The days of the incandescent light bulb in the U.S. are numbered.

In the thread on the newly green New Years Eve countdown ball in another thread SEB member Webs mentioned that all we need to do now is get rid of other old lighting technologies. Apparently he’s not aware that the energy law recently passed by Congress will eventually do just that:

The incandescent light bulb, one of the most venerable inventions of its era but deemed too inefficient for our own, will be phased off the U.S. market beginning in 2012 under the new energy law just approved by Congress. Although this will reduce electricity costs and minimize new bulb purchases in every household in America, you may be feeling in the dark about the loss of your old, relatively reliable source of light. Here’s a primer on the light bulb phase-out and what will mean to you:

Why are they taking my light bulbs away? Moving to more efficient lighting is one of the lowest-cost ways for the nation to reduce electricity use and greenhouse gases. In fact, it actually will save households money because of lower utility bills. Ninety percent of the energy that an incandescent light bulb burns is wasted as heat. And yet, sales of the most common high-efficiency bulb available—the compact fluorescent (CFL)—amount to only 5 percent of the light bulb market. Earlier this year, Australia became the first country to announce an outright ban by 2010 on incandescent bulbs. The changeover in the United States will be more gradual, not mandated to begin until 2012 and phased out through 2014. However, don’t be surprised if some manufacturers phase out earlier.

How do I save money, when a CFL costs six times as much as an old-fashioned bulb? Each cone-shaped spiral CFL costs about $3, compared with 50 cents for a standard bulb. But a CFL uses about 75 percent less energy and lasts five years instead of a few months. A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12 percent discount to estimate the savings.

The rest of the FAQ lists off some information that even I wasn’t aware of—and I’ve already converted most of the lights here at my in-law’s house to CFLs—such as the fact that any CFL with the Energy Star symbol is required to have a two-year limited warranty so if they burn out prematurely you can get them replaced. So while it’ll be a few years yet the end of the incandescent bulb is on the horizon and may even arrive early if enough folks jump on the bandwagon.