My Turn: Setting lighting standards versus banning bulbs | SierraSun.com

My Turn: Setting lighting standards versus banning bulbs

John Hillstrom

In a recent letter to the editor, “Harsh light” (March 24 Sierra Sun), the writer slams the Energy Independence and Security Act saying it will “effectively ban incandescent light bulbs” and then goes on to complain about perceived (and real) issues with CFLs.

Let’s first note that “effectively ban” does not mean “actually ban.” The act set an efficiency standard that is not met by today’s pathetically inefficient incandescent bulbs. There’s no language “banning” anything and, in fact, General Electric is promising a high-efficiency incandescent (HEI) by 2010, which will meet the 2012 standards.

There are also LED lights which don’t have mercury and don’t have some of CFLs other perceived flaws. The applications of LEDs are limited right now but literally every month a bunch of new designs and styles come out. And currently there are CFLs for almost every fixture, including those little halogen spot bulbs and ceiling can lights. By 2012, there’s no reason to think there won’t be an LED and CFL option for every possible fixture (as well as some other light technologies such as OLEDs and the promised HEI bulbs).

So there should be no problem finding bulbs the meet all of the writer’s criteria and which won’t require any costly retrofitting on his part.

On a financial front, while a CFL might cost more up front than an incandescent (I’ve never paid 10 times the price but maybe the writer isn’t a very thrifty shopper and with the Truckee Donner PUD rebate, they’re practically free), a simple analysis will show that they very quickly pay for themselves in any situation where the light is used more than a few minutes a day.

In the writer’s example of 23 ceiling light fixtures, if he uses standard 100 watt bulbs for just four hours a day, he’ll be spending roughly $440 per year on electricity, just for those ceiling lights versus about $100 per year for the same light output with CFLs. That $340 will pay for far more than 23 CFLs and LEDs would save him even more money. And remember, with those ceiling fixtures, it can be a real pain to replace the bulbs so the fact the CFLs have 7 to 10 times the lifetime of incandescents and LEDs have 40 times the lifespan means he can spend a lot less time and money standing on a ladder replacing bulbs.

In situations where a light is only used briefly, or for outside lights in our cold climate, you might stick with an incandescent for the time being (although I have a bunch of CFLs outside and they seem to work just fine; maybe the writer is using an off-brand because with CFLs, the off-brand ones really don’t work as well).

Personally, I’m still keeping a couple incandescent and halogen lights around until I find something I like better to replace them and if I haven’t found a good replacement by 2012, maybe I’ll just buy an extra bulb or two as backup. But for 95 percent of my lights, I find the CFLs work great and in the case of recessed lights in the kitchen, they work much better than the old bulbs they replaced.

Fortunately, I think this time the government got it right ” they set a reasonable standard for efficiency and are letting the marketplace fight it out to see who can provide the best, safest, cheapest route to meet that standard.

” John Hillstrom is a systems engineer and a member of the TDPUD Citizens Conservation Committee.