January 3, 2008

Not the Onion: "Congress bans incandescent bulbs"

Congress has banned traditional electric lights bulbs as of 2012-2014. Instead, we're supposed to use those squirrely CFL bulbs that cost six times as much, cast ugly flickering light, start up slow, burn out faster, don't fit in many lamp coverings, and can't be discarded in the trash because they contain poisonous mercury.

Seriously, about half of my twisty fluorescent bulbs burn out within a month. I'm told I'm using the light bulbs wrong. That I turn them on and off too much, and should just leave them on, which seems like it's defeating the purpose of saving electricity. Other people suggest my fixtures are causing them to overheat. Others have other suggestions.

Do I really need to complicate my life over light bulbs?

Is this technology really ready for federally-mandated prime time?

Wouldn't this technology advance faster if it had to compete with Thomas Alva Edison's proven invention instead of getting a federal monopoly?

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Guess I'll spend the next 4 years stocking up on regular bulbs so I can start a black market business in 2012. ; o)

Anonymous said...

Yeah there will be a black market on the old Edison style incandescent bulbs.

WSJ had a piece on how the various manufacturers, Sylvania and GE, wanted higher margins on CFL and LED lights. Their solution, lobby Congress as a "green" measure. Presto, margins of 30% instead of 2-3%. Given that incandescents are basically commodity lights.

It's a huge scam. Went by un-noticed too by a media consumed by the silly season of politics and celebrity drivel.

Anonymous said...

Incandescent bulbs are highly inefficient, meaning, they emit a lot more heat per unit of light than the fluorescents. In Florida or Arizona, that's a reasonable point. But in Canada and the northern U.S. you have to consider whether that "waste heat" is actually waste. Surely for much of the year it will offset conventional heating systems - systems that may well be electric anyway.

In a typical cold-climate dwelling, providing extra heating in lighted areas may actually increase energy efficiency, since those are the areas in which people spend time. Conventional central heating wastes a lot of energy heating empty rooms.

I've heard point brought up repeatedly by incandescent skeptics, but never answered.


Anonymous said...

Even though they annoy my eyes, I thought the new lights lasted longer?

BTW-Kay Bailey Hutchinson just put a rider on a Senate Spending Bill that basically killed 800 miles of border fence while we all were looking at Iowa. Homeland Security does not have to build it now.

Anonymous said...

We in the EU have a similar rule from 2009. Incandescent bulbs are going to be one of my retirement investments.

Anonymous said...

I believe DuPont chemical did the same thing with Freon. Freon's patent had allegedly expired, so DuPont went along with the introduction of the new replacement refrigerant known as R134a.

Result: new trade name, new product, but same distribution channel.

But Mexico - ta da! - was still allowed to produce and sell Freon domestically.

Result: a black market in the product.

Which brings to mind a saying on Wall Street.

The government proposes.

And the market disposes.

Anonymous said...

They may cost more, but the point is of course that they last incredibly long (just replaced the first one I ever bought - which was ten years ago) and only need about a sixth of the energy to produce the same amount of light. Personally I think their light is much nicer, but that's subjective, of course. If they flicker, there's something wrong with your lamp.

Have you ever actually used one? It doesn't seem so.

- LemmusLemmus

Anonymous said...

Banning them was over the top, but light technology has changed a whole lot in the last few years. The new LEDs are not only bright, but pretty cool too (har har). I'm a bit of a light hobbyist. I like to pick up low-powered HPS lights (you can get them at hardware stores for very cheap these days), LEDs and fluorescents and experiment with them for space lighting or on seedlings (reputable plants, of course). Maybe I am this way because of insomnia.

Incandescents are inefficient and unreliable, and I replace them wherever possible. It was a Japanese chemist I believe who discovered how to make white LED light in the late 90s. Frankly, I'm surprised it took so long. His method produces a bluish white that resembles moonlight. Personally, I like this shade very much, but a more yellowish-white type of LED that resembles incandescent light has apparently been developed recently.

Having been a kid in the 1980s, I have always liked LEDs. They embody a sort of nostalgic futurism, if that makes any sense. There is nothing quite like sitting alone in a spare room, in silence, contemplating a weird world under a chemical glow.

Just out of curiosity, I wonder whether fifi thinks that is an odd thing to do?


OK, I'll leave you all alone for a few days while I finish up my work on this sexuality hypothesis. There appear to be a lot more correlations than I expected, so I'm going to have to open-source it after pulling it all together for help in determining whether there's anything to it.

Anonymous said...

In most cities I've lived in the bulbs are subsidized by the local power company, and sometimes are free. In San Diego compact florescents sell in many stores for 1.99 per 4 pack. They also last much longer.

The heat that comes from the old style bulbs may provide a small amount of heat in the winter, but even in Canada people use AC in the summer, so these two effects would cancel each other out.

Further, electric heat is much more expensive than gas, and lightbulbs are a form of electric heat.

Anonymous said...

"There is nothing quite like sitting alone in a spare room, in silence, contemplating a weird world under a chemical glow. "

I think you're weird, Bill, but not for this. Isn't this the same as watching TV or using your laptop with the lights off. You might be interested to know that there was a religious book out around 25 to 30 years ago that compared sex to a pin through a dark lampshade, letting the light through and divine revelation. It was the oddest book but not one I'd consider heretical.

"I'm a bit of a light hobbyist."

As a latter day light hobbyist, you might not be able to answer a question on retrofitting. Lots of people collect old lamps and use them after rewiring. Do the CFL bulbs work in the sockets that fit in most lamps old and new or will this hobby end up being taboo along with whatever it is you have in mind?

Anonymous said...

I use CFs in the basement and for outdoor light. I've gotten mine at home depot, and they're the Chinese made variety that seem to last about a year on average. No flicker that I notice, but they take a while to get to full brightness, and you can't use them with a dimmer.

They do have mercury, and you can bet I don't make a trip to the hazmat disposal unit when they burn out, wherever that is.

A federal law requiring these things is ridiculous. Vote Ron Paul!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, about half of my twisty fluorescent bulbs burn out within a month.
What the heck do you do to your lamps to cause this? That's not normal, not even close.

We in the EU have a similar rule from 2009. Incandescent bulbs are going to be one of my retirement investments.

And you guys pay quite a bit for your CF bulbs because the ones made in China are cheap and Germany has the gall to make some. (The EU stuck a massive tariff on CF bulbs made outside of the EU, which means China in practice)

Steve Sailer said...

That's my point -- I don't know why my CFL bulbs burn out so fast. And I don't want to know why.

I just want my light bulbs to work, which my incandescent bulbs do work. I've spent time and money experimenting and looking for answers about why the CFLs were erratic and I didn't find anything definitive, and I'm tired of them.

Anonymous said...

Steve, it's most likely a problem with the electrical system that's burning out the CFL bulbs, and it may damage other appliances if it's not seen to.

Anonymous said...

I bought an early consumer CFL ca. 1993 and put it in my patio fixture outside. It is on every night for 4 hours and the big bulky thing is still burning bright these 15 years later. Last summer I bought a 2.99 three-pack and two of those three have already been tossed out (errr, that is, I mean, driven miles and miles on three-buck gasoline to the approved mercury disposal site.)

Anonymous said...

If these new lightbulbs are so wonderful, maybe the lightbulb companies just need to market them better. The fact that they command only 5% of the market suggests that most people don't think they're better. The solution to that isn't to improve on the CFL's shortcomings, it's to legislate the incandescent bulb out of existence. Isn't our government fantastic?

Eugene said...

CFLs are powered using an electronic ballast that will burn out if overheated. My overhead kitchen light is contained by a small, sealed, glass enclosure, and so CFLs burn out in about six months. Because of the "warm-up time," I tried putting a 40 watt incandescent in the same fixture as the CFL. The CFL lasted about a week. The CFL in the light stand in the living room is totally open except for a fabric shade. It's been going for four years. I admit, though, that except for the bathroom, once a CFL goes on, it stays on all day. But it's a CFL so, hey, I don't feel guilty (and the cost is minimal)!

Anonymous said...


I think I am now getting your point. If a CFL burns out after one year, there are no savings for you to be made.

If you can get them in America, buy Osram. I'm not saying this because I'm German. They initially cost much more than a standard bulb but as I said, they last about forever. The one I was referring to above I used in my main room, i.e. five hours plus per day.

Super bulb.

- LemmusLemmus

Anonymous said...

"(errr, that is, I mean, driven miles and miles on three-buck gasoline to the approved mercury disposal site.)"

I recommend a daily apple for living in our mercury contaminated future. Apples are supposed to help rid the body of toxins like mercury but unless they are organic, you may be increasing the level of pesticides in your bloodstream.

I can't believe they made a ruling on this. How stupid. It wasn't that long ago that plastic vs paper was to come to our environmental rescue only to have us wake up to millions of plastic grocery bags blowing across the landscape along with whatever toxins are woven into them (PCBs?)and taking their own sweet time to biodegrade.

And what about the bulbs in my crockpot, my night light and the chandelier!

Anonymous said...

IFf they are so much more efficient, as some people are saying, in the long run people will make up their own minds about saving money and will be drawn to use them. Why does the government have to tell us which light bulbs to use? The government should do more governing and less dictating!

Anonymous said...

It's official: we live under a dictatorship. The State simply ORDERS us as to what we may and may not buy, from coolants to TVs to lightbulbs. "It's the LAW - you gotta buy from my Uncle Johnson. You gonna break the law?"

Whatever the penalty for black market dealing is currently, it must necessarily become more severe as time goes on. That is the way you make a black market profitable for apparachiks and also neutralize the general populace through intimidation: "You'd better watch out, you criminal terrorist...you can't have that kinda gun...or that kinda TV...or that kinda expression of political advocacy...or the internet...or food we deem improper. Freedom is terrorism, and we know best. We are the deciders."

VOTE RON PAUL, and flush these passive-aggressive cockroaches to hell where they belong.

(Wait, strike that. Paul isn't sufficiently enthusiastic about waging wars for Israel. So vote for whomever our overlords put up. Huckabee's got a nice smile and he believes in Jeeeeesus.)

Anonymous said...

I've had exactly the same problem with them burning out. I've bought Sylvania and GE models from Home Depot and Wal-Mart. They burn out quickly if they are installed in anything that is enclosed or recessed in any way -- even if they are a low-power bulb inside a large glass fixture, or if they are even partly recessed into a ceiling or wall. They burn out fastest if you try to put one into the lightbulb socket of a ceiling fan. What I've wound up doing whereever possuibe is installing standard flourescent fixtures (the kind that take the long straight tubes) instead of the screw-in fixtures originally made for incandescents. I live in Canada, and there is nothing wrong with the electricity here and all of my other appliances are working just fine.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Ron Paul, here are some interesting entrance poll results from the Iowa caucus:

Among self-labeled "moderates" who voted Republican, Paul led in a tie with Romney (26% each).

Among voters aged 17-29, Paul got 21% of the vote, versus McCain with 7% and Thompson with just 4%.

Dr. Paul got 54% of the vote among voters for Republicans who said they are "angry" with President Bush, versus only 13% for McCain and even less for the other Republican candidates.

Paul scored higher among voters whose top issue was "Economy" than among voters whose top issue was "War in Iraq"

Paul at 29% led all the Republicans among voters who labeled themselves as "Independent" (vs. 19% for Romney and 17% for Huckabee).

Compared to other Republicans Paul had a higher percentage of low-income than high-income voters (interesting in light of Paul's fundraising prowess).

0% of Paul voters labeled themselves as "liberal" (contrary to theory that much of Paul's support comes from anti-war liberals crossing over from the Democrats).

Anonymous said...

California wants to control your thermostat: HERE.

Sure you could get a manual thermostat (at least until their manufacture is likewise outlawed, then you could go to the black market). But imagine when you get a power company notice on your door saying that your energy consumption is higher than approved, and they will be sending an inspector by to check your thermostat for compliance, penalty for tampering is cut off of utilities and large fee to restore them, perhaps prison time for repeat offenses...

America's corruption borders on that of a Banana Republic. All the while we go smashing countries abroad to bestow the benefits of "democracy."

Anonymous said...

so heres my take on the whole cfl. cfl's are a great item when used effictively and when they are not the el-chepo knock offs that you buy in packs of three and four for three dollars. as with anything there are different levels of quality in production of these bulbs. the typical " quality" cfl should last around 6-7 years in a typical home. There will be a short warm up time with these bulbs , but it is usually less than 15 or 20 seconds.(once again circuitry and quality count) I have retrofitted my entire house and save on average $40 a month off my bill. They also make bulbs that look just like flood lights and also your typical incandescent "a type" bulb. Hey, it may not make sence to everyone but it is a step in the right direction. Hurry up LED technology.....

Anonymous said...

i do not believe that heating your house with light bulbs is a good option..lol

Anonymous said...

I guess the classic easy-bake ovens will be going the way of the dinosaurs as well...

Sorry kiddos!