By Doug Ireland
---- — They’re gradually disappearing from shore shelves and it’s not because of the major snowstorm forecast for Thursday.
When the new year arrives tomorrow, there are sure to plenty of people flocking to buy milk, bread — and maybe even light bulbs.
Federal law bans the manufacture and importation of 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs as of Jan. 1.
That same law, the Energy Independence and Security Act, adopted in 2007, already prohibited 100- and 75-watt incandescent bulbs within the last two years.
The goal is to switch to more energy-efficient lighting, including use of compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs. They are 75 percent more efficient and last at least 10 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Incandescent bulbs cost a lot less than CFL bulbs, but generally don’t last as long. The four types of incandescent bulbs can be sold at U.S stores until inventories are exhausted.
Carolyn and Tom Arndt weren’t taking any chances while shopping at Market Basket in Londonderry yesterday.
The Auburn couple heard about the ban and made sure they picked up an eight-pack of 60-watt incandescent bulbs. It was apparent other customers had the same idea — the store shelf was mostly bare.
“That’s why we’re stocking up,” Tom Arndt said.
The eight-pack cost $2.99, compared to 99 cents for a single CFL bulb.
Although the Arndts use both types of lighting, they use incandescent bulbs for approximately 30 percent of their lamps and fixtures because they believe they are more attractive than CFLs.
CFLs also don’t cast as much light for at least several minutes after being turned on — one reason why some customers balk at buying them, store managers said.
“It can take them a long time,” Tom Arndt said.
Carolyn Arndt praised the increased energy efficiency that comes with using CFLs, but said she’s concerned because they contain mercury, which can be a health hazard.
“Theoretically, I think it’s a good thing,” she said.
Managers at several area stores said yesterday they had yet to see a run on the 40- and 60-watt incandescent bulbs, but won’t be surprised if customers start hoarding them. They speculated that most shoppers had not yet heard about the ban.
Just before 100-watt bulbs were banned in 2012, store managers said they started to sell a lot of them. The same thing happened shortly before 75-watt bulbs began to disappear last year.
Managers responded by placing extra orders to meet customer demand.
“I always stock up,” said Gary Keleshian, owner of Optech in Andover.
At Benson Lumber & Hardware in Derry, assistant manager David Biron said the store recently saw a run on its 100-watt bulbs and remaining supply of 75-watt bulbs. Some are still available, but not many, he said.
“There are a few people who come in and scoff the higher watt bulbs,” he said. “People are buying as many of those as they can.”
Keleshian said he also recently saw a surge in 100-watt bulb sales and is waiting to see if the other types will start flying off the shelves.
“I had a run a few months ago,” he said. “I sold off a lot of inventory.”
Robert Ducharme, manager at Bridge Street True Value Hardware in Pelham, said many customers requested the 75-watt bulbs, but he’s not sure if the 60- and 40-watt bulbs will be scooped up as quickly.
“I don’t foresee a big rush,” he said.
But some customers do complain about the cost of the CFL bulbs, he said.
“That’s the biggest gripe,” he said.
Of the seven shoppers interviewed in Londonderry yesterday, only the Arndts knew of the Jan. 1 ban.
Several others said they knew incandescent bulbs were being phased out and prefer CFLs anyway because they are more energy efficient and expected to last up to seven years.
“It makes sense to me,” said Jim DiNovo, 33, of Londonderry, who was shopping at Home Depot. “It’s more long term and sustainable.”