What's in YOUR socket? Better bulbs are trending

An array of new bulbs. (U.S. Department of Energy photo)

Years ago, when I first started writing about bulbs, and an expert advised switching from an incandescent to a CFL, I said, "You mean, I should do it when the incandescent burns out, right?"

Wrong. I was thinking about not wasting the resource - the glass, the metal, etc.

But the expert said efficiency gains, and electricity saved, would top the old bulb's resource value. I should switch now and toss the incandescent.

More and more people are doing that, according to the fifth annual "Socket Survey" by Osram Sylvania, the bulb manufacturer.

Since 2008, researchers found, the number of consumers that listed “burned out or broken" as their main reason for switching out their bulbs dropped by 10 percent. By now, 68 percent of Americans say that they have switched lighting for increased energy efficiency.

And by now, 29 percent of people surveyed they say they don't have any incandescent bulbs at all in their homes. I find this astonishing, and I have to confess I'm skeptical. A spokesman confirmed the finding, so I wonder if the people being surveyed understood the question. Even the most avid user of LCDs and CFLs usually has an old incandescent in a fixture they rarely use.

Sadly, nearly half of Americans aren't aware of the new efficiency standards that are resulting in the de facto phase-out of many incandescent bulbs. As of Jan. 1, 2012, bulbs that were 100 watts had to meet the new standards, or bite the dust.  This year, 75-watters are in the same situation. And so on.

And after so many foreign-made CFLs got a bad rap for burning out too soon, or not providing light that was bright enough, more consumers -- 77 percent -- are saying it's important that their bulbs be made in the U.S. (The big question now is, how many can they find that are made in the U.S.?)

And, I would add, they should opt for Energy Star bulbs, which meet efficiency specs and other standards.

For those contemplating a switch, I recently blogged some suggestions here.