Monday, July 06, 2009



Sexy light bulbs available from

'I know light bulbs may not seem sexy'


(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

'First, the President announced changes to energy conservation standards for the manufacturing of household and commercial lamps and lighting equipment -- to make light bulbs more energy efficient.

"Now, I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and our businesses," Obama said, "And, by the way, we're going to start here at the White House. Secretary Chu has already started to take a look at our light bulbs, and we're going to see what we need to replace them with energy- efficient light bulbs."

The President estimated that between 2012 (when the standards take effect) and 2042, the new standards will save consumers up to $4 billion a year.'



Workers installing LED’s on the George Washington Bridge

The George Washington Bridge has become the first bridge in the New York metropolitan region to convert its light necklace to LEDs — light emitting diodes — a move that officials say will save an average of $5,000 a month in lighting and maintenance costs.

Back in 2008, I briefly became a 'virtual expert' on the subject of energy-efficient lighting.

First, I was hired by the Professional Lighting Designers Association (PLDA) to work on a campaign to question plans by the EU to ban incandescent light bulbs from sale and to help create a very strong public argument against such a move, on a wide variety of grounds. When it came to it, the PLDA decided not to proceed, though they pursued the issue vigorously in other ways, up and until the ban was passed earlier this year.

Following the decision not to pursue the campaign, I managed to place a good piece in Business Green, an efficient and well-informed website, which they published on 20th January 2009. The full original text can be read here.

Why it's time to throw some light on the energy efficient lighting row

With the Daily Mail attempting to whip up opposition to energy saving light bulbs, many businesses would be forgiven for asking if green bulbs really are such a good idea. trains its spotlight on a surprisingly complex debate

The piece does a good basic job of presenting the key arguments for and against the ban. How this global shift originated with the International Energy Agency with report entitled 'the Big Switch Off.' How the global corporate lighting industry is organised and the dominant role of China in bulb manufacturing. The shortcomings and risks of CFLs (mercury), set against their claimed advantages. [Balancing arguments in the piece were added by the site's editor, which I had no problem with.]

It is a complex issue and an incredibly interesting one. I accumulated more than 3ft of files, reports, papers and clippings on the subject (plus of course a massive amount of links and data on the computer).


Whippy (2006) made by artists Alex Garnett and Nahoko Koyama of Mixko:

Now one of the key arguments against CFLs is that they are expensive transitional technology between incandescents and LEDs - and other more futuristic lighting concepts that would deliver even greater energy efficiencies, making CFLs obsolete.

At the time I wrote the piece, engineering giant General Electric had:

recently canned a project to develop high-efficiency incandescent lamps (HEI) in order to place greater focus and investment on LEDs and organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs).

Now to the reason for this post - a news story from the International Herald Tribune

Incandescent Bulbs Return to the Cutting Edge

It seems that the obituaries for the death of incandescent bulb were premature, writes Leora Broydo Vestel. Instead the bulbs are being re-engineered to meet mandatory efficiency levels.

'Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.

“There’s a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly,” said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. “There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades.”

51MlMhxo20L._SL500_AA280_ Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers are already on the market in the US - exclusively available through Home Depot and Philips says that a 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb and lasts about three times as long, eventually paying for itself.'

What is making this possible is the development of specialised reflective coatings for incandescents which 'act as a sort of heat mirror that bounces heat back to the filament, where it is transformed to light.' One of the key companies in the field is Deposition Sciences Inc.

The big three lighting companies — General Electric, Osram Sylvania and Philips — are all working on the technology, as is Auer Lighting of Germany and Toshiba of Japan.

Other techniques include pitting the filament with lasers (makes it twice as bright with the same power consumption) or using a 'high-tech, iridium-coated filament that recycles wasted heat.'

bulbsThe article argues that LEDs may not make it to the household environment anytime soon but says look out for a wide range of new energy-efficient incandescents instead.

Source: Painted light bulbs


The Revenge of the Bulb -- and the Tube by Edward Tenner in The Atlantic

Welcome to the homepage devoted to the Longest burning Light Bulb in history. Now in its 108th year of illumination.

Funny, cool and amazing light bulb pictures


Lighthouse said...

Re (no) EU campaign
-- pity, I was wondering why there was so little noise about it, apart from the Daily Mail,
everyone I knew seemed puzzled by it, most assuming it was to do with them being unsafe (tungsten filament or the like - I must admit I did too - why ban a safe product, rather unprecedented in consumer law ?)

RE the industrial and parliamentarty politics behind the light bulb ban in the EU see

All lights have their advantages.
The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

100 W+ equivalent brightness is a particular issue - difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS - yet such bulbs are first in line for banning!

There are similar problems in achieving small bright bulbs with fluorescents and LEDS, while halogens, related to ordinary bulbs, are only marginally more efficient and will apparently be phased out too given the efficiency limits.

Recently Obama weighed in behind a ban too...
Americans, like other citizens, choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10.
Banning what Americans want gives the supposed savings - there is no point in banning an impopular product!

"No, They just buy Light Bulbs because they are Cheap!"
Nothing wrong with being cheap as well.
But you don't keep buying a cheap-but-poor product.
Nor do people avoid products only because they are expensive - or no other expensive products would be sold.

If other lights were better, people would buy more of them instead.
There are - for example- well known batteries and washing up liquids that are expensive but sell well because they last longer as they repeatedly show in their advertising.
Fluorescent light manufacturers and distributors are very happy to let governments promote their case, and happy that they ban the lights that people are buying, so the fluorescent (and/or LED) light manufacturers can win market share
- why should they bother making better products and advertise them?
They can clean up the market and charge what they like when those cheap competing rivals keeping down prices are gone.

New LED lamps are on the way.
If they are good, people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned... they were bought less anyway.

There are overall questions noone seems to be asking:

Since when does America (or the EU) need to save on electricity?
There is no energy shortage, there are plenty of local energy sources, Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation.
Consumers pay for any power stations, just as they do for factories and shops generally.
Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money - but why force them to do it?


Lighthouse said...


Does a light bulb give out any gases?
Power stations might not either:
(Washington state in US, Sweden, rance in Europe, and partialy in many other countries and states)
Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.
Why should those households be denied what they obviously want to use?

Again, the savings - and their value - can be questioned.
Global warming is a global problem, whatever about carbon dioxide reduction effects on it.
Thereby the irony of abandoning American jobs in the low energy consuming low emission making of simple safe cheap light bulbs in local factories,
in favor of the high energy consuming high emission making of mercury containing expensive fluorescent lights in unregulated coal-powered China,
with intercontinental transport emissions and recycling emissions added on top.
It's called "environmental progress".

Without recycling, fluorescent lights leak mercury on dump sites.
The tale that coal power mercury is worse doesn't hold up, they can nowadays be dealt with and was only ever true where such (untreated) power dominated anyway:
90% mercury emission reduction by 2018
references re mercury:

re light bulb ban


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