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The Evolution of Lightbulbs. EU goes CFL. Great NY Times article! April 1, 2009

Posted by Dr. Z Bulbs in cfl, compact fluorescent, Controversial information, LED Lights, light bulb, List Article.
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Zoinks! Are incandescent light bulbs going up in smoke?

Zoinks! Are incandescent light bulbs going up in smoke?

Zoinks! Everybody’s got an opinion on light bulbs these days and this NY times article is interesting for the fact that it gives a wonderful overview of the evolution that is taking place in the world of light bulbs. Incandescents are being banned worldwide! Do we have something that can replace them? CFL LED? Glowing wallpaper? ZOinks! My mind boggles at the possiblities! Read on!

 

 

Green Inc. Column
Light Bulbs Poised for a Big Change
Getty Images
New regulations in a number of countries mean the standard light bulb’s days are numbered.

Dr. Z

www.zbulbs.com

 

 

LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy TOM ZELLER Jr.
Published: March 30, 2009
The European Union formally adopted new regulations on household, commercial and public lighting earlier this month. The directive contains a fair bit of language regarding “nondirectional” and other sorts of lamps, and it makes room for the halogen, a more efficient version of the standard incandescent bulb, which much of the world has used since Thomas Edison perfected it in 1879.

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Times Topics: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

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Go to Blog » But for consumers, who won’t soon find a wide array of halogen bulbs to fit their standard light sockets, the key takeaway points in the new rules are these: The light bulb as you’ve known it is about to become extinct, and you’d better get used to compact fluorescent lamps, which may become the only viable alternative for many homes.

The European regulations, which will phase out the standard incandescent bulb by 2012, are similar to those in varying states of implementation across the globe, from Australia, New Zealand and Japan to Brazil, Cuba and elsewhere.

In the United States, the Energy Act of 2007 established efficiency standards that will, as in Europe, render most incandescent bulbs unmarketable by 2014.

If efficiency is a public imperative, such efforts are targeting a particularly wasteful technology.

Estimates vary, but the U.S. Department of Energy puts the efficiency of a typical incandescent bulb at less than 10 percent.

Put simply, that means a mere 10 percent of the energy consumed by an incandescent light bulb is used to brighten up a room. The rest is cast off as waste heat — enough of it, many will remember, that early iterations of the children’s kitchen toy, the Easy-Bake Oven, used an ordinary incandescent bulb to bake cupcakes.

Replacement technologies, of course, have long been available — including CFLs, which are up to 80 percent more efficient, European officials noted two weeks ago, and can provide savings of up to €60, or $80, over their far longer lifetimes (average: 6 to 10 years).

They won’t burn you, either.

Still, those data have thus far proved ineffective at getting many consumers to switch over, which at least partly explains the growing raft of legislation worldwide. And while it’s possible that researchers will ramp up development of alternative technologies like LEDs or even next-generation, high-efficiency incandescents, it seems more likely that, at least in the near term, consumers will have to get accustomed to CFLs whether they like it or not.

Many don’t.

Compact fluorescent bulbs are among the most hotly debated topics at The New York Times blog bearing the same name as this column, and judging from the commentary of readers there, the bulbs have something of an image problem.

“I object to the noise of these things in a quiet room when I’m reading,” wrote a commenter calling himself Denver Green. “Also, these can’t be used on dimmer switches, and virtually every light in my house is on a dimmer.”

Another reader, identified only as Ed, complained, “CFLs don’t work nearly as well as advertised. The simple fact is that if you turn them on and off a lot, they wear out quickly.”

Ed added: “I think that CFLs are way more hype than substance and legislation requiring their use is extremely misguided.”

And Kevin Sinclair, another Green Inc. commenter, called the light cast by compact fluorescents “hideous,” adding that the bulbs, in his experience, burn out much more quickly than advertised.

“Why not start by implementing the Kyoto Protocol instead?” Mr. Sinclair wrote.

Some critics, including Michael Siminovitch, a self-described CFL advocate and a professor and director of the California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California, Davis, have argued that at least some of the complaints are well placed.

Mr. Siminovitch, who was interviewed recently by one of our contributors at Green Inc., suggested that in the effort to drive down the cost of compact fluorescents, quality has suffered.

There was great pressure by agencies, by retailers, to bring the cost down on this technology so that we can get big market penetration,” Mr. Siminovitch said. “Unfortunately, given the lack of really good, understandable specifications, what happened was when you reduce price you inevitably compromise something. In the case of compact fluorescents, we’ve compromised on quality.”

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Times Topics: Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

A blog about energy, the environment and the bottom line.

Go to Blog » Whether or not that’s still true is a matter of debate. Tests conducted by the Program for Evaluation and Analysis of Residential Lighting — or Pearl — a watchdog effort operating out of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, suggest that compact fluorescents have improved markedly over the last decade.

Levels of mercury, a necessary component in CFLs and one that can affect the nervous system with prolonged exposure, are also being reduced in newer generations of the bulb, the Pearl researchers said.

Indeed, far more of the neurotoxin, most experts say, is released by coal-fired power plants, so using more efficient CFLs may well reduce the overall amount of mercury in the environment, particularly if the bulbs are properly recycled.

All of this doesn’t mean, of course, that CFLs are perfect (making them so would be cost-prohibitive). It also doesn’t mean they are capable of precisely replicating the characteristics of an incandescent bulb — characteristics that many consumers, by dint of habit, consider to be the hallmarks of quality.

Which is why the European Union, in issuing its new regulations, prepared a pre-emptive list of “frequently asked questions” about compact fluorescents. “Are they not bad alternatives to incandescent bulbs?” reads one question. “Is it true,” begins another, “that compact fluorescent lamps should not be switched on/off frequently because it shortens their lifetime?” And simply: “Isn’t the shape of compact fluorescent lamps ugly and do they not produce unpleasant light?”

The answers from European officials can be found at the European Union Web site (http://is.gd/ofqO), but if I were to interpret their responses summarily, it might be: “Relax. You’ll hardly notice the difference.”

Or as Bob Markovitch, a bulb expert with Consumer Reports, a consumer protection publication in the United States, recently put it to me, “CFLs still aren’t perfect. You still have to make a little bit of a sacrifice,” he said. “But they’ve come a long way, and many of the old complaints really don’t hold anymore.”

Would it matter if they did?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/30/business/energy-environment/30iht-green30.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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