Reactions to "Ban the Bulb?" (updated)
Yesterday'sarticle today "Ban the Bulb?" resulted in an outpouring of interesting reader mail, which has continued today, including a long response by Duane Truitt, whose initial letter triggered many responses. Accordingly, the thread is being updated and repositioned so that readers may return to it and read the latest entires.
Mr. Truitt wrote:
The article by anonymous author Luminus Maximus attacks what it forecasts as imminent Congressional action to ban the incandescent light bulb, presumably in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs, in a so-called vain attempt to reduce greenhouse gases.
Now, mark me down as a complete and dedicated skeptic when it comes to the "Great Global Warming Scam". Nevertheless, it also makes tremendous sense, both economically, environmentally, and (given the never ending turmoil in the Middle East) militarily and politically to reduce unnecessary energy consumption in the USA - just as President Bush says over and over again, and as echoed by just about any other sensible commentator on the subject of reducing America's dependency on Islamist nut cases for our energy supplies. After all, if we didn't need that oil in the Arabian and Persian deserts, who'd give a fig about any of those people over there, who'd still be driving camels and eating their figs out in the middle of nowhere, instead of launching Intifadas, waging Jihad, and knocking down our cities with airplanes? Right?
Your anonymous author then sets up an obvious straw man argument, by conflating the need for utilities to support peak power demands with the consumption of energy - two entirely different energy concerns ... and the former really has nothing to do with reducing our dependency on foreign sources of energy nor reducing environmental impacts of energy consumption. Nobody that I can tell is on a major political campaign to reduce peak loading ... the major concern by far is consumption of energy ... particularly energy generation using hydrocarbon-based fuels such as oil and gas.. Then your anonymous author proceeds to "cry me a river of tears" over the typical lib- MSM meme of the inevitable "disproportionate impact on the poor" to portray how the new bulbs will oppress the innocent and weak masses of America.
Oh come on! It's not only a silly argument to make on a conservative opinion website, but a simple engineering analysis shows how false it is from a technological basis.
So let me get this straight: if during the same 10-year period all incandescent bulbs were instantaneously replaced by compact fluorescents, the new bulbs would not need to be replaced at all, while the incandescent bulbs would have to be replaced at least twice, while saving 75% of the energy. On its face, doesn't this trade-off merit at least some consideration?
Let's run through the calculations (I'm an engineer by training):
Assuming the typical electrical energy cost in the USA of ten cents per kilowatt-hour, a 100 watt bulb costing about $1.50 each (you'd need to buy three bulbs to last the full 10 years - at a total cost of $4.50) at 500 hours usage per year would consume about $5 worth of energy per year, or $50 over 10 years. The light-equivalent to a 100 watt incandescent - a 23 watt compact fluorescent bulb - costs about $7 but will not need replacement at all during the 10 year period, and will consume less than 1/4 the energy, the juice to run it costing only $1.15 per year at today's prices - saving a total of over $44 in electrical useage and another $3 in bulb replacement over the same 10 year timeframe. That's a total of over $47 saved per bulb over 10 years.
If the typical house has roughly 25 incandescent light bulbs, the savings over 10 years for all 25 bulbs comes to $1,181 - and that savings doesn't go to the government, or the power company, the environment, or anybody else ... that's nearly twelve hundred dollars in the pocket of the average consumer. And the switch also saved during that 10 year timeframe a total of 9,625 kilowatt-hours of electrical energy per household - and the hydrocarbon fuel necessary to deliver that energy - that would otherwise have been consumed. Multiply that savings in energy by 100 million households, and that comes to nearly a billion kilowat hours of electrical energy conserved. How can that not be a good thing? Saving money, reducing fuel consumption, and saving energy? Not to mention lowering the wear and tear on the electrical generating plants of our nation (yes, it may or may not reduce the peak capacity requirement, but it certainly lowers the amount of work that those plants have to go to in order to supply the needed power for our grid - and that also reduces O&M costs substantially).
Maybe your Mr./Ms. Luminous Maximus simply doesn't like government mandates. Fair enough, especially on a conservative opinion website (although plenty of conservatives seem to love government mandates when it's in support of their own pet causes, like prohibitions on abortions or drugs, pulling feeding tubes from brain-dead unfortunates, or as regarding certain kinds of sexual behavior ... indeed, except for the true libertarians, who are not really conservatives, it seems that government mandates are only bad if it's your ox that's getting gored, or it's not your pet cause that's getting served ... and I say that as a lifelong Republican and conservative). If that's the case, just say so and leave it at that. Because the economic argument against a government-mandated switch to low energy consuming lighting just doesn't wash.
And this doesn't even get into the even more superior alternative of LED lighting ... these bulbs use less than 10% of the energy consumed by incandescent bulbs, generate no heat, cannot be damaged by normal physical shock, and essentially last forever. And the cost of LED lights will be comparable to the compact fluorescent bulbs.
Steve Angell adds:
The newer CFL’s are Daylight and provide superior light. You can buy Daylight incandescent light bulbs but most are inferior soft white or worse. These bulbs have improved greatly in the last few years. They are instant on last forever and much brighter than older CFL’s that were over rated on brightness.“And since the new CFLs produce inferior light compared to incandescent”
CFL’s do NOT work on dimmers and most motion sensors. These will have to be improved.
I switched to them and would never go back to soft white. The color is so much better and the light seems brighter.
The newest LED lights promise to be even better and will never need to be replaced. They can not break and have no mercury.
I agree with the rest of the article and feel we should not be forced by the government to use low flow shower heads, toilets now CFL’s.
All good points regarding the stupid law to ban incandescent bulbs. However, one point I haven't heard mentioned in this light bulb debate is the impact of fluorescent bulbs on people who suffer from vertigo or migraines that are triggered by the flickering of fluorescent bulbs that the rest of us don't notice. I have a close relative who suffers from Migraine Associated Vertigo (MAV). Fluorescent lighting is one of many triggers for her debilitating migraine and/or vertigo attacks. As a result, she doesn't use any fluorescent bulbs in her house and she can't go shopping in stores or eat in restaurants with fluorescent lighting. Mandating fluorescent lighting for her would be analogous to banning wheel chair ramps for people in wheelchairs. She is already limited in the places she can go outside her house, and if the Democrats have their way, she won't be able to go in her own home at night unless she buys illegal incandescent bulbs smuggled into the country via the light bulb black market that will surely spring up. Maybe she and others diagnosed with MAV should sue the Democratic Party for attempting to undermine the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Pete Early writes:
Umm, where does Steve Angell buy his CPL lamps? $7/lamp, what kind of Conservative or Libertarian is he anyway? I get mine for around $2 each in those blister packs of 6 or 8 at Costco and Sam’s Club. I will quibble with him on choosing too conservative a runtime of 500 hours a year, it should be more like 1400 hours (4 hrs/day x 365). BTW- you can buy at a higher price the dimmable version of CPL. Many homes are just plain over lit, who says you need to use 100 watt equivalent when a 75 watt (18 W CPL) or 60 watt (15 W CPL) equivalent will do? I’ve been using CPLs for many years and I’m a tight wad when it comes to spending money (also an engineer). I agree on the issue of mercury contamination but you have to make a trade off somewhere. Our office buildings are filled with fluorescent tubes that have mercury in them, no one is advocating going to incandescent lamps due to the amount of energy difference. Disposal is an issue, but that’s what recycling is all about. I really don’t care for this idea of government should be mandating this or that, it smacks of micromanagement, there are however times in the name of national security that innocuous standards need to be made, however, this isn’t one of those times. As Steve correctly pointed out, the economics is basically already there for CPLs. LEDs will come soon enough when the price is right, and it can’t come soon enough as far as I am concerned. Take your oil and drink it…
In stating that "... it also makes tremendous sense, both economically, environmentally, and (given the never ending turmoil in the Middle East) militarily and politically to reduce unnecessary energy consumption in the USA," your blogger is quite correct. But his extensive technical explanation of incandescent vs compact fluorescent bulbs is unncecessary. We Americans are wasteful people. We leave lights burning, televisions and radios on; we run clothes and dishwashers through cycles half full; we pull three or four paper towels when one would do the job. You get the point. If we would just turn off unused lights, watch our consumption of disposable products, combine errands, and just use the common sense with which we are all born, we could cut much of our energy use in half overnight. I like incandescent lights; I like the soft color. If compact fluorescent bulbs use one-tenth the energy, I'll use fewer lights. But at my advanced age, I'll be damned if the government (which I own) forbids me to use the product I choose. I understand that old fashioned conservation, as effective as it is, is boring and leaves the politicians with no specific action to laud as part of their mission to save me from myself. Tyrannical intrusion into my life is more to their liking. A pox on all their houses!
Todd Christian writes:
And, by the way, I am also an engineer!
George J Boggs, PhD writes:
Also speaking as an engineer, I agree completely with the economic and spectral analyses of those persons advocating fluorescent “bulbs” and LEDs. In fact, I use them in my home today wherever – and wherever - I can. At this time, however, many lighting fixtures simply do not accommodate fluorescent bulbs (for example, my porch lighting and my ceiling cans/fans) for aesthetic and physical reasons, not to mention the dimming problem. I note that none of the economic analyses account for replacing fixtures and the sunk cost of the existing dimmer base. The advocacy analyses presented so far are depressingly narrow and certainly not worthy of even a C in my classes. But I’m sure that, along with wind and solar power, all this will be taken care of by unspecified design engineers in unspecified places at an unspecified time in the misty future. However, should the “ban” go into effect prior to these new technological wonders, I am fortunately in an economic position to travel to Canada and/or Mexico and buy the incandescent bulbs I need to light my home during the usual off-peak hours. I like the beach anyway.
Matt Taylor of Seattle, WA writes:
Robert Williams writes:
Florescent bulbs have their place, but so do the old incandescents. For example, operating certain machines, such as lathes, at certain speeds under florescent lights sets up a dangerous stroboscopic effect. Using the old bulbs at the same time eliminates this. In any case, the government has no business in the light bulb business. Capitalism and the free market should be left to resolve the whole issue.
Wade Russell of Gulf Shores, AL writes: