Incandescents vs LEDs and CFLs Congress Debates

How Many Idiots Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb.  Or, how many members of Congress does it take to screw up a light bulb?  It occurred to me recently that I haven’t changed a single light bulb in three years or more.  And in that three years lighting technology has leapt forward dramatically.  So why then would some members of Congress want to torpedo legislation that many of them actually voted for to phase out the incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient lighting?  Why would anyone in these tough economic times NOT want to save money on energy costs? Seems like a no brainer to me.  But never fear in this age of absolute idiocy in Congress—yes—a move is afoot to save the incandescent light bulb—EVEN THOUGH the major incandescent light bulb manufacturers have said that demand for these energy suckers has dropped dramatically.  David Schuellerman, a manager for General Electric Lighting, said demand for standard bulbs has dropped by half over the last five years, according to the Miami Herald.

In December of 2007 the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 passed by both the House and Senate and was signed into law by then President Bush.  One of the provisions of the bill was to phase out energy hogging incandescent light bulbs and encourage the use of more energy efficient lighting like CFLs and the more expensive, but even more energy efficient LEDs.  Now remember, this legislation passed by both houses of Congress.  Fast forward to July, 2011.  And wouldn’t you know it.  A group of GOP representatives tried to repeal efficiency standards that would go into effect next year—because, according to Florida Congressman Bill Posey, “My constituents overwhelmingly don’t want the government to decide what kind of light bulb they want.’’  Translate, “my constituents don’t mind paying more for energy as long as they have the right to waste it.”  (My translation, of course.)  Fortunately for all of us the effort to repeal the legislation was blocked. But when you have people like Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachman calling the ban an assault on personal choice, as if people wouldn’t choose to save money, well now you see the reason for the title of this post.

When I first switched over to CFLs only a few retailers even sold them.  So I knew things had really changed when I saw more CFLs than incandescent bulbs in CVS.  I’ve gotten used to one of the annoying things about CFLs.  When I turn on the lights in my bathroom the four vanity bulbs over my sink do take a minute or two to completely light up.  So, I turn on the light go put on my coffee and come back.  One of the concerns of using CFLs is that they contain mercury and need to be disposed of using special procedures.  But since I haven’t had one go out I haven’t yet had to dispose of one. LEDs are more expensive than CFLs but can last years and years longer and have no mercury issues.  In fact, if you sell a house and have LEDs in any lighting fixtures you can use that as a selling feature since they last up to twenty-five years!  Or you say, “bulbs don’t convey”.

Congressman Bill Posey voted to repeal the repeal the energy efficiency standards in the Energy Independence and Security Act even though a lighting manufacturer in his own district, Lighting Science Group’s Chief Executive, Jim Haworth says that the company has grown from 100 to 350 employees in the last year.  So here’s a question posed by the NRDC’s Bob Keefe.  Does anyone want to go back to iceboxes or the refrigerators of the 1960’s.

I haven’t switched over to LEDs yet only because my CFLs are still lighting my home for a fraction of the cost of an incandescent bulb.  So, as my mother used to say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”  And thankfully even though Congress totally blew it on the debt ceiling, so far they haven’t been able to screw up the Energy Independence and Security Act.

Here’s a great post from one of my favorite blogs, re-nest with questions and answers on lighting.

How Many Light Bulbs Will It Take To Change The World

While we wait for the government to make up its mind about carbon credits and/or carbon and gas taxes, the easiest and fastest thing we can do to cut our personal carbon emissions and save money is to change every single light bulb we use to CFLs.  I’m sure there’s no one reading this blog hasn’t already heard this.  I’m going to attempt to debunk some of the excuses I’ve heard for why people aren’t changing their bulbs.

But before I do that,  I’d like to note that since buildings consume 40 percent of all the energy used in the U.S and 70 percent of all the electricity, it is imperative that those of us who daily contribute to this astonishing number take some responsibility for reducing it.  The first place that we all have control of is our homes.  Another astonishing number that I would like to sear into your brain is that the 300+ million people in the United States consume fully 25 percent of all the energy in the world!

There is no doubt that governnments will have to step in to do the heavy lifting.  Some state governments are taking the lead.  Californians for instance, because of policies put in place by the state, currently produce less than half of the green house emissions of their fellow Americans.  California’s per capita electricity consumption has stayed flat for the last thirty years while the rest of the country has doubled it’s consumption, according to research from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), one of the nation’s most important environmental advocacy organizations.

So to address the “why I haven’t changed my light bulb” excuses:

1.    They’re too expensive.

CFLs do cost more than incandescent bulbs. But, they last for up to 10,000 hours.  So you’ll replace them every few years, not every few months.  Besides that, prices have come way down especially if you purchase them in the big box stores like Home Depot.  A four pack of  14watt bulbs (the equivalent of a 60 watt incandescent bulb) is only $5.85.

2.   What about the mercury?

“An average CFL contains 4 milligrams of mercury. That tiny quantity of mercury — essential for the energy efficiency of CFLs — is about the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen and is far less than the mercury inside other common household objects. For example, watch batteries have 5 times the mercury and older thermometers have 500 milligrams, equal to 125 CFLs.” (NRDC website) Home Depot has a recycling program for CFLs .  Also check with your city or county since they may have a recycling program for CFLs as well.

3.   What if I break one?

CFL’s last so long that there’s less chance of breaking one.  Read more about CFLs and what to do if you break one.

4.   I don’t like the light from CFLs.

It’s true the light is different in CFLs .  So you’ll probably have to adjust your expectations.  This isn’t much different than when we change anything  in our lives to something we’re not used to.  Here is an interesting article about one homeowner’s experience as she made the switch from incandescents to CFLs.

When you’re ready to buy or sell a home, call me, your going green real estate advisor.

Gayle Fleming, Keller William Realty            703-6251-358   

Follow me on Twitter@ecogayle