Washington’s dim bulbs

A great many unkind things have been said about our current Congress — many of them merited.

But nothing this august body has done this session has more exemplified its meddling ineptitude than its decision to phase out incandescent light bulbs, of all things, beginning in 2012.

As explained by Reuters in a recent report, the measure signed by President Bush on Dec. 19 requires lighting to use “up to 30 percent less energy,” effectively outlawing the brilliant device engineered 125 years ago by Thomas Edison.

Proponents of the measure argue that replacing all 4 billion Edison bulbs in the United States with energy-efficient alternatives will cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 100 million tons and dramatically reduce household utility bills — by more than $18 billion a year.

But how will household budgets fare under the greater cost of compact fluorescent lights — surpassing $5 per bulb vs. about 75 cents for their incandescent counterparts? And let’s not look too closely at the additional pollution that will enter the environment should the mercury inside CFLs escape. Moreover, will Americans — especially aging baby boomers — be satisfied with the poorer, harsher light shed by CFLs? Or will they merely use more CFLs to supply the same amount of light cast by a single incandescent bulb?

Whatever the answer to these questions, one thing is clear: When light bulbs are outlawed, only outlaws will have light bulbs.


  1. Carl Nemo

    From the predictions of Nostradamus, the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, and even the “Bible Code” showing 2012 as the end of days with a comet or asteroid striking the earth, it will be “lights out for humanity” so we won’t have to worry about bulb conversions…no?!

    Those hoping to survive best start learning how to start a fire without matches immediately if not sooner… šŸ˜

    Carl Nemo **==

  2. pondering_it_all

    The author must be shopping at the wrong places: I have replaced almost every bulb in my house with CFLs from 25 to 100 watt incandescent-equivalents and paid around 50 cents each. Heck, the local power company GIVES them away in exchange for burned-out incandescent light bulbs a couple of times per year. The CFLs also last at least 5 times as long as incandescents, so they would still be a bargain even if the price WAS higher. (Not to mention the difficulty of changing bulbs in high sockets, etc.)

    I actually prefer the whiter light. It looks more like sunlight to me than the yellow incandescent light. They also use about 1/6th the power to get the same amount of light. I have two 26 watt CFLs in the “reading room” (the bathroom :) and they are brighter than a pair of 100 watt incandescents. Adding more would be blinding!

    This new legislation does not outlaw incandescent bulbs if they have halogen added to the fill gas. This makes the bulbs last much, much longer than the standard type. And halogen bulbs can run in the very same lamps and fixtures as the standard type bulbs, but they give whiter light and save a bit of energy. (Just nowhere near as much as CFLs.) So don’t worry about it: As the standard bulbs are phased out, the shelfs will be restocked with halogen bulbs that look just about the same and save you money over the life of the bulb.

  3. Carl Nemo

    Thanks pondering_it_all for your informative post.

    I’ve long since converted my home to the new technology, but be advised that if you need immediate, maximum bright light in hallways or stairstep areas then people best go with the halogen filled bulbs which supply immediate maximum brightness like current incandescents. It takes a bit of time for the fluorescent conversion bulbs to reach maximum brightness. Also some of these newer bulbs won’t work that well as outdoor lighting as porchlights etc. in sub-zero temps. Fluorescent lights have always performed marginally in cold environments unless of a special compensating design.

    LED technology for conventional lightbulbs is going to improve in time which will offer even a greater energy savings.

    Carl Nemo **==

  4. ekaton

    “The CFLs also last at least 5 times as long as incandescents,”

    This is the main selling point but it has not been my experience. In my lamps, they do not last as long as incandescents AND they create static on AM radio reception. I’ll be interested to try the coming halogen filled incandescents though.

    I have purchased one more 26 watt CFL, equivalent to a 100 watt incandescent, for my outdoor porch light as a kind of torture test. We’ll see how long this one lasts. So far its been two weeks.

    — Kent Shaw

  5. Elmo

    This is the wrong tactic.

    I’ve been working to increase my energy efficiency. Adding motion-detecting switches and timers in places where people tend to leave the light or fan on. Sadly, there are some enclosed ceiling fixtures which can not accommodate the fluorescent replacements — it even says that on the package for most of them. Every time I’ve tried to put them in, they fail within a month. I’ll either have to replace the fixtures or start hording 60-watt incandescents.

  6. JoyfulC

    We replaced all the bulbs indoors and outdoors at our home with the energy efficient ones. They do cost more, but they’re supposed to last longer. We’ll see.

    They come in sizes and shapes that will work with ceiling fans, and I think you can buy special ones for outdoor use too. You just have to shop around a bit.

    But I agree. This is an example of this administration paying lip service to environmental concerns. A nice, safe measure to make it look like they’re doing something while they stall to help their big business buddies rake in more profits.

  7. bluesheep

    i bought a cfl a bout five years a go for a house with bad wiring and i’m still useing it. i take my bulbs with me when i move and have found almost no problems with the cfls. i rather like the bluer cool light. i know what you mean about less light but a higher wattage seems to compensate just fine. i use a 100 watt equivelent that uses 23 watts in stead o a seventy watt. one of the houses i changed all the bulbs inn i got mu power bill down to about $18 to $23 a month. each month i saved more than i spent on the bulbs. i live in main where the power bill is pretty high and the bulbs make a huge differance. i think the auther works for an incandecent compamy.

  8. almandine

    The two dozen or so CFLs I’ve used have crapped out rather quickly – much faster than incandescents – and they’re much more expensive – no where near 50 cents per. Halogen bulbs do not use 30% less energy, so why would they be OK? I think the Congress works for CFL and Halogen bulb lobbyists.

  9. SEAL

    Bluesheep – you said:
    i changed all the bulbs inn i got mu power bill down to about $18 to $23 a month.

    I suggest you explain that because no one believes your power bill is that low.

  10. SEAL

    I changed all of our bulbs to the “curly fry” bulbs as the old incandes went out. I find they provide better light and none of them have worn out yet. Some are 3 years old.

    I installed Florecent lighting in the kitchen and bathrooms long ago. That’s the best lighting there is.

    All outside lights are florescent and go on and off auto with light sensors.

    The halogen floods are on motion detectors that light up the area where the vehicles and front porch entrance are. So, we have plenty of light when we pull in at night and they expose anyone looking for a car radio at 3:00 in the morning.

    We haven’t had any of the old bulbs for years. The new ones cost a little more but they have already paid for themselves. My electric bill went down about 10 per cent. In Florida the bill is about $240 a month in the summer and $100 in the winter.

    WE live out in a country area where every lot is 1-5 acres. The roads are all paved blacktop but there are no street lights. Everyone supplies their own lighting. I used landscape lights out front to identify the driveway entrance and that works pretty well.

  11. Paolo

    A a constitutionalist, I would have to echo Ron Paul and ask, “where is the Constitutional authority for Congress to meddle in the area of light bulbs?”

    Actually, the newer bulbs make sense to me; I’ve replaced most of the bulbs in my home with them. But I don’t think we need the government holding a gun to peoples’ heads telling them what type of light bulb to buy.

    For those who support this idiotic legislation, I would simply ask, “Is there any area of life in which Congress does not have power to legislate?”