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By W. Gardner Selby July 28, 2011

Michael Burgess says stores will be barred from selling 100-watt bulbs in 2012

Earlier this month, the U.S. House approved a Texas congressman’s proposal to block federal funding to enforce an existing law affecting the kinds of light bulbs made in the United States, as the Houston Chronicle reported.

The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, critiqued the 2007 law he was targeting in a July 15 statement. "Starting Jan. 1," Burgess said, "if Home Depot or your local grocery store has the 100-watt bulb in their inventory, they will not be allowed to sell them. That means they will take all 100-watt bulbs off the shelf, and they will never see the consumer. My amendment will allow the stores to continue to sell what they have in stock."

Elaborating, Burgess said the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 bars 100-watt bulbs from being sold after the start of the year.

Turn out the lights. Are 100-watt bulbs really banned?

In his statement, Burgess said a subtitle of the act, "Lighting Energy Efficiency," is at fault. We read it and did not spot a ban on the sale of 100-watt bulbs. However, the law requires manufacturers to make all light bulbs more energy efficient.

Whitney Thompson, Burgess’ communications director, told us by email that the average 100-watt bulb puts out an average of 1700 lumens, or light output, and the 2007 act states that as of January, a bulb putting out 1700 lumens must be capped at 72 watts — which, she said, amounts to a ban on selling 100-watt bulbs.

"It might give off as much light, but the light it gives off is different," Thompson said. "Plug a 72-watt bulb in next to a 100-watt bulb and compare the two. People want the 100-watt bulb, not the 72-watt — and the government should not take that choice away."

Specifically, the act states that as of 2012, "general service incandescent lamps" putting out 1490 to 2600 lumens can require no more than 72 watts. Also, it says, such bulbs must have a minimum lifetime of 1,000 hours. According to information posted online by the U.S. Department of Energy, the act limits the import or manufacture of inefficient bulbs, but stores will be able to sell remaining inventory.

Some background: The act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, imposed lumens and wattage requirements on incandescent bulbs, which had wasted most of their energy in heat. Critics of the law, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, say the act directs which light bulbs consumers can use — a claim we rated Barely True last year. There is no restriction on which bulbs consumers use, though the standards are expected to result in people purchasing and using different bulbs.

Under the law, bulbs providing the comparable light output of a traditional 100-watt bulb may use no more than 72 watts of electricity. Also, 75-watt, 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs must be replaced by bulbs using no more than 53, 43 and 29 watts, respectively, in ensuing years.

The energy department says in an online post that if you are replacing a 100-watt bulb, a "good rule of thumb is to look for a bulb that gives you about 1600 lumens. Your new bulb should provide that level of brightness for no more than 72 watts, cutting your energy bill."

PolitiFact National noted in May that traditional versions of incandescent light bulbs do not meet the new standards and will be phased out of existence with compact fluorescent and LED bulbs offering more efficient alternatives.

Then again, major bulb makers are now selling a new generation of incandescent bulbs that meet the efficiency standards.

Philips Electronics’ EcoVantage bulb is a halogen incandescent light bulb that runs on 72 watts but throws off as much light as a standard 100-watt bulb. Two other industry players, Osram Sylvania and GE, have developed halogen incandescent bulbs that meet the efficiency standards.

Upshot: As of January, traditional incandescent 100-watt bulbs won’t be made, though stores can continue to sell existing stocks. Also, more efficient bulbs generating the same level of light will be available; they already are. We rate this statement Mostly False.

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