How to get rid of the incandescent light bulb


Incandescent light bulb, ye who sprang from the loins of Thomas Edison, thy days are numbered. Already you’ve been banned in Australia starting in 2010. Now similar moves are being contemplated in Canada and the European Union. Has the nanny state run amok once again?

This guy thinks so. He acknowledges the advantages of compact fluorescent lighting — the main alternative to incandescents, at least for the time being — including energy savings and flexibility in color temperature. But he also offers a long list of cons: They don’t produce a focused beam of light, don’t work well in extreme temperatures, can’t be battery-powered, pose a waste-disposal challenge due to mercury content, are too bulky for some light fixtures, don’t quite duplicate the golden glow of incandescents, and have higher sticker prices (though they’re cheaper to run). And, uh, they can’t be used to incubate an egg or keep your lizard warm, because they run cool.

I’d add a few more negatives: Compact fluorescents aren’t approved for use in places with high humidity (like your bathroom). Some of them don’t work with dimmers. And some people claim their flickering can produce physical distress, though others call that a myth, pointing out that modern fluorescents cycle much faster than the eye or brain can process.

Having said that, I agree that incandescents should be banned. I’ve replaced 75% of the bulbs in my home and office with compact fluorescents and use the latter 95% of the time. They light my desk by day and my reading by night. Because they dissipate less energy in the form of heat, fluorescents use one-quarter as much energy as incandescents, thereby reducing global-warming gases and saving me money every month. They offset their initial cost by lasting much longer, and I enjoy my chosen color temperature of 4,100 kelvins, the hue of late-afternoon sunlight. Oh, and if you don’t like fluorescents, you might try LED lights instead. There may even be a new breed of energy-saving incandescents from General Electric by the time the Australians pull the trigger.

So I’m in favor of the ban as long as it allows exceptions, so old-style incandescents can be used where they’re still appropriate. Climate change is a real threat and we need to modify our behavior. If people respond by acting like babies — “I can’t use my urine-colored luminescent space heaters anymore? Wahhh!” — maybe the nanny state isn’t such a bad idea after all.

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