By Umberto Salvagnin, Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-2.0]

In the last week of 2013 a national survey was conducted in the U.S. to gauge consumers’ knowledge of the impending changes in the light bulb industry.

Specifically they wanted to find out how many people knew that the 60 and 100 watt incandescent bulbs would no longer be manufactured after Jan. 1, 2014, and that gradually all incandescent bulbs would be disappearing from store shelves. The survey conducted by Osram-Sylvania also wanted to assess what strategies consumers would be using to seek replacements.

It was hardly a shock that four out of every 10 Americans had no idea the incandescent was disappearing. Another three out of 10 had heard about it but didn’t have a clue of the actual date of the phase-out.  And as a measure of how confused consumers are about the whole thing, approximately 30 percent of survey respondents said they’d be going out to the aisles of their local store to stock up and hoard incandescent bulbs. Another 37 percent said they plan to buy either compact fluorescents or halogen bulbs.

From any measuring stick, these are the worst strategies consumers can adopt for both their pocket-books and the planet. By stockpiling incandescents not only will consumers be burning 90 percent more energy, they’ll also be spending far more money. The same holds true for halogens. Converting to CFL’s will save some energy but the toxic elements including traces of mercury and the lack of disposal and recycling facilities make this a dangerous option.

Before we get too complacent up here in Canada I can predict a similar survey on this side of the 49th would produce the very same results. Mass confusion reigns. The only true strategy for consumers is to convert to LEDs’, which use 90 percent less energy than incandescent and last up to 25 times longer.  In future blogs I’ll explain why consumers have literally been “left in the dark” as the biggest change in light bulb technology and consumer choice is upon us.

The blame lies with both governments and manufacturers. Government waffled on getting rid of the incandescent and promoted CFL’s without a clear idea of the limitations and risk. And manufacturers failed to embrace the new technologies in LED bulbs and stalled their entry into the marketplace.

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