Friday, 11 January 2008

Those Funny Light Bulbs Really Are Disagreeable, the New York Times Finds

Stock up on incandescent light bulbs, because it still is hard to find an energy efficient light bulb that is nice to have around. That seems to be the message underlying a story in The New York Times this week. The NYT’s House and Home staff rated 21 different kinds of bulbs, including 14 compact fluorescents, as governments proceed toward mandatory requirements that bulbs reduce energy consumption by 20-25 per cent. Only 10 per cent of the energy used by an incandescent light bulb is emitted as light. The rest is heat, as anyone who has hurt fingers when trying to unscrew a suddenly burnt-out bulb can tell you. What is being proposed to replace incandescents, though, leaves a great deal to be desired.

A couple of the new bulbs tested didn’t rate too badly, but the light from most seemed to change the colour of everything it illuminated, from skin tones to the walls of rooms. Their light was also judged to look “unnatural.” That’s probably because the spectrum of the light they emit is considerably different from that of incandescent bulbs—and of sun or fire light which is the light we humans evolved in.

The story says that manufacturers are working toward making energy efficient bulbs with more pleasing light, so perhaps help is on the way. In the meantime, at our house we intend to keep using the ordinary bulbs. Certainly there are other ways to keep down consumption of electricity. I didn’t see many people railing about the amount used on Christmas lights, for example.

For Lee's birthday he got an old suitcase full of 100 watt incandescent bulbs that I found--after some searching--at a local hardware store. The others in the family can expect similar presents in the future from me as the count-down to contraband-status proceeds. I don't call it hoarding, I call it wise shopping.


Anne C. said...

I don't like the look of the new bulbs either, but I try to remind myself that we can become attached to the most surprising things. My husband used to share an office with a Japanese woman who raved about the fluorescent lighting, because it reminded her of the lighting back home. It made her nostalgic for her family! She didn't associate fluorescent lights with the usual cold and sterile environment that we do.

Martin Langeland said...

Hot and cold is the problem. Incandescents are warmer than normal sunlight. Fluorescents are colder. A combination of the two comes close to natural sunlight.
Still use is all. So you need a filter to make the other type work. Think theatrical gel media. or colored glass shades.

Mary Soderstrom said...

What we're accustomed to is indeed a great deal of the equation. But there are other concerns about compact fluorescents: they currently contain mercury which can create contamination problems when they are dumped, and many varieties flickere which apparently can be trigger migraines in some people.

I don't doubt that the industry will eventually find ways to get around these problems, as well as the light spectrum one. A far more serious one is the distince possiblity that people who use the energy efficient bulbs, and governments who mandate their use, will think they've solved the problem of energy consumption and waste. But they certainly haven't if they drive gas hogging vehicules and don't support governments who regulate emissions,


Martin Langeland said...

In other words: "A period marks the place where inquiry stopped." Citation.

Sanjay said...

She didn't associate fluorescent lights with the usual cold and sterile environment that we do.