Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Banning Incandescent Light Bulbs, November 17th

OK, let’s talk about those little soft white incandescent light bulbs in your home. How many have you changed in your lifetime? How many people did it take? Could Edison have ever seen the day his greatest, most difficult-to-perfect invention would sell for less than $1 each? The 60-watt light bulb doesn't have long to live. It has already been banned in several countries, and there were reports of hoarding when it was announced that they would be phased out in the EU.

Governments have passed measures to prohibit the sale of incandescent light bulbs for general lighting. The aim is to encourage use of more energy-efficient lighting alternatives, such as compact fluorescent lamp (CFLs) and LED lamps. Brazil and Venezuela started to phase them out in 2005, and the European Union, Switzerland, and Australia started to phase them out in 2009. Likewise, other nations are planning scheduled phase-outs: Argentina, Russia, and Canada in 2012, USA between 2012 and 2014, and Malaysia in 2014.

My first reaction to all of this was anger. How dare the government stick their noses, once again, into my life and tell me to buy a more expensive bulb that is more dangerous? Well, I did my homework and it seems my first reaction was more primal than mental. It turns out that we have nothing to fear. There is no need for petitions. We don't need to create a "National Incandescent Association" and get some celebrity to talk about prying light bulbs out of his cold dead hands. There are more and better options being produced everyday. Between CFLs and the newest LED technologies, the lighting in your house of tomorrow is going to look radically different--or exactly the same. It will be up to you.

One thing is certain though; we are going to save money on our lighting bill! Honestly, think about it: how archaic is a piece of glowing hot wire inside a vacuum wrapped in glass? It's almost as if once we had moved past gas lanterns, we collectively decided that was far enough. Well, not quite--one hundred years ago those 60-watt bulbs only gave off a feeble glow. The generally used unit of measure for light bulbs is lumens and those early bulbs gave off only about 100 of them. Inventors were able to double and triple that and, by 1910, were getting nearly 500 lumens out of a 60-watt bulb. Today a survey of the shelves at the local hardware store indicates that for 60 watts of electricity, we get nearly 800 lumens.

A question that comes up all the time is "How many watts can I use in that fixture?” What people are really want to know is "How much light am I going to be able to get?” The brightness of the light bulb is relative to the amount of wattage it consumes, but one 60-watt bulb is not always the same brightness as the next. That's where the lumen measurement comes in--but lumens are a measure of visible light and we see different colors better than others do. Therefore, if you are using a warm color bulb, it will take more lumens to appear just as bright. This is why four 25-watt bulbs in a fixture are not as bright as one 100-watt bulb. Generally, the higher the wattage, the hotter and whiter the light.

Compact Florescent Light bulbs (CFLs) are those strange little corkscrew or spring looking bulbs that started appearing all over the place ten years or so ago. When they first appeared, they had many drawbacks. They didn't fit in many lamps, they cost a lot, they weren't dimmable, they gave off a weird light and they took a few seconds to get fully lit.

Nearly every one of those problems has been solved now. They still cost more than an incandescent bulb and there are still some fixtures they won't fit into. Cost-wise they just keep getting cheaper. Since they can last eight times longer than incandescent bulbs, they actually are cheaper than eight old bulbs. Factor in the energy savings and suddenly you're making money on the deal when you pay $8 for a CFL that produces 800 lumens, only uses 13 watts, lasts 8 times longer and uses 75% less energy over its life. That's 360 kilowatt/hours less over its life. Look at your electricity bill and let me know how many dollars that works out to.

You can get fluorescent bulbs in many different shades of white. The color of light is measured in degrees Kelvin, you don't have to know why. A candle is less than 2000K, daylight on a sunny day is about 5000K and overcast days are about 8000K. I know, it's like crazy backwards world: the hotter this Kelvin guy gets, the cooler the light is. Well, just think about candle flame verses gas flame and it kind of makes sense. The gas flame is hotter, but the light is "cooler" in most people's minds.

 CFLs are rated by color in Kelvin right on their packages. People don't want blue/green fluorescent lights in their dining room or around their vanity mirror, but they might prefer it to read by. CFLs come in soft white, bright white, daylight and cool white. I could try to explain, but the picture above works much better.

Now, you may still be leery of trying these new things. Do what I did and replace the hardest to reach bulbs in the house first. Next I suggest replacing any hall, bedroom or kitchen light that is fully encased in a glass globe. The CFL light, filtered through that shade is hard to distinguish from the old bulbs you are used to.

The last place you want to use CFL bulbs are in decorative fixtures like sconces, and dining room chandeliers. For one thing, some of them can't be used on a dimmer. But the big problem is that though they may fit, they just don't FIT. They don't look right. Part of the problem is that these fixtures were made for smaller flame and torpedo shaped bulbs, also they look best with clear, not frosted bulbs. Though you can get CFLs in a torpedo shape, they are big and clunky and are all white plastic and frosted glass.

The good news is, though they are still just coming to market, the LEDs are here. LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes are already on the shelves of your hardware store. They don't yet have a 60 watt equivalent, but they have awesome looking smaller bulbs that will replace most 25 and 40 watt decorative bulbs. These new type of bulbs will cut again your energy usage for lighting, and last at least twice as long as the CFLs. A 2.5 watt LED gives you nearly the light of a 25 watt incandescent, or 90% less.

These bulbs truly are the light of the future. Besides making LED bulbs that mimic traditional bulbs, there are currently whole new LED fixtures that were impossible with other forms of lighting. Things like whole walls, or ceilings that can light up. Or thin strips of LEDs that can light a room, but be nearly invisible when switched off. From a design standpoint, lighting is suddenly very hot and very cool--especially if you're named Kelvin.
The billboard said its message is from Satan. What it really does is direct people to the website of a new church. The message on the billboard reads "Don't visit "and is signed Satan.

The website redirects visitors to the home page of The Bridge Church, which is starting a campus in Smithfield with a service Thursday night at Johnston Community College. Church office manager Jamie Cooper said more than 2,000 people visited the website last week.
On this day in history in 1278 680 Jews arrested (293 hanged) in England for counterfeiting coins and in 1869 Suez Canal opens
One night, Mrs Mcmillen answers the door to see her husbands best friend, Sean, standing on the doorstep,
"Hello Sean, but where is my husband, he went with you to the beer factory." 
Sean shook his head "Ah Mrs Mcmillen, there was a terrible accident at the beer factory, your husband fell into a vat of guinness stout and drowned" 
Mrs Mcmillen starts crying
"Oh don't tell me that, did he at least go quickly?" 
Sean shakes his head
"Not really, he got out 3 times to pee" 

Live Long and Prosper....


Anonymous said...

Hi - To find energy-efficient bulbs with the right fit and light quality, you can use a new, free mobile phone app called Light Bulb Finder.

With your mobile phone in hand, you can walk around your house inputting your current incandescent bulb styles, watts etc. The app will recommend an energy-saving equivalent with info such as cost, savings, and payback period. You can buy bulbs thru the app or take your list of recommended bulbs to a local retailer.

It's available for Android phones, and the iPhone version will be available after Thanksgiving. For more info,

bograt said...

Hi there Gary.
Did you know that low energy light bulb manufacturer Megaman is calling for an international ban on the use of liquid mercury in CFLs?
Check it out: