This article was posted on Saturday, Mar 01, 2014

While in the process of completing a recent “whole house” remodel with updating we ran head long into an unbudgeted expense.  As of January 1st 2014 the manufacturing of incandescent light bulbs of 40 and 60 watts is illegal.

Last January, 2013 the 100 and 75-watt bulbs stopped production.  What we found is that because they are allowed to continue selling their stockpiled inventory, the prices for these incandescent bulbs will continue to climb as the demand remains stable and the supply goes down.  Market forces are turning the simple light bulb into a significant investment.

The technology has changed tremendously.  Thomas Edison’s simple invention can’t hold a candle, (pun intended), to the “Creative Motion Changing LED Light Bulb with Remote Controller in Multi-Color” that is on sale at the local Walmart for only $24.95 for one bulb with a remote.  Replacing the incandescent light bulbs in your units or in the common areas just got more complicated and more expensive.

Wattage does not matter any more.  The new metrics when it comes to seeing the light are Lumens and Kelvin.  A lot less wattage can deliver what used to be 100 Watts of light.

The Lumen measures the amount of light the bulb will deliver while the Kelvin will determine the temperature or “color” of the light delivered. More Lumens can be delivered with much less wattage or power:

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  • Replacing a 100W incandescent bulb, look for a bulb at about 1600 lumens.
  • Replacing a 75W bulb with an energy-saving bulb at about 1100 lumens
  • Replacing a 60W bulb with an energy-saving bulb at about 800 lumens
  • Replacing a 40W bulb with an energy-saving bulb at about 450 lumens.

Kelvin is all about color temperatures of cool or neutral or warm that will change the way different colors look. The right temperature light designations need to be suited to the area that is being illuminated.  There are also some programmable lights that can change color, cadence, hue and brightness remotely and gro-lights that can be used for house plants.

Now the efficiency that a light can attain when it tries to deliver the lumens at the right Kelvin varies depending on the type of bulb.  The market has three major choices to replace the old style incandescent:

  • The Halogen – 25% more efficient the incandescent
  • The Compact Fluorescent (CFL or CPL) – 75% more efficient
  • The Light Emitting Diode (LED) – 80% more efficient

Another consideration is the expected life span for each type of light:

  • Halogen – three times longer than the incandescent
  • CFL or CPL- 10-15 times longer than incandescent
  • LED – 25 times or more than the incandescent

Fluorescent Bulbs

An important note here about the fluorescent bulbs.  This is a very mature technology that has been perfected and is very available but it is on its way out.  Fluorescent bulbs need a controlling ballast to make them work.  They also use an inert gas and a small bit of mercury in each bulb.  Additionally, the tubes are coated with a phosphor that makes these lights very hazardous when they break.  In addition to the glass shards, the mercury and the phosphor coating must be carefully disposed of.  These will probably go the way of the incandescent when the hazardous materials handling/recycling costs go up and regulation eliminate all of the hazmat from the home. The preference is to jump from incandescent to LED.


LED’s (light emitting diodes) are really not light bulbs at all.  A diode is a discrete electronics component designed to allow the flow of electrons in only one direction.  Think of diodes as one-way valves.  The light emitting version is just a variation that lights up but still uses very little power and is extremely efficient.

Cost Factor

So why do we care?  Let’s get to the cost scenario.  The typical two bedroom apartment has porch or stairway lights, entry light, two lamps in the living room, a light over the dining area, kitchen lights for under counter over sink and stove and in the ceiling, bathroom lights above the mirror, over the toilet, over the shower and in the bedrooms as either lamps or ceiling lights or both.

Now let’s head outside for security lighting, walkway lighting, carport lighting and landscape and signage lighting.  When bulbs cost between $15 to $65 apiece to buy and install, which ones belong to the tenant, such as the ones in their lamps and which ones belong to the landlord such as all of the ceiling and cabinet mounted lights indoors and all of the common area fixtures.  Will bulbs migrate from outside fixtures into the living room lamps that leave when the tenant moves out?  Do we need an addendum to our lease agreements that reads: “All provided lighting fixtures and their bulbs are the property of the building and are not to be used for any other purpose.  Inventory of the fixtures and the included bulbs by type, wattage, lumens and color are part of this agreement and will be maintained, repaired or replaced by the building management only.  Tenants are not to dispose of, tamper with or replace any bulbs provided in any attached fixtures themselves.  Management will decide the appropriate remedy for any lighting device that is part of the building.”

Do we need to install lighting fixtures that prevent the theft of light bulbs from the exterior fixtures in the parking, pool, laundry, walkway and landscape areas?  We just replaced two floodlights with the LED version and it cost over $65.  If we’re lighting an alley or driveway with public access nearby will we lose that light to the building down the street.  Can you identify your bulb from their bulb? Does anybody sell the “lockable” light bulb or enclosure?  If the average cost for the old incandescent bulb was $.50 or less apiece and for the equivalent LED version $14.95- $29.95, that translates to a very large increase and the light bulb budget number is no longer a trivial expense especially if the likelihood of theft has tripled.  If I steal your LED light bulb and put it in my lamp and it lasts 25 times longer than the incandescent bulb that I just threw in the trash….??

When you find that the bulbs disappear faster then they will ever burn out, it might be time for a change.  Let us know your take on this line item and the ramifications of yet another “energy saving” regulation that hits the bottom line.  If we never have to buy another light bulb because they last and last and are cheap to replace we would be fine but that day is pretty far off.  Prudent management protects and defends before we have to pay yet again.

Steve Reagan and Mike Javid are with J&R Valorem Properties serving Greater Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura Counties. They may be reached at [email protected]  or (877) 505-2176.


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