Friday, July 13, 2007

Incandescent bulbs are not the devil incarnate

I'm not usually one for being a conspiracy theorist, but frankly, I think we're being fed a lot of bull about CFL lightbulbs. They're touted as "huge energy savers" of $50/year. I'd prefer to pay the extra $50 to get the type of light from an incandescent bulb, if $50 really is a true figure. Supposedly the real savings come from using CFLs in fixtures that are on more than 3h/day. I can't recall a light bulb in my house that stays on for 3h or more per day, especially this time of year when the sun sets shortly after 9pm, in my area of the world. In the winter, yes, I do need more light, but I currently live alone and only have a light on in the room I am using. Often in the winter I am watching TV with the lights off (yes, TV uses more energy than a light bulb, but I'm pointing out that my light bulbs are not on that often). Isn't just shutting your lights off when you don't use them a better plan overall?

I also don't agree with how it was never made clear to the general public that CFL bulbs couldn't be thrown in the trash. I wonder how many bulbs have and will continue to end up in the landfill because people aren't aware of this? To be honest, I have never fully read all of the fine print on a CFL package, and it likely does state that it cannot be thrown in the regular trash, but here's the problem: People Are Stupid. Unless it's in giant letters on the packaging, the average person is not going to read the fine print. In my city, CFL bulbs are treated as hazardous waste and must be dropped off at the landfill. That will not encourage compliance. A lot of people also just plain don't give a crap and will throw the bulbs in the trash, even if they know better. This is happening, and will continue to happen. We can't even get people to properly discard paper coffee cups. What will the effect be of added mercury in our landfills?

I was unimpressed to hear that the Canadian government is planning a ban on incandescent bulbs by 2012. What angers me the most is how that plan restricts my choice. I want the ability to put incandescent bulbs in my house in not necessarily all, but some, locations. The politicians are pushing this as a way that everyone can do their part, as it is a small sacrifice. I don't disagree, and I do have CFL bulbs in my house... but aren't there much bigger issues we can tackle that will do more for the environment than light bulbs? Vehicle emissions is the biggest one that comes to mind, but that would cost the auto makers too much money, and in turn, cost us more for vehicles. There doesn't seem to be a winning situation here.

I don't want to be dictated to as to what type of light bulb I use. I can, and will, find lots of ways to counteract my usage of a few incandescent bulbs. Just don't take away my choice.


Cyn said...

The savings are actually real. J's mother & stepdad have saved about twice that in a year actually by using the bulbs.

I hadn't considered the obstacle of not putting them in the trash/hazardous waste despite knowing that this sort of lighting can't go in the regular trash. Hmmm... crap! In my case, it wasn't so much a lack of knowledge, but just a lack of consideration about it. Whew! This really creates a serious barrier for so many people AND will create far more pollution/environmental damage than the alternative, imho. Sigh.

As for banning incandescents - I will be shipping them in from outside the country if necessary. J will likely use CFL in his room and probably in the stand light in the living room and in his bathroom. They won't be anywhere else in our place because they create serious migraines for me. Basically by banning them the gov't is saying that for people who suffer migraines where they are a trigger and even some folks who have seizures, will either have to live in the dark or suffer. Sigh. Brilliant idea, Canada.

liz said...

I will believe that there are savings when it comes from someone real, as you've pointed out, rather than the company trying to sell me the light bulbs. :)

Good point about migraines, I wouldn't have considered that. I'm one of those few people who doesn't get headaches.

I think it's still in the planning stages, but the federal gov't has sounded like it loves Ontario's ban plan.

Scum said...

The funniest part of having CFL bulbs is all the other energy wasting stuff you may have in a house...

At our camp, for instance, we have a CFL bulb or two, but our fridge wastes more energy than the lighting there ever could.

But a fridge is quite a bit more expensive than a lightbulb. :)