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Posted: March 12, 2014

How to fix a broken lightbulb

Are you a "Frugal Filament Fixer" too?

By Theo Thimou, Director of Content

ATLANTA —

Clark Howard is a nationally syndicated consumer advice expert

Cards on the table:  I am cheap.

My latest adventure in cheapness involves lightbulbs, specifically the old school incandescent kind. The kind invented by Thomas Alva Edison. The kind that government put the kibosh on as of January 1, 2014 under the Energy Independence and Security Act.

There's been a lot of partisan anger about the new energy-efficient lightbulb mandates. Personally, I'm not an incandescent bulb hoarder.

Nor am I opposed to CFLs or LEDs. My home has roughly 75% LEDs, 25% CFLs, and 5% incandescents.

But as I said, I am cheap.

I know it's been said the true cost of a bulb is not the purchase price, but the cost of the energy it burns over time. While I do agree with that statement, sometimes it makes more financial sense to extend the life of a traditional bulb. 

Here's my rationale: Let's say you bought that incandescent on sale for 50 cents a bulb. It eats a full 60 watts of electricity. Yet that might only be about $4 or $5 a year in energy expenses per bulb.

That LED, meanwhile, could cost around $10. It will only eat 11 watts to give you the same light as the 60-watt incandescent .  But unless you get it on deep discount, you might not make your money back on that bulb for a year or two.

So you could call it delaying the inevitable, but when an incandescent burns out at my home, I'm not exactly leaping to buy a costly LED to replace it.

And therein is the crux of my argument: Did you know there's an alternative to throwing away incandescents that have burned out? It's pretty easy to fix those things and extend their life for anywhere from a few months to a year before they finally give up the ghost for good.

The fix involves reconnecting the two strands of filament inside the bulb. Chances are that filament melted and snapped, causing the light to go out. But if you can get the two dangling strands to touch again, your light will burn anew. 

Not sure what I'm talking about? Just watch this video below from Kung Fu Maintenance or read this eHow primer.

http://youtu.be/Domr4sg8jpQ

This trick works great with my Great Value 25-watt clear globe light bulbs from Walmart. It's rare that I can't get a bulb to re-light by using sleight of hand to jiggle the filaments just so. What a feeling I get when there's that Let There Be Light moment!  

And bonus, since I've started fixing our incandescent bulbs, my family has given me a new nickname: The "Frugal Filament Fixer." You can't beat that!

Clark's take: 
While I like the cute factor of what Theo writes in his article, the reality is traditional Edison bulbs just burn up money. That's why we had the transition first to CFLs and now to LEDs -- whether or not you like them. The payback on LEDs is a still a little bit longer than on CFLs. But finally, I can sayLEDs are ready for primetime!

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