watt and 60-watt bulbs.
Yet even Edison's 100-watt bulb will still be available for a while. The bipartisan law mandating the phaseout, which President George W. Bush signed in 2007, says the bulbs can't be manufactured or imported after Jan. 1 but lets stores sell them until stock runs out.
In California, which implemented the efficiency standards a year earlier than the rest of the nation, it took several months for the 100-watt bulbs to exit stores. "We expect the same at the national level," says Noah Horowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.
"We'll still have 100-watt incandescents on our shelf through June," Bill Hamilton of Home Depot predicts, based on the amount of remaining stock.
Major manufacturers and retailers say they'll hew to the efficiency standards even though Congress passed a one-year spending bill earlier this month that bars the Department of Energy from spending to enforce them through the end of September 2012.
A major reason, says Jacklyn Pardini of Lowe's, is that "people are looking for more energy-efficient options."
Lighting Science Group, which makes LEDs, says it doubled its revenue from LED sales in the last year and expects "exponential growth next year" regardless of what Congress does, says Jim Haworth, the company's CEO.
Still, the incandescent phaseout worries a third of Americans, who say they prefer traditional bulbs, according to an October survey of 303 adults conducted for lighting company Osram Sylvania. One in eight, or 13%, say they'll stockpile Edison's 100-watt bulbs.
Congress' bill did not address the other part of the lighting standards: labeling. The Federal Trade Commission, effective Sunday, requires that all newly made or imported bulbs carry labels on the front and back of packages that list brightness (or lumens), estimated yearly cost and life span as well as its color (or light appearance).