When I first heard about a ban on the sale of incandescent light bulbs several years ago, I hoped that I had misunderstood.
By the end of 2011, manufacturers in the U.S. will no longer be making 100-watt incandescent lightbulbs. By January 1, 2014, there will be very few incandescent bulbs still on the market; in fact, only appliance bulbs, three-way bulbs and plant lights will still be made in the U.S. I’m not entirely clear what the ban does to the manufacture of more specialized bulbs, like flood lamps, MR-16s (often used in retail settings) and the like.
I am unhappy with the upcoming ban on incandescent bulbs for several reasons. And, because this is my blog, I will share them all with you.
Reason #1: The Alternative Bulbs are Ugly
As a designer, helping my clients select beautiful light fixtures is a part of my role on larger remodeling and new construction projects. Looking at many of the fixtures, which feature exposed bulbs, I have to wonder how ugly those twirly compact fluorescent light bulbs are going to make them.
Those gorgeous, graceful chandeliers with exposed flamed-shaped bulbs….or what about the glass pendants hanging over that kitchen island, with the standard bulb exposed at the bottom? The mental picture I get as I visualize those whirly-twirly bulbs poking out from the bottom of the fixture is not pretty. In fact, I’ve seen it in practice at various places over the past several years…yikes.
Now, I realize that the CFL bulbs are beginning to make strides in their look. They now come in different sizes and that twirly glass tube now comes covered with a “dome” of sorts to make it look more incandescent-like. I’m still not a fan.
I have to wonder what will happen to the millions of light fixtures already installed in homes, shops, restaurants and doctor’s offices all over the country. Are we destined to have ugly light bulbs until such time that we can all afford to replace our old light fixtures with newly-redesigned fixtures that will hide these new-fangled bulbs? That’s going to be an awful lot of time looking at ugly light bulbs.
Reason #2: The Light Given off by CFL and LED Fixtures is Second-Rate
The light offered by fluorescent light bulbs is not as warm as the light given off by incandescent. The bulbs also need a split second to “warm up” once you hit the light switch, and they don’t give off their full wattage in light until several minutes later. Walking into a dark room and turning on a fluorescent bulb is just barely better than stumbling through the room by the light of the moon. Barely.
And, don’t even get me started on the fluorescent bulb’s inability to be dimmed. I know, I know…supposedly they can be dimmed now. I’ve never seen a CFL that could be dimmed very well. They flicker, buzz or simply go out altogether.
LED lights are just beginning to be used residentially, and in more applications than that glowing clock on your microwave. You can now find LED bulbs that will fit into many different light fixtures; LED lights were some of the hottest buys during the Christmas season, as stores praised their ability to last nearly forever and save energy costs. Although the color of LED light is better than fluorescent light, it still hasn’t been perfected. LED bulbs seem to glow, but really don’t throw much light away from themselves. So, they work well for areas that need accent lights – such as above kitchen cabinets or in the toekick of a bathroom cabinet. They make great night lights. But, they don’t make great everyday task lighting. At least not yet.
Reason #3: CFLs Are Not Eco-Friendly
Yes, I said it. While CFL bulbs are supposed to be the eco-friendly wave of the future, I’m not buying it. What’s more, I just don’t think Congress thought this decision through before acting on it.
CFL bulbs contain mercury – albeit a small amount. Unlike a standard incandescent bulb, which can be disposed of in a landfill, CFLs need to be collected at authorized locations so they can be properly dealt with. That mercury needs to be contained somehow, or it will create a bigger environmental issue than the bulbs supposedly fix.
If a CFL accidentally breaks inside one’s home, you must air out the room (which sounds like a TON of fun in February. In Wisconsin.) and contain the glass and mercury in a sealed container until it can be properly disposed of. Really? Do I want a box of these mercury-laden twisty glass tubes laying around my house until I have time to look up my friendly neighborhood disposal location? I think not. I think most people are in the same boat as I am, and I think many folks will simply hide them in their regular trash. Not good.
I can appreciate the thought behind the push to use CFLs. They do save electricity. But, did Legislators consider the potential environmental hazards that go along with banning incandescent bulbs? I think they have created more problems than they have solved.
We are also told that CFL bulbs will save us money, because they last so much longer than incandescent bulbs. However, I have never had a CFL last nearly as long as manufacturers claim they will. If you turn the bulbs on and off quickly, like turning on a closet light for a moment and then turning it off again within 5 minutes, it cuts the life of the bulb considerably. So, are they really saving us the money we think they are?
By dimming an incandescent light bulb by just 10%, according to sources I have read, you can increase the life of the bulb by up to 50% and you also save energy. Were lighting experts consulted before this bill was passed? It seems there may be better ways to encourage energy frugality, while still allowing us to use a product that functions the way we need it to function.
Now that you have heard my thoughts on the matter, what do you think? Are you happy that Thomas Edison’s finest invention will be going by the wayside? Or, do you plan to stock up on incandescent bulbs before the black market is the only place you will be able to find them? Leave a comment; I’d love to know if I’m alone in my thoughts on this subject!