Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The last one just blew...

Something under three years ago I bought a dozen fluorescent bulbs to replace the incandescent bulbs in all the household fixtures. (except the chandeliers that use shaped bulbs). I've bought another half-dozen since. The first of the original batch went in less than nine months, and the last of the original batch blew today. Of the eighteen or so I've bought, three remain functional.

Verdict: the experiment is a total failure. They don't last a single day longer than incandescent, and even when they worked, I had to buy or position supplemental lamps to be able to read, write, or do any fine work without glasses. The total dollar cost was never amortized because the claimed "longer life" didn't hold true. Given the much greater manufacturing cost, the energy/carbon difference was never amortized, either, and the environmental impact is also a net loss, given that the fluorescent bulbs contain mercury.

Moral: Even if you believe in Global Warming, don't leap on every bandwagon that claims to be a solution without extensive study- which wasn't really done with the Compact Fluorescent Light. It was an example of what is called "politician's logic"- something must be done; this is something, therefore we must do it. You think I jest? Congress has outlawed the incandescent bulb, beginning 2014, and Bush signed it . This is a lesson for future such measures as well- even if actions of humankind have a significant lobal Warming impact, we must take the time to find out if the unintended consequences of our "solutions" won't make things worse rather than better.

9 comments:

ms. kitty said...

Joel, my compact fluorescents have had a much longer life than yours. Is it possible you have fluctuating current in your home's electrical system, which would wear out bulbs sooner?

I like incandescent light better too, but you can get good brightness by upping the wattage equivalent. You probably already know all that already but thought I'd mention it.

And, of course, there's the disposal problem, as the fluorescents must be recycled, not dumped.

h sofia said...

I used to hear this a lot in my former job (as an energy efficiency specialist). I'm disappointed in the amount of education that goes out to the public about CFLs (compact fluorescents). Apart from the larger (2000+ sq ft) houses that have features like canned ceiling lights, lighting is NOT a big energy hog in residences. And unfortunately in older homes, the wiring is often less stable, and CFLs burn out very quickly in them.

CFLs should be targeted to new construction, office buildings, and other places where massive amounts of electricity are being used!

There are about a thousand better things a household could do to reduce consumption. I own two CFLs - and they are outside, where they run at night.

Joel Monka said...

I suspect the problem is the municipal power, more than the house wiring- we paid a fortune to have some of it updated five years ago. On the other hand, the house was built in 1870, and has 13 ft ceilings; they tend to gobble up the lumens. On the plus side, those high ceilings, plus the transoms that allow one to tune the ventilation mean we need very little air conditioning.

I know that lighting doesn't use much electricity- the CFLs were largely an experiment. I'm sure hoping the new LED and LCD bulbs they're working on work better than the CFLs.

Crystal said...

I have several problems with CFLs (and yes, I may need to build a storage area to stock up on incandescents). First, they are a risk to eye health ... CFLs don't cast shadows like incandescents do so your eye muscles don't get a regular workout while using them. And more importantly, because of the coatings on the inside of the glass, they need to be treated as hazardous waste. Nope, I won't be using them until i have no choice.

Will said...

The light bulb thing is nothing compared to the ethanol debacle. The unintended consequence being that poor people around the world suffer from higher food prices so that we can feel good about adding ethanol to our gas tanks.

And politicians can score votes in the Iowa primary.

Joel Monka said...

Ethanol fuel would be a major part of the puzzle- if we bought it in bulk from Brazil, or brewed it from sawgrass, sugarcane, or sugarbeets. But as you say, Iowa caucus votes mean that we must make it from inefficient, expensive corn

Robin Edgar said...

"U*U minister`s logic" - something must be done; this is something, therefore we must do it. U*Us must take the time to find out if the unintended consequences of U*U "solutions" won't make things worse rather than better. . .

patrice said...

Wow - that's a shame. Do you think the fluorescents of today may be improved over what you're using? three years ago you hardly had more than a few brand choices. 'course, there may be no difference ...

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