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Energy Efficiency state legislators try to preserve incandescent lights

Published on June 30th, 2011 | by Tina Casey


Broken-Hearted Lawmakers Just Can’t Quit Incandescent Light Bulbs

June 30th, 2011 by  

state legislators try to preserve incandescent lightsAmerica’s love affair with the incandescent light bulb may still be smokin’ hot, but the affection appears to be somewhat one-sided according to a recent article by Rob Lever for AFP.  Lever details more than a dozen cases in which state lawmakers are trying desperately to ensure that the beloved bulbs stay on the market, despite new federal energy efficiency standards that effectively phase out the old technology. The real kicker comes at the tail end of the article, with a line from a spokesperson for the American Lighting Association. While certain legislators may carry a torch for incandescent tech, the bulb manufacturing industry has already “moved on down the road” to more attractive new technologies.

Light Bulb Industry Responds to New Efficiency Regulations

There is nothing in the new federal law that prohibits consumers from buying or using incandescent light bulbs. It simply establishes new efficiency standards, and manufacturers were not interested in investing in the R&D needed to improve the old technology. In particular, Philips has made the whole issue moot by coming out with a new energy efficient LED light that looks and acts just like the century-old incandescent bulb, but uses 28 percent less energy. Major retailers are also moving along. IKEA, for example, no longer carries incandescent bulbs even though the new energy efficiency standards aren’t phasing in until next year.

New Light Bulbs, New Green Jobs

Pushing U.S. manufacturers to continue churning out incandescent light bulbs doesn’t seem to make much sense when you consider that U.S. consumers are also ready to move along. According to a study commissioned by the lighting company Sylvania, the majority of U.S. consumers are “eager” to try more energy efficient lighting options. That makes the prospects look good for U.S. manufacturers to invest in new tech. Ironically, one of the states cited by Lever is Texas, where even as legislators try to keep the old flame alight, new lighting tech is creating new green jobs.

Light Bulbs and Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

While there does not seem to be any statistical evidence of widespread incandescent light bulb hoarding, some federal legislators have also latched onto the light bulb issue and are pushing for a repeal of the new energy efficiency standards. Seems like a weird way to spend time – on the taxpayer’s dime – that could be put to better use creating jobs and such-all, but whatever. Love is blind.

[Update/correction: As a couple of alert readers have pointed out, I mixed up Philips’s LED product with Ecovantage, which is an incandescent bulb modded out with halogen technology to achieve a 28 percent energy savings. Philips’s AmbientLED bulbs save about 80 percent].

Image: Compact fluorescent light bulb by Dottie Mae on flickr.com

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • There is a reason some of us need incandescent lamps. The new lamps do not work in systems for:

    Motion detector security lights: The CFL burns out fast, and the LED won’t shut off. But the LED works if you leave one of the bulbs an incandescent.

    Dimmers: Most of them don’t work, and those that do flicker or are not smooth.

    Guitar amp: I have an old guitar amp that has a 100W bulb in it to protect the transistors from overload. If that bulb ever burns out….

    Electrostatic air filter: Mine has two 100W bulbs in it to protect the power supply if something shorts the grid. Again, if either of those ever burns out….

    Expensive light show devices for bands: Won’t work with other technologies.

    Advertising signs: The CFL burns out fast, the LED won’t turn off.

    • I’m sure that, if there are really those markets that can’t do without incandescents (though, I have a hard time believing that’s the case), then you will still be able to find incandescent bulbs for that. incandescents are not being banned — they just must be more efficient.

      • But the more efficient ones do not match the resistance and temperature coefficient characteristics needed for the electronic uses mentioned above. The bulb is not being used as a light bulb, but as a current dependent resistor.

        And making a gig band replace its expensive lighting system because the light bulbs for it are no longer available is wrong.

        (And all of this because Al Gore did bad science???)

    • Bob_Wallace

      Those CFLs designed to be dim work just fine with dimmers. As do LEDs.

      LEDs work fine in motion detector systems. It might be the case that they won’t work in some systems designed for incandescents (not something that I’ve ever heard about). If so, replace the system. Same for advertising signs. You’ll soon recover the cost via electricity savings.

      A light bulb in a guitar amp/air filter? What sort of protective role might it play? You protect from a short with a light bulb and not a fuse? How can adding an extra load protect against a short?

      Both CFLs and LEDs are available in a wide range of “colors”.

      Feels to me that you’re stretching reality….

  • Roshawnmarkwees

    LED bulbs and fluorescents look the same as incandescents to ignorant people with no eye.
    Green freaks have proven that they lack taste. Do you light your fireplace with LED bulbs or actual fire? That’s the difference between incandescents and fake light.

  • Pingback: Zombie Light Bulb Legislation Rises from the Dead | CleanTechnica()

  • Gary Gorski

    Ecovantage is not an LED

  • Anonymous

    Richard Nixon changed the Republican party from one that won elections based on their conservative fiscal and pro business philosophy to one that won elections based on hate. Nixon’s “Southern strategy” used racial hate of blacks to attract voters. It was one of the most disgusting developments in our country’s history.

    After using hate of blacks, Republicans turned to hate of women who were seeking their rights, gays, Hispanics, and Muslims. By seeking out groups who hate and playing up to their hate, Republicans have cobbled together enough votes to win elections and pass legislation favorable to the corporations which fund them.

    As our society matures we have largely outgrown our hate of racial minorities and women have emerged as economic and political powerfully people. On the whole we have come to accept gays. Now Republicans are left looking for a new group to hate in order to form a new power base.

    It’s now environmentalists’ turn.

    Hating on environmentalists has a double use for Republicans. It gives them a group toward which they can focus the attention of the dumb bunnies which they attract to their party. Those working folks who can be made so mad over what someone else is doing, and has no impact on their lives, that they will vote against their personal best interests. Working folks voting to cut the security nets that keep them off the street if they stumble and and voting to cut taxes on the extremely wealthy so that they can buy a few more houses and bigger yachts.

    It also helps their fossil fuel supporters, the people pouring mega bucks into Republican coffers in hopes that environmental regulations can be defeated, or at least slowed.

    So, let’s greet the efficient light bulb, the new target of Republican hate. On that hate they will attempt to gather a few more votes and keep the smoke stacks smokin’….

    • Anonymous

      wow, what an excellent, profound observation. that is the sad truth

    • We don’t hate the new technologies. We hate big government for using the force of law here.

      • The law to make sure bulbs are reasonably efficient?

        • Yes. It is guaranteed to remove the conventional incandescent bulb, because of its nature. And as my other post says (or said – I can’t find it now), there are uses where the new technologies can’t be substituted.

          I use LED and CFL where I can. I like them for many uses. But what about where I can’t?

          • i’m sorry, i just don’t think that there will not be adequate light bulbs for those others uses mentioned — there will be, somehow, since millions of people have such requirements.

  • Rick Floyd

    That Philips bulb mentioned in the second paragraph uses halogen technology. Their LED bulbs do a lot better than the cited 28%.

  • Rick Floyd

    That Philips bulb mentioned in the second paragraph uses halogen technology. Their LED bulbs do a lot better than the cited 28%.

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