Incandescent Bulbs are Evil

By Deane Barker on June 29, 2006

Lighting the key to energy saving: It’s amazing that a massive change like this is so close to our reach, yet the human race will probably do nothing about it.

A global switch to efficient lighting systems would trim the world’s electricity bill by nearly one-tenth. […] The carbon dioxide emissions saved by such a switch would, it concludes, dwarf cuts so far achieved by adopting wind and solar power.

Good Lord — think about that for a minute. Combine that with some of the really great things happening in automobile technology lately, and we could take some huge steps in this area.

But this isn’t a new idea. Almost three years ago, we pointed out an article that listed the incandescent bulb among Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die.

I switched all my lamps in my home to fluorescent bulbs a couple years ago. Rather than the energy savings, the best part is how long the bulbs last.

Since I made the big switch two years ago, I just had my first bulb burn out. Prior to that, I was changing every bulb in my house out once every three months or so.

Let me plug a client really quick: HiBrite Lighting here in Sioux Falls makes an insane lighting system. I have witnessed these lights replace the lights in a huge warehouse, and the change was just nuts.

They are (1) brighter (it’s like staring into the sun — they used two HiBrite lights for every three of the old ones), (2) quieter (no incessant buzzing), (3) they start instantly (the old HIDs would take five minutes to warm up), and (4) they use about one-fourth the energy.

This stuff is an absolute no-brainer, in my mind.

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  1. What kind (brand) of compact fluorescent bulbs did you use? We tried them (I don’t remember the brand) in our family room about 18 months ago and the light quality was not as good. I would like to try again. I am getting tired of changing out incandescent bulbs.

  2. What about cold conditions? Flourescents don’t like to start and when they do, they work very poorly.

    What about the smaller bulb sizes? I have a few ceiling fans that need the refridgerator-sized bulbs. Even the smallest CF is too long to look proper.

    What about those lights that turn on and off frequently, like the fridge or the oven? CF uses about 2 hours worth of energy to start.

    I’m on board with the idea, but incandescents still have appropriate uses.

  3. I?m on board with the idea, but incandescents still have appropriate uses.

    You’re right. I over-generalized. But I think it’s safe to say that 80% of incandescent bulbs could be replaced.

    We tried them … in our family room about 18 months ago and the light quality was not as good.

    Yes, the light quality is not as warm as incandescents. But I got over that pretty quickly. The light quality can be made softer by the quality of the surround.

  4. I despise flourescent lighting. Much too ‘white’ and sterile for my taste, and while you’re correct in that the room and fixture itself can help this, I’d rather not refurnish my whole house to make it more white-light friendly.

    Also, flourescents have this nasty habit of introducing electrical interference into some of my higher-end recording and music gear. It’s a disappointing thing to get a guitar track all set up and then hear a faint buzz from the lights coming through the amp circuitry. In my recording room, I have two large overhead flourescents that I rarely use, and a few strings of ‘white’ christmas lights that I use 99% of the time.

    I didn’t figure the change in energy usage would be that great, though. If they could come out with a ‘yellow’ discharge flourescent tube I might consider that.

  5. I despise flourescent lighting. Much too ?white? and sterile for my taste […]

    Saving the world takes sacrifice, dude.

  6. We tried some flourescent curly-q replacement bulbs at home; they did last a good long time, but I didn’t care much for them because as they aged it would take longer to ramp up to full brightness. Flip the switch in a dark room, and they would snap on ok, but it was a dingy light that would eventually look normal after about 5 minutes. These may have been some cheap-o off brand (Sam’s Club 10-pack the wife picked up) so maybe spending a little more & getting a decent quality lamp would make a difference.

    I don’t know about saving the world (I think there are a few more pressing issues than what light bulb to use) but I’m all for cutting my electric bill a little.

  7. Go to your local Home Depot and pick up a six pack of CFL’s under the n:vision brand name. Not only do last nine years, some states have them for $3.97 per six pack.

  8. Our factory changed out the entire shop and office this last year from HID’s in the shop and a less efficent flourescent in the office. The change was to a daylight style flouresent tube. What a difference! Everything is noticably brighter and cheerier. Daylight reproducing flourescent bulbs are wonderful because they really do mimic natural sunlight (you know, what the human body was used to reacting to for most of history?). They take a little getting used to, give them about two or three weeks and you won’t want to go back. We did need to repaint the office walls from white to a warmer light tan color and things, colors, actually seem much warmer in the office now too! The shop floor loves the lights and they are so much brighter for so much less money. Let’s say there were a fair number of skeptics, myself included, when we made this change, but I’m now sold. Thanks to our utility for pushing us and other customers (through rebates), to make this change.

  9. Hyperbole and sweeping generalizations aren’t helpful.

    Incandescents serve me well to raise chicks and other young animals, and provide freeze-protection in a basement during our very cold Maine winters. There are places where the heat output of an incandescent bulb is useful or even, in the case of infrared bulbs, the whole point! And some applications, like OVEN LIGHT, will never permit something with PLASTIC to be used.

    Worse, the makers of these lights still don’t seem to know what SHAPE a BULB is supposed to be. The large electronics at the base of a CFL prevents it from fitting in many fixtures made for the bulb shape. Most CFLs are too long or wide to fit in the glass globes on ceiling lights and ceiling fans. Clip-on shades won’t work on a twisty – though some with bulb-shaped covers now exist. Antique fixtures can’t be modified to accomodate a weird shape! And I can’t afford to replace every fixture in my house either.

    I use CFLs where I can, and old bulbs where I still have no choice. I use a string of white LED christmas lights as a deck light – works great, and very cheap.

    I just wish the makers of the CFLs actually made them the same shape and size as what they’re supposed to replace…

  10. Manufacturers have got around the color differences with CFL’s, N:Vision and most other manufacturers offer them in at least three colors,
    Soft white is the closest to current incandescents, yellow 18w CFL’s are just slightly brighter than a 60w incandescent and is the only way to spot the difference between the two types in my kitchen
    Daylight is an in between color, a sort of blue white
    Bright white is the familiar sterile white.
    It should be noted that even the ‘standard’ florescent tube comes in at least 4 different colors and has for many years. Choose the florescent for the application and not by price.

    As far as shape goes they are now readily available in many of the common incandescent shapes including
    Decorative (Candle) with candelabra bases (HD currently only has these in a 15w equivalent not quite bright enough for some applications but they are dimmable)
    Standard incandescent
    Reflector R30 and BR30 for recessed ceiling lamps, N:Vision are a direct replacement and are available in all three colors and also available in both non dimming (N:Vision) and Dimmable( Phillips)
    Outdoor PAR floodlights
    Medium base Globes etc.
    What we really need to make this work is a fact database to identify what is available. Standard shapes and bases against manufacturers.

    Having carried out an audit on my house possible savings run to over $300/year

    Want to see how much you can save goto

  11. I had two CFLs in a 33 gallon plastic garbage can in the garage. It was packed full of all kinds of trash plus several empty household cleaners. During the night I heard a pop or soft explosion. The garbage can caught fire and smoked up my whole garage and car. I could not for the life of me understand how a fire could have started. The bulbs were defective and were just thrown in the trash. could the heat and chemicals and mercury start a fire?

  12. Actually, CFL bulbs are the most evil things ever invented. CFL bulbs take more energy to produce than ‘regular’ bulbs and they contain a little mercury. As we all know, mercury is VERY bad for the environment — imagine the effect of millions of CFL bulbs leeching mercury into the ground! CFL bulbs also have a much shorter life than ‘regular’ bulbs — in reality. If you leave a CFL on and an incandescent bulb on and see which lasts the longest, the CFL will win however, if you subject them to ordinary use (i.e. constant turning on and off) the CFL will last, on average, 80% that of a regular bulb. The CLF bulb is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that can not be solved with knee-jerk solutions.

    Its time Enviromentalists start thinking about the big, long-term picture when it comes to finding solutions. Until such time as non-rare earth wite-light diode lights become available full-scale changes to CFL use is a bad decision if you really care about the environment.

  13. Visit the website to find out how to get clip-on lampshades to fit spiral CFL’s for less than a forth the cost of a round CFL!

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