Energy Act Sets Stage for Phaseout of Incandescents

On Dec. 18, President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The bill includes a call for the phaseout, beginning in 2012, of the inefficient incandescent bulb in use since the days of Thomas Edison. By 2014, these bulbs “will be virtually obsolete,” according to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, the New Mexico Democrat who authored the lighting provision in the bill.

While I don't often agree with President Bush's policies, I give him credit for signing this bill, which will help improve U.S. lighting efficiency by approximately 70 percent by 2020. The measure will provide electricity savings equal to shutting down 24 coal-burning plants and save consumers $6 billion, Bingaman estimates.

The higher efficiency requirements under the new energy law kick in for the 100-watt bulb in 2012, followed by the 75-watt bulb a year later; 40- and 60-watt bulbs will be phased out in 2014. Even though the United States is behind other countries (Australia and Ireland, for example) in moving away from incandescent technology, this bill is a very positive step.

To its credit, the U.S. lodging industry has been moving away from incandescents for quite some time. Most hotels now use compact fluorescents (CFLs) in guestrooms, wall sconces and other areas. The good news is that CFLs are more affordable than ever and their quality has improved a lot over the past few years. Color quality and brightness are such that guest satisfaction need not be affected — quite a change from the early CFLs. Dimmable CFLs are now available, and three-way versions have been for several years.

Those hotels that still have not replaced incandescents with CFLs are missing a huge opportunity to save energy, money and help the environment — especially in areas where lights are on 24 hours a day. CFLs can last more than 10 times longer than incandescents and use 75 percent less energy. Because they need not be replaced as often, maintenance costs are also reduced. At your company, make sure someone has been charged with following the latest and greatest developments in lighting technology and policy.

Even as CFL and other fluorescent technologies improve, it won't be long before LEDs revolutionize the hotel lighting world. LEDs still have some technological hurdles to overcome but when they are ready, look out. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LEDs are expected to more than double the efficiency of general lighting systems, thereby reducing the United States' electric bill by $98 billion over the next 20 years. With the potential to last 100,000 hours (CFLs are approaching 15,000), LED bulbs' impact on hotel operations and profitability will be amazing.

If only Thomas Edison were here to see all this.


Glenn Hasek is the publisher and editor of Green Lodging News, a weekly e-mail newsletter and website. Reach him at 440-243-2055 and/or editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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