LED light bulbs are supposed to save consumers money while also sparing the environment, part of the reason why the federal government effectively banned the old-fashioned incandescent bulb on August 1. But one 25-year-old isn’t planning on making the switch anytime soon after stockpiling 4,826 incandescent bulbs — a number he calculates should last him 75 years.
“If I live to 100, I will use up all my light bulbs,” Kevin Szmyd, a software engineer in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, told CBS MoneyWatch.
Szmyd said he only started seriously collecting incandescent bulbs this summer, when he grew concerned after learning about the Department of Energy restrictions, whichof traditional light bulbs in the U.S. At first, he thought he’d buy two 24-packs and “call it a day,” but then determined that he’d need different types of bulbs for his home’s lighting fixtures, such as chandelier bulbs, three-way bulbs and under-stair lighting.
His problem with LED bulbs? “I have a personal issue with the light we get from LEDs,” he said. “I don’t think they look great.” Some LED bulbs “almost look cheesy,” he added.
While Szmyd’s devotion to incandescent light might make him an outlier, more people are shedding light on their problems with LEDs, such as flickering, poor color rendering and bulb life that is well short of what was advertised. The disappointment with LEDs even sparked a feature piece in New York Magazine, which called the bulbs “one more thing that overpromises and under-delivers.”
$1,700 in light bulbs
Technically, the Energy Department didn’t ban incandescent bulbs. Rather, it increased the minimum efficiency standard that had been set under a 2007 law called the Energy Independence and Security Act, which set policies aimed at modernizing the nation’s power grid and reducing energy consumption. Most old-fashioned bulbs fall short of those standards and may not be manufactured.
The government notes that some incandescent bulbs, such as anti-bug lights and those that go in ovens, are exempt from the rules.
Still, as a practical matter the new standards spell the demise of incandescent bulbs, which trace back to the pioneering developments of Scottish inventor James Bowman Lindsay in the 1830s as well as Thomas Edison, Albon Man and Joseph Swan in the late 19th century.
At least in Szmyd’s household, that history will live on for years to come. He spent about $1,700, or the equivalent of one of his paychecks, to stockpile the old-school bulbs. “If you asked me a year ago, ‘What do you think of standard Phillips A19?,’ I would have looked at you as if you were insane,” he said.
He tapped a number of sources to find the bulbs, including hardware stores that were marking them down ahead of the ban, as well as Craig’s List. Szmyd also connected with hobbyists who are fans of incandescent bulbs.
“Nobody collected cars before the first Model T went out of production,” he noted.
Szmyd added that although his job is focused on computers and coding, he often seeks to separate technology from the rest of his life, noting that he drives a 2006 Crown Victoria and a 1999 Jeep Cherokee.
“A lot of things have become too needlessly complicated — no one needs a computer in their fridge,” he said.
“A fun gift”
Asked if he would ever resell some of his bulbs, Szmyd said it was unlikely given that the federal ban comes with a $542 fine for selling bulbs, although people may still use any incandescent bulbs they owned before the new rules took effect in August.
“Most of them are for my own use,” he noted. “I’ve given some to friends — it makes a fun gift now that people have become aware of my light bulb hobby.”
Asked what his friends and family make of his bulb supply, he said, “My parents were supportive — we all share a similar, ‘Let’s get back to the good old days of pen and paper and why does my car beep at me when I go over the line’ mentality,” he said.
Szmyd added, “I’d say my friends think it’s a funny eccentric bit that I’m doing, and my partner is really into it,” noting that his partner will scout out light bulbs at Goodwill stores and other locations.
“If anyone takes anything away from this story and they want actionable advice, the LED Christmas lights, the ballast in the bulbs themselves, are too small to produce a consistent glow in the diode, so they are more prone to flickering than any other bulb type,” he noted. “Try to find some incandescents.”