How to Have Incandescent Light Bulbs for the Rest of Your Life

Photo credit: Kenny Louie via Flickr

Incandescent light bulbs are officially “over.” Even if you’re OK with this, read on to see why incandescent light bulbs are still useful for preparedness purposes and how to have them for the rest of your life.

Incandescent light bulbs may no longer be government-approved, but they’re still people-approved. They’ll keep your well house from freezing up, and they’re ideal for decrystallizing honey. Plus, they’re superb for keeping an incubator warm. And we all like chickens, right?

Incandescent Bulbs for Chicks
Incandescent bulbs are ideal for keeping chicks warm. Thanks to Kendra at New Life On A Homestead for the cute picture!


You may say, “Nancy, this is BS. I’m a die-hard survivalist who lives off the grid in a cabin far, far away. I much prefer the energy efficiency of a modern bulb. After all, it draws down my power much less quickly.”

Yea, you’re right. They are more energy efficient.

To each his own. But to me, the thought of growing old under “modern” bulbs is not a happy one. I’ll take the inefficiency, thank you very much.

So if you’re with me, then now is the time to take care of business. In this post, I’ll help you store your incandescent light bulbs (there are some important things to consider), and figure out how many bulbs you’ll need to last the rest of your life (I wrote a calculator for this). Consider it a gift to your aging, grumpy future self. And in full disclosure, I may be partially responsible for the “out of stock” message on 6o-watt bulbs.

If You Like Your Light Bulbs, You Can Keep Them (As Long As You Have Them Currently)

There is no ban on having incandescent light bulbs. And there is no ban on buying incandescents, it’s just a matter of producing them.

The ban is on production of incandescents. The ban started in 2012 on 100 and 75 watt bulbs, and now extends to 45 and 60 watt bulbs starting January 1, 2014. You can still get a case of 100 watt bulbs online, for instance. Some will say it’s not an explicit ban on the production of these bulbs, but rather, a new efficiency standard that all bulbs must meet — and our old incandescents don’t do that right now. Either way, it’s effectively a ban.

3-way bulbs, appliance lamps, colored lamps, and service bulbs will remain legal to produce and purchase, however. So there’s a loophole for you to wiggle through.

Ahhhhh, freedom. Ain’t it awesome?

How to choose and test incandescent bulbs

Not all incandescents are made the same. Some last longer than others, and some are more reliable than others. I have found that US-made bulbs are more reliable than others. So check your bulbs when you get them – put them into a socket and turn it on – so you know that you have a good batch. Or if you’re like me and have just purchased hundreds of the little fellas, you might want to check each case with a random sample. It’s up to you, of course.

Storing incandescent bulbs for the long term

The weakest part of the light bulb for long term storage is the metal threading. It can oxidize or get corroded, thus rendering the bulb useless. So if you’re in a salty environment, consider storing your bulbs for the long term in air-tight packaging, just like food. I think mylar is overkill, but I’ve also heard of folks coating the base with a marine-wax to seal them. I just think it’s easier to keep the air out by keeping them in air-tight bags.

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, it’s of course important to keep them in a rigid container – like a plastic storage box. Main thing is to keep them protected from other items falling on them in the case of a quake. I keep mine in these ActionPacker trunks:


How many incandescents will you need?

This is a tough one. It depends. Bulbs are rated by number of hours of production. I like to discount any of those stated numbers by a healthy 20%, however. That contingency figure allows for some breakage and the random dud. So if a bulb is rated for 1000 hours, I calculate that it’s worth 800 hours.

Sounds like a lot, right?

Sort of. If a bulb lasts 800 hours, that means that in one year, you can have that bulb on for 2.19 hours a day before it dies. That may be reasonable given your latitude, but it may not as well. You’ll have to make that judgement yourself.

Here’s where I stocked up on 60 watt incandescent light bulbs, and 100 watt incandescent light bulbs. If you find the price of the 100 watts to be too high, try this search – the market for these bulbs is always changing.

This is the listing of best-selling incandescent light bulbs – check out the prices now and grab ’em while they are still low.

Something Fun for the Conspiracy Theorists

I’m not sure who you are or what brings you here, but you might like this short YouTube video on the subject.

Don’t let the mask scare you.

Are you “hoarding” incandescent light bulbs too? Drop me a line and let me know if I’m the only crazy one out there. 🙂

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  1. Reply

    Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for the interesting article. I am an electrical contractor and I might suggest using a product called “No-Lox” on the threads of the bulbs. We use it as an anti-corrosion/arcing compound on bussing, breakers etc. I have used it extensively for aluminum to aluminum connections in pipe and the threads of light bulbs. You do not need very much of it at all. My recommended application is a very light coating as it is very messy. I have also used it in marine environments to negate the effects of salt water and air corrosion.

    This stuff really works great and would add years of storage life to your bulbs.



    1. Reply

      Hey Roger!

      That’s great! Thanks for letting everyone know!

  2. Reply

    Good thoughts on storage. I was getting ready to give this some thought and can now save the mental energy:) I’ve heard that the rugged duty incandescents will still be available…they’ll have to be more expensive than ‘regular’ lightbulbs but can’t be as expensive as the led and halogen bulbs the political elite want us to buy now.

    1. Reply

      Hi Andrew!

      Yep, the rugged duty ones will be – they were exempted from the efficiency standards, as are candleabra-base bulbs. I love these Action Packer storage trunks. I have about a dozen of them that I store preps in. They’re heavy, but they’re lockable and also make great seating.

      Thanks for stopping by and great comment!

    • CJ
    • January 8, 2014

    Hi Nancy! Thank u soooo much for this article. Yes, l too prefer the warm glow of good ol fashioned incandescents & started “stocking up” on them a while back. But l didn know about the filiment corroding, and thanks to your fascination with organization, l now have a handy way to calculate my needs- which also will be approx 20 yrs or so. You are a wonderfully handy resource & a happy prepper too! 🙂 Wow!!!

    1. Reply

      Hello CJ!

      You are so kind! Thank you rightbackatcha, fellow crazy-incandescent-bulb-hoarder. 🙂

      Yes, I should clarify a bit – it’s not the inside filament, rather, it’s the metal base that screws into the socket to be aware of corroding.

      Thanks for stopping by and your kind words. 🙂

    • skeptical1
    • January 8, 2014

    You’re not the only “crazy”. We started buying incandescent bulbs by the case when word first came out about the future ban. I have given away several cases over the years, but still have several for myself. I just hope they last!

    1. Reply

      LOL, did my calculator help at all? You should be able to look on the case and see the lifetime rating and plug that in to the calculator to find out.

      Thanks for saying hello. 🙂

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