The other day I went to Lowe's with a co-worker, and we noticed a package of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at the register. "Those are the best light bulbs!" he exclaimed.
I need to explain a little about this coworker. He is the kind of guy that would sacrifice his health to save a buck. He doesn't care that CFLs are inferior in many ways to incandescent (old-fashioned) light bulbs. All he knows is that the estimated energy savings is $5/year per light bulb you replace with a CFL.
I explained to him that my wife and I found CFLs insufficient. First of all, we don't like the light they give off. It is a pale, dull, opaque hued light that, quite frankly, hurts the eyes. Secondly, there is a latency to turning them on and the bulb actually coming on. I have turned on a light fixture using a CFL before, and turned it off again thinking the fixture was broken, or that the bulb was dead. Also, if you break a CFL you have to call in a HAZMAT team to have it cleaned up. And finally, when CFLs do go bad you can't dispose of them easily. By easily I mean you can't just chuck CFLs into the garbage the way you can with incandescent bulbs because CFLs contain mercury. So recycling is the only option, and some communities charge you for recycling hazardous materials like CFLs. Also, more and more communities are making it a felony (okay I exaggerate but they are making it illegal) to dispose of CFLs in the trash.
When I pointed all of this out to my coworker, he was unmoved in his devotion to CFLs. He repeated "Those are the best light bulbs!" So basically he will settle for an inferior product if it means saving a few bucks. I, on the other hand, would prefer the quality of light I have become accustom to, and am willing to pay the additional $5/year per bulb. If I do my math right that is about $130/year in my house, though I don't run all of the bulbs in my house all of the time. Still if it costs me $11/month to see properly in my own house then I believe that is a small price to pay. Not to mention it would cost at least that much to replace all of my incandescent bulbs with CFLs. And yes I know they last 10 years, compared to 1-2 years for an incandescent bulb.
And that brings me to my next point. This encounter with my close-minded coworker (isn't it ironic that it would be me he'd call close-minded because I am unwilling to switch, even though I have weighed the options and based my decision on more than money!) made me remember something that just happened to me recently.
At my house we go through about 6-8 incandescent light bulbs a year. That is about how many burn out and need replacing in an average year. Most of the bulbs in my house are 60 watt bulbs. I have found that 60 watt bulbs throw off the right amount of light for most uses in both single bulb fixtures that are at or near ground level, as well as dual bulb fixtures on the ceiling. The only exceptions to this rule are the two 40 watt bulbs used in the fixture hanging over the dining room table, and the two 100 watts bulbs in the ceiling fixture in the office (my wife insists on more light to be able to work in the office at night). So I usually buy two 4 bulb packages of 60 watt bulbs per year. Every other year I need to buy 40 watt bulbs and/or 100 watt bulbs.
We were in need of new 60 watt bulbs, so on a recent shopping trip I stopped into the bulb aisle at the local retailer to stock up. To my dismay I couldn't find the old familiar 40, 60, 75, and 100 watt bulbs. Instead they had been replaced with 34, 52, 67, and 90 watt bulbs respectively. That's right, not only is the government outlawing incandescent bulbs in a few years, but now it seems we are being forced into different wattage bulbs ahead of the illegalization of the old, trusty, incandescent bulb.
But this is where the story takes an ironic turn. You see, even though they want us to replace our 40 watt bulbs with 34s, and our 60 watt bulbs with 52s, and our 75 watt bulbs with 67s, and our 100 watt bulbs with 90s, what they don't tell you is that these bulbs will not provide the same amount of light as the higher wattage bulbs they are replacing. These "energy-saving" bulbs are misnamed and should really be called "inferior light producing" bulbs. So what is going to happen? Well, as a consumer I am going to replace my 40 watt bulbs with 52s. And my 60 watt bulbs with 67s. And my 75 watt bulbs with 90s. They've got me on the 100 watt bulbs, but still the net effect is going to be that I am going to use MORE energy, not less energy, to light my house! That is the exact opposite effect than what they were trying to accomplish.
It reminds me of low-flow toilets. It seemed like a good idea at the time to mandate low-flow toilets in all new construction. What the geniuses failed to realize is that people started flushing 2 and 3 times per usage. If a low-flow toilet used 1.6 gallons per flush, compared to 2 gallons for a standard toilet, flushing twice per use caused a 1.2 gallon water usage increase per trip to bathroom! Of course they now argue that low-flow toilets are much better than they used to be, but I still find it necessary to flush more than once quite often, so I'd argue that water usage is roughly the same with these "high-efficiency" commodes compared to the older toilets.
Environmentalists just don't seem to be very bright. They'll jump on any "save the environment" bandwagon no matter how illogical it turns out to be. All I know is that now I'll have a house full of 67 watt bulbs instead of 60 watt bulbs, because in the end I still need to see.