In recent days the news poured in from all corners of the earth; many, many countries are going to force their citizens to change their light bulbs. No joke – 27 countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, Cuba and the Philippines are all eliminating incandescent light bulbs as early as 2010 and replacing them by fluorescent bulbs. And the US 2008 energy bill phases out filament light bulbs for traditional use starting 2012 with an official ban effective in 2014.
It is common knowledge that energy saving Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) decrease lighting energy consumption by a minimum of 40 percent. A new report released last week reveals that the action translates into the elimination of 900 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually in the US by 2030. The report, published by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington calculated that the US alone will gain carbon dioxide savings of 16.6 billion tonnes in that time frame. To put this into perspective; that’s more than twice the amount of carbon emitted in the United States in 2006.
Lighting is a relatively heavy demand on the electricity grid, taking up around 19 percent. Annual carbon generated because of this amounts to 1,500 million tonnes, equivalent to pollution of more than half of the world’s light passenger vehicles.
In the case of the EU, numbers by the environmentalist organization WWF show that the switch to CFLs will decrease energy consumption for lighting by 60%. And 30 million tons of carbon emissions are eliminated, which is equivalent of around half the emissions of Sweden.
What you should know about the replacement bulbs is rather straight forward. They come with the same fittings. At face value purchasing them works out more expensive than regular light bulbs, but then they last way longer and you’ll get your investment back through making energy savings. According to the WorldWatch report, CFLs cut down your energy use by 75 percent and they last up to 10 times longer than conventional bulbs. When you’re out in Europe you might find prices reduced anyway because the EU recently announced it’s lifting duties on energy-efficient bulbs imported from China.
If you’ve screwed in new lightbulbs and think the light is not as clear as it should be, just wait a few minutes and you’ll suddenly notice the light’s glaring around as usual – just at way less energy. Why the wait? Technical experts say it’s so that the bulbs can warm up, yet the lamps waste way less heat than incandescents.
Alternatives to CFLs (which contain mercury and other toxics) are LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes). These are not as bright as some people wish them to be in many cases. LEDs are standard in use in many devices already like digital clocks, watches, cell phones and outdoor screens. The technology’s main drawback is its costly semiconductor input. But in theory LEDs are even more energy-efficient and eco friendly than any lighting method around because they do not contain mercury or other toxic substances. What’s more, LEDs last 10 times longer than CFLs. However that also means their price tag is a lot heftier. A LED lightbulb made by EarthLED which produces the light equivalent to a a 100-watt incandescent is priced at $80. Oink!
Needless to say that there’s a massive outbreak of competition in the lighting sector to provide the ultimate solution. Most of the activity resembles the efforts by EarthLED rather closely. Manufacturers are banking on an increase in availability to drive up demand so better solutions are found too. For the time being we’ll have to stick it out though using LEDs mostly for non prime purposes. A good alternative to the expensive EarthLEDs might be C. Crane’s LED bulb which with its 1.3 wattage is equivalent to a 15-watt incandescent. Check out the company’s getting started with LEDs page here.
Whatever lighting you end up with – one thing is sure; switching lightbulbs likely won’t kill off the jokes. By the way, how many Republican presidential candidates does it take to change a light bulb? Free global markets and less government will promote competition. Light will then be cheaper for all and light bulbs will no longer be needed.