Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Low energy bulb

light bulbThe BBC reports that the end is nigh for the incandescent light bulb. The usual selection of unbalanced idiots contributing to it's "Have your say" section decry this as fascist ZaNuLabour EU interference in their human rights. No surprise there.

But one commentator cannot be ignored. Apparently "It will be impossible to do any crafts" with the new bulbs fitted in you lights.

Well, my desk lamp, the one I do all my model making under, has been low energy for about 18 months. The light is pleasant, well balanced and comes on as soon as I want it. It's a slightly softer light than the old bulb but nicer to work under, especially for long periods.

If there is a downside, it's that the bulb produces no heat at all and so you can't dry paint under it or soften plasticard. Aside from that, it's perfect. The world will no more end due to the change in light bulbs than it did with the reduction in availability of lead based solder.


Tony said...

I've had a low energy daylight bulb in my modelling bench light for years - and I wouldn't change back now.

Michael Campbell said...

Since it is only 100W or frosted bulbs at the moment, I can't see the issue. However flourescent bulbs have some disadvantages, such as they don't work with dimmer switches, so I can't see the end of the filament bulb just yet. Also most new light fittings last time I looked used the GU10 50W spot bulb, and currently there is no good alternative without significant compromise. A pity, as we are forever replacing these in our kitchen!

Panta Rei said...

Well Phil,
the ban doesn't make sense in my view, whichever lights you prefer..

Put it his way,

Europeans, like Americans, choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)
Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio valves were banned... they were bought less anyway.

Supposed savings aren't that great anyway
( onwards
about brightness, lifespan, power factor, lifecycle, heat effect of ordinary bulbs, and other referenced research)

What about Electricity Bills?
If energy use does indeed fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans,
electricity companies make less money,
and they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate
(especially since power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition)
Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise...

Energy use?
energy saving advice is one thing,
banning products people like to use, for whatever reason, is another....
There is after all no shortage of energy:
People -not politicians – pay for energy use, and if there was an energy shortage, the price rise would lead to more demand for efficient products anyway – no need to legislate for it.

Does a light bulb give out any gases?
Power stations might not either:
Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution....

Phil Parker said...

Panta - The point I was making is that despite what people claim, energy saving light bulbs work just as well as traditional light bulbs. It was a statement of fact rather than opinion.

However, I do beleive these things are a good idea for one simple reason:

I do not want to live next to a power station.

All the power has to come from somewhere. That means, whether we like it or not, power stations. You say there is no shortage of power but that is just the current situation. Power prices have gone up over the last few years and while it has caused some people to go for more efficient devices, most have simply spend time whining to the mdeia. In turn the Government has had to find ways to subsidise those who need it.

Power has to come from somewhere and if we increase demand, as we are doing, then we need more generating capacity. That means more big buildings belching out smoke, or windmills or any number of other things people don't want.

However if you look to the long term, many of the UK's power stations are reaching the end of thier life. They have to be replaced BUT there is no incentive for the power industry to invest. As private companies they have two choices to protect their income, spend money on new stations OR don't bother, "sweat the asset" until it breaks and then walk away leaving the government to pick up the mess as the banks have done recently. They will, in my opinion, do the later as it is the most sensible from the financial point of view of those at the top of the company who make the decisions.

Governments job is to look at the big picture and plan for the future, not something most politicians are good at but they are supposed to try. The market might well eventually move to low energy bulbs but not for many years. In the meantime we will chew up the finite supply of fossil fuel and when it runs out and the price skyrockets, everyone will demand an answer NOW. The same thing happend in Europe in the 1970's during the oil crisis and explains why our cars get fuel economy way in excess of vehicles in the USA. That was a bad thing as many people found themselves stuck with cars who considered double digit MPH to be out of reach. We don't want to go through that sort of dramatic market readjustment again, especially over something as fundamental as lighting.

What the ban has done is help the market along. Energy efficient bulbs have plumeted in price. More different types are being developed. This might have happened anyway, but the makers knew thay had a financial incentive to do it and this made the investment in manufacturing plant economically viable.

A similar thing has happened with the WEE rules. No electronics manufacturer would have bothered going to lead free solder without being forced. They knew that once the goods were solde, it was local councils problem to sort out the waste, at a cost to the local taxpayer.

So my feeling is that while the market might well decide for most things, it is not a perfect mechanism unless you are willing to accept the casualties that go with a rapid realignment. And socity doesn't seem to willing to do this at present.

People also need to see the whole picture. You can't moan about a wind turbine/power station/nuclear facility near your house and demand to keep the lights on. If you can accept the former than there isn't a problem with the later.

There is no real advantage to an individual consumer at point of purchase to a low energy bulb but to society as a whole it makes a difference.

Panta Rei said...

Thanks Phil,

I would first of all say that all products have advantages,
energy efficiency is one advantage, but there are others,
and it's a pity that efficiency be the only criterion in what people can use...
more efficient incandescents like halogen lights etc (up for eventual banning anyway and only allowed in clear form) are still different in many ways to ordinary bulbs.

That said, did you see through the links from onwards,
especially at that energy savings aren't that great anyway.

There is a different agenda at work here, involving manufacturers and the profits they can make
(about the unpublicised EU and industrial politics behind the ban )

Even assuming that significant energy amounts were involved here,
then I don't see that energy supply is a problem:
renewable energy is being developed in a myriad ways (solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, biomass, hydropower etc) as well as
nuclear (possibly renewable via breeder reactors and fusion)
It's not necessary to have the power produced locally:
New grid interconnections will facilitate wide ranging transfer from where conditions are most suitable.

As for energy shortage,
why ban products assuming an energy shortage.
If indeed (despite what I said above) a shortage developed, then with the price rise people would want to buy energy efficient products anyway, I don't see why people should be forced to do it:
people pay for the energy they use
and for the production behind it.
I do certainly agree with energy saving advice, but bans are another matter, in my view....

As you say companies (and politicians) tend to take the easy way out,
and unlike most against the ban,
I think there should be a comprehensive effective emissions (and energy) strategy based on transport and electricity emissions as described
(for USA, but applies to UK and elsewhere too)

The Taxation Alternative
If all else didn't hold,
taxation would still be better than bans...

A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
We are not talking about banning lead paint (or lead solder!) here,
light bulbs don't give out any CO2 gas.

The ban is simply to reduce electricity consumption.

Even for those who remain pro-ban, a temporary taxation to reduce consumption for as long as necessary would make more sense, also since governments can use the income to reduce emissions
(home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes emission problems.
A few pounds/euros/dollars tax that reduces the current sales (EU like the USA 2 billion sales per annum, UK 250-300 million pa)
raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice with the reduced energy use.
It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
When sufficient low emission energy is provided, taxation is lifted.

Taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply a better alternative for all concerned than bans.

Of course we are where we are, with an EU ban is underway, but in phases, supposedly with reviews in a couple of years time...

Phil Parker said...

A couple of points from your comment:

"renewable energy is being developed in a myriad ways (solar, wind, wave, tidal, geothermal, biomass, hydropower etc) as well as
nuclear (possibly renewable via breeder reactors and fusion"

Not seriously in the UK it isn't. Electricity companies have absolutely no financial incentive to put serious money into this. Even if they did, the people don't want them. Seriously - try and put up a turbine and the locals are out in force. In my town the local Green party councillor put up some, admitidly ugly, solar cells and the local paper was full of letters condeming her for despoiling the look of the entire town. Tidal power was stuffed by a wildly inaccurate report by British Nuclear Fuels back in the 1970's and anyway, seen any progress on the Severn Barrage yet ? No, as far as I can tell, "green" energy is largly developed for PR purposes rather than a serious alternative.

"If all else didn't hold,
taxation would still be better than bans..."

No UK politician supports obvious tax rises and saying they are for environmental purposes won't work as it's the same thing said about tax on petrol & diesel and people really don't like those taxes !