The year 2012 marked the beginning of the demise of the standard 100 watt to 40 watt incandescent light bulb—the long lived legacy of Thomas Edison (and many others). Initially there will be some “exclusions” for reflector type bulbs and other specialty bulbs, but in general—-the intent of the law is that incandescent bulbs between 100 watts and 40 watts will be replaced with Compact Fluorescent bulbs (CFL’s), and Light-Emitting Diode bulbs (LED’s).
Incandescent bulbs have a very important feature beside the “quality of light” that they emit. They produce a LOT of heat. In some respects this can be a good thing—-like if you are trying to heat your house in Minnesota. But, they also produce this same heat when you are trying to keep your house cool in the summer—-a bigger problem in regions that stay warm all the time.
Governments around the world are looking for ways to reduce energy consumption both in terms of what is wasted in the extra energy that it takes to drive these bulbs but also to cool structures being overheated by them.
As with changes in any technology there will be the naysayers that resist change from a multitude of points of view—none of which alters the advisability of conserving energy.
There are “quality of light” arguments, there are “personal liberty” arguments, and there are “false science” arguments (for example the argument that CFL’s contain Mercury). As with so many things in life there are likely to be kernels of truth in all of these arguments—-and it still does not mean that it is not time for a change.
Much of the way we think about “quality of light” has more to do with what we are “used to” than anything inherently “good” about incandescent bulbs. For example compared to natural sunlight they are not similar at all. I have no doubt that most of the “quality of light” issues will be addressed. I find it interesting that we persist in making bulbs that shed light more like incandescent bulbs even though the light from incandescent bulbs is not as close to “natural light” as some LED bulbs are. There have been vast improvements in just the last couple of years (technology is accelerating—not diminishing). One has to ask the question of whether we strive for artificial light that is more like natural sunlight or more like the romance of the incandescent bulb.
As the world becomes smaller and smaller we are almost forced to accept that our own personal preferences, “personal liberties,” (sometimes translates as selfishness) sometimes must be modified with what is best for the whole. As Star Trek’s Spock said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” In a way these supposed “restrictions” frees us to focus on individual preferences of greater significance—ones that can be nurtured without impacting the lives of others. Sometimes we are merely “stuck” in our preferences like any bad habit—-and later discover: “What was I waiting for?” As with so many things, it is usually a good idea to pick one’s battles carefully.
Some would argue that it is “false science” to pick on light bulbs that are such a small part of overall energy use. They argue that legislation would be better suited to putting limits on carbon emissions (reducing coal burning power plants) and banning SUV’s (watch out soccer moms). I would argue that all of these things (and many others) can handle a little scrutiny.
An interesting foot note to the enactment of this law here in the United States is that the law does not actually BAN incandescent bulbs at all—it merely says that light bulbs have to meet energy consumption guidelines.
Perhaps technology will save poor Mr. Edison after all—-but I would not count on it. Right now these bulbs are 10% light and 90% heat—-anyone see a problem here? Balance that against LED’s that produce 60% light and 40% heat for the same amount of energy—and more “natural” light at that.
To give you a little idea of how much disparity there is between all the different bulbs: your standard 100 watt incandescent bulbs are good for about 16 lumens per watt, compact florescent bulbs are good for about 60 lumens per watt, while LED’s are good for about 110 lumens per watt (these numbers are “rough”—-with variations from one manufacturer to another—-some LED’s have been tested at over 130 lumens per watt).
Anyone that has tried LED type flashlights would be hard pressed to go back to old fashioned incandescent type flashlights. The Fenix TK40 pictured on the right is state of the art at 650 lumens—-that is about the same as one of your car’s headlights on low beam. There can be a huge savings in the use of disposable batteries just by switching to LED flashlights—-plus you can see stuff with one.
A bit of trivia for you. Did you know that the actual “plural” of lumen is “lumina?” I suspect “lumens” will survive.
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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