If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Guest Post: The ban on incandescent bulbs – where does it stand now?

Coming soon, a lengthy review on incandescent lights and energy regulation issues.

Meanwhile, a guest post!

The ban on incandescent bulbs –where does it stand now?

Since the trend started a few years back, more and more nations are jumping into the “ban incandescent bulb” wagon. The initial opposition did not gain much ground, but now that more and more people are aware about the planned phase out, where will this trend go?

A closer look at the phase out

The proposal to phase out incandescent bulbs in the US started when the federal government released the Energy and Independence Security Act of 2007. The act has set new efficiency standards for bulbs that effectively phases out the older, less efficient types. Though widely seen asa move toward eventually banning all types of bulbs, the proponents maintain that manufacturers could still produce incandescent bulbs as long as they use lesser energy than they used to.

As of January 1 2012, any incandescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 100-watt bulb but with at least 30% lesser energy consumption is qualified to be sold in the market. By 2013, this general rule will also cover 75-watt bulbs and by the next year 40- and 60-watt bulbs will be included. Basically, manufacturers are given time to adjust to the new regulations just as consumers are expected to eventually adapting to the alternative forms of lighting.

But not all incandescent bulbs are affected by the regulation. Some specialty bulbs are exempt such as those used for decorative purposes as well as heavy-duty bulbs for industrial use.

Elsewhere in the world, similar regulations have been put into effect to varying degrees. In some countries, a blanket ban is in place while some are still in the process of drafting regulations while their own researchers try to find other forms of lighting.

What was overlooked?

Despite the good intentions of the planned phase out, it has become clear that things were rushed. Not only has the plan been short-sighted, it also overlooked other uses of incandescent bulbs.

One major thing that has been overlooked is the current economics. While we are all for saving the planet by helping reduce energy consumption, most alternatives take quite a long time for their cost-effectiveness to be felt. Take for example LED lights, while they are far more superior in terms of energy and cost-efficiency the initial expense is too much for everyone to deal with. Incandescent bulbs are popular not only for their faithful rendering of colour but also for their affordability.

This has been one of the big reasons for those who are against the ban. While CFLs are cheaper than LEDs, recent findings have proven that they also have serious health and environmental risks that were previously unknown. Every CFL contains 3-5 mg of mercury necessary for it to work. While it may seem a small amount, continued exposure to mercury may have an effect on health. Further, there are no effective policies in place regarding the proper disposal of CFLs. Nearly 90% of used CFLs go to landfills, and when these are broken open the mercury inside seeps through the ground and potentially into the water table down to streams and other water sources. Aside from mercury, CFLs have been known to emit significant levels of UV radiation that may cause migraines and other health problems.

So is the ban worth it?

Apparently not.
Lighting does account for a significant portion of energy consumption, but unless alternatives to incandescent bulbs are made much cheaper and nearer to the light output that we are all used to, then we can’t expect popular support for the ban.

About the Author:

Cassandra Allen
Marketing Director of www.IllustraLighting.com
Cassandra is a marketing professional with over 15 years of extensive experience leading corporate marketing and internal communications for multi-national companies in diverse industries.


To clarify, I don't run a commercial blog and I am not being paid for this post, which arose from an email exchange.

But it is nice to see a recognition also of the advantages of incandescents by those in the LED business (Illustralighting is a North Carolina based supplier of home and commercial LED lighting, of which more here: http://www.illustralighting.com/blog/)
Adding to the incandescent affordability and color rendition mentioned by the author, I would add brightness, given the problem to make bright CFL or LED alternatives, particularly in small dimensions.

Conversely CFLs and LEDs have advantages, the latter avoiding mercury and can in some bulbs flexibly allow variation of blue/red/green color components in the light.

CFL/LED energy savings for individuals can't be denied albeit that the significance can be questioned.
It is also true that lighting accounts for a significant portion of overall commercial and private sector use, as per the "19%" figure often quoted in the USA.
However, as seen and commented, that ignores industry and transport sectors with low lighting demand, and the commercial sector in turn includes "commercial and institutional buildings and public street and highway lighting" as per Dept of Energy data definition.
Once whittled down in terms of actual incandescent use and replacement energy consumed,
it's down to around 1-2% of total grid energy consumption. In turn this is largely nightly off-peak, when surplus electricity is available for anyone wanting to pay for it, and coal plants in particular are slow difficult and expensive to turn down, such that effectively the same coal is burned regardless of light bulb used.

Overall, people should be left to choose what light bulbs they want, which of course includes LEDs and being aware of personal savings that may be involved, in a reasonable time period if they are used sufficiently.


Powerful LED Lights said...

I agree with your research! Am not in a favor of ban but yes LED lights are much efficient more than incandescent bulbs.

blog said...

Nowadays there is no doubt that LED lights are way more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but is a free market and everyone should be able buy the any kind of bulb they want.
You can find more info. and replacements for incandescents and LED bulbs here: www.alldaylighting.com

Anonymous said...

I read that the House blocked the enforcement of light bulb standards? Does this mean 40W/60W won't be eliminated next year?