Why don't we stop using incandescent light bulbs?

Last year, Australia became the first country to announce it would ban the use of incandescent bulbs by 2010. California is planning a phase-out by 2018. And on Tuesday, New Zealand said it would join the fray, ending the use of traditional lightbulbs starting in October 2009. Now Europe is talking about doing the same.

In a recent article, Der Spiegel asks why people have seemed so resistant to changing to compact fluorescent bulbs, which are much more energy efficient and longer lasting. Here's why my house still has lots of incandescent bulbs:

  1. Fluorescent light is uniformly ugly.
  2. Fluorescent light flickers in an eye-irritating way, especially when using a computer or watching television.
  3. My house has lots of light dimmers. Compact fluorescent bulbs are incompatible with dimmer switches.
  4. Compact fluorescent bulbs make an audible and annoying buzzing sound.
  5. Compact fluorescent bulbs take several minutes to produce maximum brightness. An incandescent bulb is at maximum brightness in less than a second. Walk into a room to find something and flip on the light. Do you want to wait a few minutes before you can see? How efficient is that?
  6. My house has lots of reflective directional incandescent bulbs. I've not yet seen a compact fluorescent bulb which does this.
  7. Incandescent bulbs come in a much wider variety of sizes and shapes. I have many lamps which cannot accept a standard compact fluorescent bulb of the same brightness. They're too large.
  8. Fluorescent bulbs are hazardous waste and require special handling for disposal. Most contain mercury, a toxic heavy metal. Incandescents don't require such special handling and don't pollute when improperly disposed of.

Solve those problems, and I'll swap out all my incandescent bulbs. I'm actually hoping for LED-based bulbs or something better. I'm all for saving energy. Fluorescents just don't cut it for most purposes. I do use them everywhere I can and the light quality isn't critical.

I suspect the general populace has many of the same reasons.


I Totally Agree!

Nice blog! I couldn't agree with Der Spiegel more. Way vaild points and hits it right on the button!


CFL bulbs and cold, more

I've more recently learned that compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs don't work well in cold temperatures. I live in Minnesota. It's cold way too many months of the year -- and garage and outdoor lights are among the most logical places for me to use CFL bulbs. The quality of the light is not so important, the buzzing and flickering likewise not important and they tend to be turned on for long periods of time. But the bulbs don't work well in those places except during summer. My local retailer even discouraged my wife from buying CFLs for outdoor lights today because of this very reason, despite losing a small amount of sales/profits from that advice (have to love the small, old-time local hardware stores like this one!).

I've also read that a number of people are starting to question whether CFL bulbs last as long as claimed. If not, the "payback" both in money terms and in reduced carbon terms would be not as good as claimed, as well.

I'd love to have a bulb that had the light quality (color, balance), brightness, low voltage and small size of halogen light bulbs (really just a special class of incandescent) but with the efficiency and lower heat output of a fluorescent bulb -- or even better, LED bulbs.

But we aren't close yet.

I can't stand the florescent

I can't stand the florescent bulbs. I HATE the way they look and and it makes it so much harder to see when I'm on my computer. Not to mention that they give me a headache cause they are so bright! I won't be switching to florescent bulbs until I have to, which doesn't look like it's going to be very soon!