The DOE has been planning for some time to enforce a mandatory phaseout of incandescent light bulbs. But they face a massive re-education problem. The public, they admit “are used to selecting light bulbs on the basis of their wattage,” not their light production.
For those of us in the biz, that’s an astounding fact. Let’s face it, incandescent bulbs are an outdated technology that long ago outlived its viability. An average home includes about 50 light bulbs, usually at various stages in their lifespan. And incandescent bulbs, even the so called “long life” models, have a lifespan that’s pathetically short—typically last 700 to 1,000 hours. We’ve all seen the data. Compact fluorescent lamps are supposed to last 10,000 hours plus, and LED lamps offer 30,000 hours plus.
In the United States, more so than other technology heavy countries such as Japan and Germany, government regulators often prefer to nudge rather than push and pull consumers into responsible energy use. But that caution has come at a price. Germany’s utility feed tariffs have made it the world leader in solar PV installations, and Japan’s auto industry keeps showing us why small and efficient will ultimately trump big and wasteful in the marketplace.
Replacing billions of light bulbs presents a huge opportunity to save energy, but the DOE is proceeding cautiously—perhaps too cautiously.
The plan is to phase out incandescent bulbs “on a staggered basis beginning in 2012 with the phase-out of the popular 100W incandescent lamp, followed by the 75W, 60W, and 40W bulbs phased over two years.”
Is that the best we can do? On top of the slow phaseout, they’re urging consumers to upgrade to basically any type of bulb with a higher efficiency, leaving the real leap forward until the year 2020.
But not all technologies are created equal, and climate change signs are becoming increasingly apparent. CFLs still have a major flaw—the presence of mercury in the lamps, and in our experience, many brands don’t live up their life expectancies.
Why not accelerate the whole program, skip the CFLs, and go right to safe, efficient LED lamps, subsidized with some of the federal tax money we’re throwing away guarding oil fields in Saudi Arabia and Iraq? Bold strides are needed.--editor