As 2012 nears, there has been a torrent of media reports about light bulb hoarders snatching up every old-school incandescent not already screwed into a socket. That’s because, in January, 100-watt incandescent light bulbs will have to become about one-third more energy efficient. That’s followed in succeeding years by similar standards for 60- and 40-watt bulbs. Incandescent bulbs won’t be “banned”. However, try telling that to these latter-day cousins of those who clung to their rabbit ears in 2009. I mean even as television stations switched to digital.

Tech Progress

Light bulb incandescent fighting LED
LED lightbulb. Photo courtesy of

The two groups share the belief that technological progress. For it has gone into reverse and instead of making our lives better. Yet, it will now make them steadily worse. The defenders of Edison argue that compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, the technology poised to take over. However, they are full of toxic mercury (in reality, there are only trace amounts) and radiate cold light. They further argue superefficient light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, are too expensive. I mean for widespread adoption. It’s a feeling that spans the political spectrum, uniting Michele Bachmann and The Village Voice. (For an informed back on forth on incandescent hoarding, check out this thread on Candle Power Forums.)

LED bulb
SWITCH 3-Way LED bulb from SWITCH Lighting™

Fortunately for the Edison brigade, they can do something about it.

The wonders of the lighting district. Copyright Chris New/Txchnologist

Seeking some of these hoarders or some intelligent discussion on the topic. Then I went to Manhattan’s lighting district. It’s a delightfully retrograde assemblage of retailers. All on Bowery bordering Chinatown. Then with display windows packed. Especially with custom crystal chandeliers, garish rainbow lamps and the nostalgic “Edison bulbs” with their long, skinny filaments.

At B.P. Lighting & Furniture, salesman Joe Louis brushed aside my questions. Especially about light bulb hoarders seeking incandescents.


“Right now, people are loving the LEDs,” said Louis, who insisted that was his real name. “Maybe in 10 years, you change one bulb.”

Next door, at Lendy Electric Equipment and Supply, I found a hoarder, of sorts: Tim, a general contractor who does installations for artists and galleries and didn’t want to divulge his full name for fear of offending his clients. For obvious reasons, his clients are particular about the kind of light they shine on their works. They demand incandescent bulbs for their sunlit quality, but they’re increasingly hard to find.

“Six months ago,” said Tim, “I came up Bowery looking for 120-watt incandescent lamps. However, people have already migrated away from incandescents.”

He eventually found several dozen of the 120-watt bulbs he was looking for, even though he may have squeezed every last one out of the district. Increasingly, he will use halogen lights for his clients.

The new face of light? Copyright Chris New/Txchnologist

Tim also disliked CFLs for their uneven light and fretted over their mercury content. The way he explained it, people are resistant because they don’t like CFLs.

But it turned out that he, too, is drawn to LEDs, which use about 20 watts to generate the same light as a 100-watt incandescent and can last for tens of thousands of hours compared with an incandescent bulb’s hundreds.

CFLs will ultimately prove to be a technology that can be skipped, he said.

“It’s like Africans will cell phones,” Tim said, noting the continent’s widespread adoption of mobile technology without ever embracing landlines.

“People will leapfrog,” a clerk behind the counter added approvingly.

In any case, there will be no need to hoard light bulbs.

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