The 1.5" fluorescent tubular bulbs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Effective July 14, 2012, manufacturers are no longer allowed to manufacture these light bulbs according to a federal mandate. Retailers will sell out of their current stock but no more will be brought in to replenish that stock. New construction homes, for the most part, have already put up fixtures that take the thinner and more energy efficient T-8 bulbs.
T-12 bulbs still account for roughly 1/3 of light bulb sales. Typically T-12 bulbs use about 40 watts of energy where a T-8 bulb uses only 32-watts of energy to produce the same amount of light. That doesn't sound like much but multiply that by how many hours the light is used and then multiply that by the number of fixtures throughout the country. It adds up. T-12 light bulbs are the fluorescent light bulbs that many of us have grown up with. Chances are that if you have an older home and you have a fluorescent light fixture that was put in the home originally, then this mandate will affect you at some point. At some point people will have to make a decision whether to:
A: Replace the entire fixture with one that accommodates T-8 bulbs or another type of bulb altogether.
B: Stock up on the old T-12 bulbs and hope for the best.
C: Attempt to replace the ballast in the existing fixture with one that accommodates the T-8 bulbs. Be forewarned however that the ballast may be as expensive to replace as the fixture thus making it somewhat cost prohibitive. Replacing the ballast isn't hard but it is sometimes more labor intensive than just replacing the fixture.
As we shift to more energy efficient products in the United States, expect more changes in the products that we have traditionally used. Light bulbs are just the tip of the iceberg. We are already looking at alternate forms of energy for our homes and alternate forms of fuel for our vehicles.