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Readers OK With New Light Bulb Efficiency Standards

February 5, 2014 Environment, Featured, Politics/Policy 5 Comments

Last week some of you were probably thinking a poll about light bulbs was trivial. Who cares, right? It was news reports in January that got me thinking about the subject.  You see, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 received bipartisan support, including 36 House Republicans, in 2007 and was signed into law by President Bush.   That didn’t stop Republicans from trying to defund enforcement since taking control of the House after the 2010 mid-term elections. July 2011:

House Republicans on Tuesday failed to advance a measure that would repeal regulations that increase efficiency standards for light bulbs, rules that they have assailed as an example of government overreach.  (NY Times: G.O.P. Bid to Void Light Bulb Law Fails)

Like vehicles, the government isn’t banning the incandescent, just raising performance standards:

Now, incandescent bulbs aren’t “banned” under this standard, as is often suggested. Manufacturers can still produce incandescents, so long as they meet these energy standards. Companies like Philips have been doing just that, putting out incandescent bulbs that are filled with halogen gas, so that the filament burns more efficiently.

But it’s true that the traditional, cheaper incandescents that cost 50 cents a bulb are getting phased out, since they can’t meet the standard. As of Jan. 1, 2014, it is illegal to manufacture or import these bulbs. Stores can sell off their remaining stockpile. But, eventually, those old bulbs will be gone. Home Depot says it only has a supply that will last six months. (There have even been reports of bulb hoarding.) (Washington Post: Republicans are still trying to save traditional lightbulbs. It likely won’t work.)

This, as you might expect, has free market types upset. Never mind that taxpayers subsidize energy production. Some might think this is another example of interfering with business, pushing companies to develop new technologies against their will. Not exactly:

So some years ago, Philips formed a coalition with environmental groups including the Natural Resources Defense Council to push for higher standards. “We felt that we needed to make a call, and show that the best-known lighting technology, the incandescent light bulb, is at the end of its lifetime,” says Harry Verhaar, the company’s head of strategic sustainability initiatives. Philips told its environmental allies it was well positioned to capitalize on the transition to new technologies and wanted to get ahead of an efficiency movement that was gaining momentum abroad and in states like California. Other manufacturers were more wary, but they also understood the downside to selling a ubiquitous commodity: the profit margin on a bulb that sells for a quarter is negligible. After much negotiation, the industry and environmental groups agreed to endorse tightening efficiency by 25 to 30 percent. (NY Times: Bulb In, Bulb Out)

The lighting industry and environmentalists together backed the change in standards!  The new standards are getting people to think about light bulbs.

New energy-efficirent light bulbs at Target this week
New energy-efficirent light bulbs at Target this week

No more 2 for $1. I’m not complaining though, I’m glad to see new LED lighting come down in price. We have three LED light fixtures now plus three LED light bulbs in older fixture. The last three are from Philips, their Hue “personal wireless lighting”  system — I bought the set on the first day available in the US, the Apple Store at The Galleria hadn’t even set up their display yet. Eighteen months later it keeps getting better with app developers improving functionality.

Each weekday morning our lights come on a little one minute before our alarm goes off and over the next 9 minutes come up to full brightness.  When was the last time you got excited about light bulbs?

Anyway, here are the results from last week’s poll:

Q: 40 & 60 watt incandescent light bulbs on store shelves are the last ones, thoughts?

  1. No biggie, I/We use CFLs &/or LEDs 29 [34.94%]
  2. Good, they waste too much energy 20 [24.1%]
  3. Oh no, I’d better go stock up 17 [20.48%]
  4. Unsure/No Opinion 6 [7.23%]
  5. Other: 6 [7.23%]
  6. I’ve got enough to last me a few years 4 [4.82%]
  7. I was counting on the GOP to repeal the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 signed by Bush 1 [1.2%]

And here are the “other” answers:

  1. Poor Easy-Bake Ovens….
  2. Will miss the heat they provide! Used in thermoregulation e.g. bird rehab.
  3. It’s just light bulbs
  4. I’ll just buy them direct from China
  5. Absoutely against it – why was this not an option?
  6. Incandescent were much better

Hopefully we can move on now as the demand for new lighting has caught up to technological advancements.

— Steve Patterson

  • lighthouse10

    In answer:
    “How light bulb ban is wrongly justified” 14 points, referenced
    Freedomlightbulb org

    For example:
    1. Of course the major manufacturers welcome the ban:
    Blocking anyone else from making cheap patent expired generic bulbs so they can sell patented expensive complex alternatives (on greater profitability they happily admit, incidentally)

    2. Yes it is a “ban”, and not just because not allowing some products on energy usage obviously bans them.
    USA EISA tier 2 45 lm/W regulation will ban the supposedly “allowed” 72W for 100W etc replacements.
    What is more, the manufacturers are not seeking to develop incandescents anyway on profitability etc grounds, as also per EU stakeholder meeting Nov 25 2013
    Halogens and other such bulbs still different anyway from simple incandescent types, as well as costing much more for marginal savings for most commonly used bulbs.

    3. People “welcoming bans and liking new bulbs”:
    – odd that they don’t buy them sufficiently voluntarily then.
    No logic either way:
    New bulbs desirable – no point banning old bulbs
    New bulbs not desirable – no point banning old bulbs

    4. Supposed savings not there anyway:
    Main usage = off-peak evening/night when surplus electricity available anyway (hence cheaper on time based pricing) – and coal plants burn same coal then regardless of bulbs used, on their minimum night cycle level, not reduced for operative reasons (slow stoke up to daytime levels and wear/tear etc costs).
    ……Along with several other reasons why savings are not there, and consumers save little overall, as per above link

    • backprop

      Wow, 668 comments and counting, all about light bulbs.

    • backprop

      668 comments, all about light bulbs and all cut-and-paste jobs. All from someone in Ireland (!) that refers to himself as a “doctor” but whose seemingly most significant accomplishment is being the author of a blog. How bizarre.

  • Eric

    LEDs will eventually be a better choice than incandescent (CFLs aren’t and never will be), but for now LEDs are still way too expensive. Like $13/bulb, last time I checked.

    And they say it will last longer, but many brands don’t. As I read somewhere:
    “Please don’t tell me about your special brand: I’ve tried it and it
    failed prematurely. Please don’t tell me to return them to the store
    under the 3-year guarantee: if I did that all my time/gas would be spent
    driving to/from Home Depot/Lowe’s/Light Store and changing bulbs”

    • backprop

      FYI I’ve been getting them at Lowest at $10 for a standard 40W or 60W replacement. My oldest is 2 years old this March.

      Not trying to convince you one way or the other, but I calculated savings in case anyone is interested in a simple example. This was for my neighbor. Her outside porch lights (3 total) are on about 11 hours a day on average (more in winter, less in summer). We calculated that the energy savings by itself is about $20 per year.

      The calculation is based on replacing a 60W incandescent. The replacement LED bulb is 7W, but let’s say 10W.

      (50 W saved from incandescent * 1kW/1000W * 11 hours per day * 10 cents/kWh * 365 days) = $20.075.

      So the payback period on the bulb itself can be about 6 months. Obviously longer if the bulb isn’t on all the time. Everything after that is gravy. So I got her three new bulbs for $30, and she’s saved $60 a year.

      Again, not to convince anyone, but to show that energy savings can actually be significant.

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