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.: March 2006 --> Ban the Bulb

Ban the Bulb

» Here's my old blogging buddy Matt Prescott making an impassioned (and sensible) argument for banning the incandescent lightbulb. One of the commenters mentions something I'd never heard before, that the strobe effect of a fluorescent light makes power tools appear stationary, necessitating a need for incandescents in those circumstances, apparently
 [ 03.09.06 ]


We've taken various efforts to conserve energy in our house, and have tried to switch to compact flourescents twice. Both times we've ended up switching back to incandescent bulbs. Compact flourescents still remain in a few applications, but mostly in places where we don't need lots of consistent light (intermediate spaces).

While the compact flourescents (several different brands from several different vendors) started out strong, they quickly deteriorated, and in half a year to a year left us wondering why the house was so dark and dismal. The overall lifespan of these compact flourescent bulbs also seems pretty minimal, we end up replacing the incandescents far less often.

So I'm not sure what the actual price savings would be, but I've got a pretty good idea of where the big items in my electricity bill are coming from, and if I have to replace my lightbulbs every few months there's no cost savings to be gained, and given the various issues involved in manufacturing flourescent lights, I'm not sure there's any net environmental gain.

Full sized flourescents are a different matter, but as you note the flicker makes them unsuitable for applications where there's a lot of moving machinery, and uncomfortable as a general light source in the house.

We have had very good luck with compact flourescents. We use them throughout the house, wherever they will fit, and we don't notice a difference at all in the light — although I haven't tested that by replacing any of the bulbs with new ones. There was one that had a lag-time before it came on, and it was problematic, but other than that, I don't notice them.

I've used a range of power tools under fluorescent light in a range of industrial, commercial and domestic settings, and never experienced this danger of apparent stillness. Although I acknowledge the theoretical danger of the synchronous flicker, I would judge it to be quite minimal in practice.

Anyway, that's a pretty minor part of the argument for the retention of incandescent blubs.

In British Columbia my local power company, BC Hydro, ran a program that gave away free CFL bulbs and made them easily available at various retail outlets. I think the program gave away three per household. I was very impressed with my power company after it ran this campaign and have started paying a lot more attention to its initiatives. They have a great overview on power smart lighting for your home:

Does your local power company have similar information/programs available?

CFL bulbs do have a lumen loss over the life of the bulbs, but higher quality ones have less loss over an equivalent amount of time. Also, over the past year the lumen output relative to size as increased so much that now CFLs are far brighter than incandescent and will still fit in fixtures and lamps, like their lower wattage predecessors.

Regarding the flicker and power tools, linear flourescent bulb lighting can be supplemented or exchanged for other energy efficient lighting. A Philips CDM-I bulb can illuminate a work area, use 25 watts instead of 100w and last 10,500 average hours. Just supplement the work area only.



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