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Bob Fischer: Distracted by light bulbs during trip to hardware store

Shopping is not one of my favorite things. Trips to the mall or “big box” stores make me cringe. Browsing for bargains holds about as much appeal as colonoscopies. My retail forays tend to be focused on specific needs, not trolling aisles to see what is new, different or on sale. This being said, shopping at the hardware store is the exception.

For example, in the midst of moving decorations around a few days ago, a quick trip was needed to procure a packet of adhesive felt pads. A painted surface required protection from being scratched; I knew exactly what was needed. I discovered the stock on my workbench was depleted when hanging Christmas décor the month before. This should have been a quick in and out visit accomplished for less than $10. What “should have” did not take into account was the location of the pads in the back of the store, and all of the temptations I needed to pass while returning to the cash register.

Since it is a convenient scapegoat for most everything these days, I am going to blame the federal government for my costly detour on the way to checkout. If not for the mandates of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) to cease production of traditional incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy efficient alternatives, I might have made it to the front of the store unscathed.

I did not pay too much attention to the elimination of 100 watt bulbs at the beginning of 2012, nor the demise of 75 watt bulbs in 2013. Pending unavailability of 40 and 60 watt bulbs, representing over 60 percent of the lamps used in homes, did catch my attention and resulted in about $50 of impulse buying.

According to the EPA, traditional bulbs, based on technology around for more than 125 years, are not very efficient sources of light. Only 10 percent of the electricity used provides illumination, the other 90 percent generates heat. The new standards will reduce the amount of energy used in fixtures by 27 percent. Maximum wattage to create the same amount of light as old 60 watt bulbs now tops out at 43.

Unfortunately for me, the most efficient and long-lasting bulbs, LED’s and compact fluorescents (CFL’s), are not compatible with the dimmer switches used in many rooms of my house.

This leaves halogen bulbs, at two to three times higher initial cost and the same 1,000-hour lifespan as the old incandescents, as my only alternative.

So, while hoping that technology and cost breakthroughs somewhere down the road will ease the pain of switching to the most efficient bulbs, I postponed the inevitable by grabbing some old-style bulbs still available for purchase.

One final note: the price of the 20-pound bag of sunflower seeds strategically placed near checkout was too good a deal to pass up. Keeping the birdfeeder filled for feathered guests (and the uninvited bunny and squirrels) is always worthwhile.

Bob Fischer is president of the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation. Contact him at bobfischer@wowway.com.

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