CFLs Could be Expensive

Use at your own risk.

What kind of insurance do citizens have against adverse effects of new laws and regulations? This is a question which one could ask on many occasions. Especially these days when it seems that everything is either being deregulated or banned. It is clear that not a lot of thought is going into these changes. This year starts out with the banning of 100 and 75 watt incandescent light bulbs.

What product does the government plan to recommend in place of a 100 watt bulb? As long as it is not for outdoor use in winter and it is for lighting, then the compact fluorescent (CFL) is sometimes a drop-in replacement, but that is not always the case. We are promised savings, but what if they’re wrong? There’s no guarantees, and certainly no science.

100 watt bulbs have traditionally been used for low level heating in a myriad of situations. One reason is the availability, but that in turn has caused the lack of development of an alternative. We just didn’t need anything else before. Now what are we going to use instead?

One problem is that whatever quickly implemented alternative that people will come up with does not have a track record. The 100 watt bulb has many years of proven reliability in many applications. One such application is to keep your well pump, and other water systems, from freezing. Something new might have shortcomings, which will not be discovered until it is too late. One foreseeable problem involves safety. An incandescent lamp used for heat, also gives light, and it is environmentally safe in sensitive areas. If you use a CFL around your pump or well, you’d better not accidentally bump it with your wrench, or otherwise break it by mistake. One single CFL, we are told, releases enough mercury to contaminate 6000 gallons of water if you break it, so they are definitely not safe around your water source.

Suppose some people get caught short next winter, and their pump freezes, is there some kind of compensation available? I doubt it. The new regulations don’t take people’s real world needs into consideration. The information on so called savings isn’t derived from studies, and dosen’t take multiple factors into account. In fact, CFLs haven’t even been proven to lower our carbon footprint. One might think that even if they do, then it will simply be because we’re offloading to China’s carbon budget. Out of sight, out of mind. After all, who’s budget are we talking about?

There are more, and no doubt yet to be discovered, hidden factors involved in the wholesale use of CFLs. In many cases they do not last very long. The package typically says something like 7 years. The fine print then says “if used for a few hours a day”. The fact is that most of them simply make false claims while ignoring physical reality. Things like the cost of replacing closed fixtures with open ones which are needed to keep the CFLs from failing prematurely are not discussed. The fact that they get dim after a little while, especially when it is cold, is also ignored. Claimed output is when new, not after a month or the rest of the lamps lifespan. In short, any relevant math or even science, seems beyond the powers that be.

Of course, we don’t vote for politicians based on their ability to use a calculator, but in cases like this we should. Why our leaders are buying the sales talk is not clear, but they seem bent on taking us down an unproven path. Are there some lobby groups who are putting pressure on them? Are there kickbacks? To me those will remain believable options until the lawmakers come up with real (not just imagined) evidence that they are doing the right thing.

As for keeping your pump from freezing, I guess the best alternative is to use a 300 watt heat lamp instead of a 100 watt light bulb. I fail to see the saving in that – but then I’m not a politician.

~ Ole Juul

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