Californians can start saying goodbye to traditional 100-watt incandescent light bulbs now that the state has become the first in the country to require a new standard for the screw-base bulbs.
Experts say the new rules, which took effect New Year's Day, will save residents money and energy. California is already the nation's leader in energy-efficiency standards.
As of Saturday, what used to be a 100-watt light bulb manufactured and sold in California will have to use 72 watts or less. The 72-watt replacement bulb, also called an energy-saving halogen light, will provide the same amount of light, called lumens, for lower energy cost.
Similar new standards for traditional 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt incandescent bulbs will go into effect in California over the next few years, with wattages reduced to 53, 43 and 29 respectively.
The new rule does not ban incandescent light bulbs; it just requires those bulbs to be 25 to 30 percent more efficient. And it only affects incandescent light bulbs manufactured in 2011 or later, not those already in use or on store shelves.
The new lights are comparably priced to the regular incandescent lights. A two-bulb package of 100-watt incandescent bulbs is about $4.32 at Lowe's, while a four-bulb package of new 72-watt halogen bulbs is $8.66, or $4.33 for two. By contrast, a two-bulb package of energy-saving compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) is $11.28.
"The 72-watt bulb is improving Edison's original idea,'' said Adam Gottlieb, a spokesman for the California Energy Commission.
"Consumers will still have the amount of light they need for the task at hand,'' said Gottlieb. "But they'll see lower electricity bills.''
Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the new regulation "a great thing for consumers." He played a key role in the development and passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, upon which the new regulation is based.
"The 125-year-old incandescent light bulb is far and away the least efficient product in our homes, because 90 percent of the electricity is wasted as heat,'' Horowitz said.
The new standard, passed in 2007 by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush, becomes effective nationwide on Jan. 1, 2012. But California and Nevada, which already had energy-efficiency standards in place for lighting products, were able to adopt the law earlier. Gottlieb said Nevada legislators could have voted to do so before Dec. 31, 2008, but they let the deadline expire.
California's energy commission said the state's move will avoid the sale of 10.5 million inefficient 100-watt bulbs this year and save consumers $35.6 million in higher electricity bills.
By reducing energy consumption, Gottlieb said, the standard also will reduce air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels in power plants.
California's move follows similar laws that have gone into effect recently in Europe and Australia.
Consumers can already purchase the new incandescent bulbs. The Home Depot, the country's largest lighting retailer, has spent the past few months training sales associates in the lighting departments of its California stores to help customers looking for guidance on the new law, said spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher.
The chain, including its 40 Bay Area locations, also is placing special signs in the lighting aisles that explain the energy efficiency of different kinds of bulbs, including CFLs. The California Energy Commission says a 23- to 27-watt compact fluorescent bulb provides the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb while consuming about 75 percent less energy.
At Lowe's Home Improvement stores, spokesman Gerard Littlejohn said the retailer is removing all 100-watt incandescent lights from its California stores.
Many consumers seem open to the new regulation.
"It's not a problem at all,'' said San Jose resident Daniel Robles, 28, who was shopping Saturday for CFL bulbs at a San Jose Lowe's. He buys them to save money but said the light from CFLs give his wife migraines, so the new energy-saving halogen lights would be worth trying out.
"I wasn't aware of that option,'' Robles said.
Contact Tracy Seipel at 408-275-0140.