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The Incandescent Bulb Argument Flares Again!

There have been concerns over Britain’s move from traditional incandescent bulbs to their more energy efficient counterparts. Fluorescent energy saving bulbs are generally regarded as healthier for the environment and home energy bills. In fact, up to £45 or so can be saved using the more eco-friendly bulbs because they use up to 80% less electricity. This all seems very straightforward for a slightly greener future: out with the old, in with the new. However, not all may be as green as would first appear.

Energy saving bulbAs of today, the traditional 100-watt incandescent bulb will be consigned to history. Outlawed by the EU, whose expert advisors sought the change in December 2008, the 100-watt incandescent lightbulb is considered too damaging for the environment. In pursuit of meeting its wider policies on climate change, the EU has arrived at the seemingly sensible conclusion that the 100-watt bulb is unsuitable for modern demands. However, as with many other policies and laws to have emerged from Brussels, a signficiant proportion of the British public is uncompromisingly opposed to the switch – but why?

According to a number of sources, which rely upon purely empirical evidence, the compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFL’s) cause various unpleasant health conditions, including migraines. More sensationalistic – and unfounded – claims go so far as to suggest that the new bulbs could cause skin cancer, although there is genuine concern over those people with extreme light sensitivity disorders. Furthermore, the CFL’s are said to contain substances that are ultimately harmful to the environment, such as mercury. Nevertheless, the CFL’s represent environmental savings that could help to cut Europe’s burgeoning carbon footprint. The real question is do people want to change?

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2 thoughts on “The Incandescent Bulb Argument Flares Again!

  1. About the strange EU Parliament and EU industrial political pathway behind this ban:

    Europeans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings – no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
    people will buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn’t mean that more energy using radio tubes were banned… they were bought less anyway.

    The particular error of banning 100W+ ordinary bulbs is that bright CFLs or LEDs are comparatively difficult and expensive to make,
    and the high wattage heat effect is not necessarily wasted (see below).

    Banning frosted lights smacks of particularly unwarranted EU pettiness, for any marginal savings involved.
    Clear lights (including halogens) have a strong glare – hence the overwhelming popularity of frosted lights for ceiling use.

    Another problem is that small bright CFLs and LEDs are difficult to make, so that candle/golfball lights are bulkier and may not fit some lamps.

    Supposed savings don’t hold up for many reasons.
    Just a few examples here:
    CFL Lifespan is lab tested in 3 hour cycles. That does not correspond to real life usage and numerous tests have shown real life type on-off switching reducing lifespan. Leaving lights on of course also uses up energy, as does the switch-on power surge with CFLs
    Also, CFLs get dimmer with age, effectively reducing lifespan

    Power factor:
    Few people know that CFLs typically have a power factor of 0.5 – that means that power stations use up twice as much power than what the CFL rating shows. This has to do with current and voltage phase differences set up when CFLs are used.
    Although consumers do not see this on their meters, they will of course have to pay for it on their bills.
    This is explained with official links including to US Dept of Energy here:

    Heat benefit from using ordinary incandescent light bulbs:
    Room heat substantially rises to the ceiling (convection) and spreads downwards from there. Another half of more of supposed switch savings are negated in temperate climates, as shown via the above link with several official -and British- research references.

  2. more about energy savings:

    if energy use does fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans and electricity companies make less money,
    they will simply push up the electricity bills to compensate:
    Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise.

    CFL (energy saving lights) mercury problem:
    Maine state test reports have influenced US guidelines re what to do when bulbs break

    Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

    The Taxation alternative
    A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
    We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
    Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce consumption would make much more sense, since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
    A few euros (or equivalent) tax that reduces the current sales (EU 2 billion per annum, UK c. 250-300 million pa, Germany c 1/2 billion per annum), raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
    It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
    However, taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply better than bans also for ban proponents, in overall emission lowering terms.

    Of course a ban is going ahead now, but is phased in with planned reviews…

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