Several places worldwide are currently considering banning the sale of the incandescent light bulb because it wastes energy and contributes to global warming.
It doesn’t take a lot of marbles to look around and deduce that the traditional incandescent’s days are numbered. Compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs have arrived in every sense of the word, and LED bulbs aren’t far behind. I’ll almost certainly have a day in my lifetime during which I don’t see a single incandescent bulb anywhere. That day–indeed, that life–is practically guaranteed for my children.
But I have reservations about whether forcing people to abandon the ubiquitous incandescent is the best way to progress.
If the aim of the effort is to wield control and piss a lot of people off, the bans are a great idea. But for true societal benefit, you can’t just go taking these things off the market. People don’t much like being told what to do, and they really don’t like it when the benefit isn’t obvious to them. Moreover, this is more than a household implement; it’s a cultural icon of the 20th century, pervading everything from our continuing fondness of Thomas Edison, to our views of what “elegance” is in a chandelier, to our shared mental images of what it looks like to have a good idea.
Significant backlash? Bank on it. We need a lot more honey and a lot less vinegar at this point.
I am nobody’s model environmentalist. But I was won over to CF bulbs a few years ago for a fundamental reason: they are in my own best interest because they help me keep more of my own money.
We have 25 CF bulbs in service, and we’re very pleased with them. We can light the kitchen up bright enough to make movies for just 130 watts. Getting there with incandescents would require 760 watts, as well as produce a very large amount of heat (particularly undesirable in the kitchen, as well as expensive in the summer). The kicker is that the CFs do a better job objectively, too. The kitchen is significantly brighter with them than it would be with incandescents consuming almost six times as much power. Slam-dunk; everybody wins.
We’ve got a couple of LED bulbs deployed, too. They’re neat, but while they’re coming along nicely, I don’t think they’re quite ready for prime time. For one thing, they’re still very expensive (30 to 40 times the cost of a comparable incandescent). For another, they’re just not bright enough for most primary applications yet. We have an LED bulb that was sold as an outdoor spot installed in the can fixture over our shower. While the color of the light is really close to daylight and pleasant, the brightness is marginal. The one in my bedroom closet is even dimmer. I’ll probably go back to CF in there when I get around to it.
We do still have a few incandescents in use. Lea prefers the look of them in fixtures in which the bulbs are exposed, so we have them in a couple of ceiling fans and over the vanities. And given the frequent state of (un)dress in the bathroom, the heat isn’t necessarily a bad side effect either. Our outside bulbs are still incandescent as well, but I’d guess the most frequently used of those only sees 50 hours of use a year.
So if we shouldn’t legislate, what then? Well, we talk about it, mainly. I’m doing so now. Others are too. The in-store demos I’ve seen are a good idea. Many people are still walking around with an impression of CF formed ten or more years ago, so they’re expecting a sickly green cast to the light, interminable warmup times, and very high initial costs, for example. When they see that none of that is true of current CFs, the lines will form and the wallets will open.
People just have to understand what they’re getting. It’s an easy sell after that.
Let’s keep working on making the switch from incandescent lighting the consumer’s idea, not that of multiple legislative bodies. “I’m doing this good thing for myself” coming from the consumer’s mind is much preferable to “We’re doing this for your own good” coming from government.