Monday, September 14, 2009

Banning the Lightbulb

So, have you seen those goofy new twisty lightbulbs?I guess that's probably a dumb question by now, and the question's more of, have you started using those goofy new twisty lightbulbs yet?

We have. We jumped on them right away when we heard you didn't have to change them as often. (It's not a laziness thing, it's more that we were constantly going through lightbulbs.) And hearing that they give off less greenhouse gases and thus reduce global warming makes them quite welcome in our house.

They do have day-to-day down sides: they take a while to warm up. I'm afraid to put them in a lamp where the lampshade grips the bulb. And of course they mess up the "vanity mirror" look, so I still use regular old incandescent bulbs for those.

Then I discovered I couldn't just throw them away because they have mercury in them. So now I save all of them in a box and drop them off at the county Hazardous Waste Household Collection Day... which is five hours once a year in September. This year's is next week (Sept. 22), and I have a lot of lightbulbs for them because I forgot about it last year.

Now, I don't mind having a "burned out lightbulb" box in my closet, but I can see how a lot of people wouldn't know or just plain wouldn't be willing to go to the effort of having to drive somewhere to dump off their old lightbulbs once a year. So realistically speaking, I know a lot of these lightbulbs are just going to get thrown away, resulting in more mercury poisoning of the ground and water.

So I have mixed feelings about this article I read today:

Backlash Over Light-bulb Ban Continues to Build in Europe

In case the link doesn't work, that's at:|welcome|dl3|link7|

Now on the one hand, I totally believe this change is necessary. The Earth is hitting its point-of-no-return thresholds, and we need to do something, and if this will help and you're just whining because you don't like change, well, you'll just have to deal.

But on the flip side, the mercury poisoning risks are a serious issue. I hate to not give people credit and call for things to be dumbed down, but the basic truth is without a simple, convenient way to safely dispose of these, most people are just going to toss them in the trash when they go mandatory.

And this is going to be mandatory in the US starting in 2014. And I'm sure there will be lots of complaints of government interference and we have the right to use whatever bulb we want and the world's not really dying and blah blah blah. And I'm sure many people will jump on the mercury risk as why they don't want to use this bulb, but y'know, I think a lot of these people are really just going to be more bent out of shape that their lightbulbs now look funny and cost more and that the change is being forced on them. Well guess what, the bottom line is something has to be done NOW. That's going to mean some forced changes are necessary, and really, as long as we can all be responsible grown-ups and dispose of these correctly, this is a pretty painless change to have to make.

Thankfully, it looks like people are starting to step up to provide national drop-off points to make it easier. Ikea, ACE Hardware and (most) True Value hardware stores are now accepting the burnt out CLF bulbs for recycling.

And lastly, here's a link to the EPA's page on the subject, which has a link to where you can find a drop-off near you in all 50 states.

Or failing that, if you can get your bulbs to me by September 21, I'll drop them off myself! :P


  1. The ban is wrong for many reasons - including the supposed savings arguments...

    Europeans (like Americans) choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (European Commission and light industry data 2007-8)
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights - or improved CFLs etc - are good,
    people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn’t mean that more energy using radio valves/tubes were banned… they were bought less anyway.

    The need to save energy?
    Advice is good and welcome, but bans are another matter...
    people -not politicians – pay for energy and how they wish to use it.
    There is no energy shortage - on the contrary, more and more renewable sources are being developed -
    and if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would lead to more demand for efficient products – no need to legislate for it.

    Supposed savings don’t hold up anyway, for many reasons:
    about CFL brightness, lifespan, power factor, lifecycle, heat effect of ordinary bulbs, and other referenced research

    Brief examples
    Effect on Electricity Bills
    If energy use does indeed fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans,
    electricity companies make less money,
    and they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate
    (especially since power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition)
    Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise...
    - in which case money savings affected

    Since energy efficiency in effect means cheaper energy,
    people simply leave appliances on more than before This has actually been shown by Scottish and Cambridge research, as linked on the website
    (in the case of CFLs they're supposed to be left on more anyway, to avoid cutting down on their lifespan)
    - in which case energy savings affected

    The fact that they are not as bright as stated is another reason against supposed savings
    See comparison test

    Also, since lifespan is lab tested in 3 hour cycles, any increased on-off switching reduces it, as does (as said) leaving the lights on to combat it.

    CFLs typically have a "power factor" of 0.5
    Power companies therefore typically need to generate more than twice as as much power
    than what your electricity meter - or CFL rating - shows, taking everything into consideration.
    Of course you end up having to pay for this anyway, in electricity charges being higher than they otherwise would have been.
    Without going into technicalities, this has to do with current and voltage phase differences set up when CFLs are used.
    There is nothing new or strange about this
    Industries are today penalized if they present such a work load to the power station.

    Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

    Direct ways to deal with emissions (for all else they contain too, whatever about CO2):

  2. The Taxation alternative
    A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
    We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
    This is simply a ban to reduce electricity consumption.

    Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce the consumption would be fairer and make more sense, also since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.

    A few euros/dollars tax that reduces the current sales (EU like the USA 2 billion sales per annum, UK 250-300 million pa)
    raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
    It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
    When sufficent low emission electricity delivery is in place, the ban can be lifted

    Taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply a better alternative for all concerned than bans.

    Of course an EU ban is underway, but in phases, supposedly with reviews in a couple of years time...

    maybe the debate in USA and Canada will be affected by the issues being raised over here?

  3. RE Mercury you mention,

    More about CFL mercury,
    new breakage advice recommendations,
    and why CFL mercury is a bigger problem than coal power mercury emissions