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From Irdial:
The incandescent light bulb is an old technology, developed and patented by Thomas Edison, and refined over many decades. They are cheap to manufacture, made of simple, 100% recyclable non toxic parts (glass, steel and tungsten), and there are literally billions of receptacles that have been designed to accommodate their shape.

The new ‘Environmentally Friendly’, ‘energy saving’ compact fluorescent lightbulbs are expensive to manufacture, have plastic parts, are not simple in design and contain poisons like mercury, making it necessary to dispose of them carefully lest the mercury escape, polluting the environment and poisoning people.

Now, as the ban on the incandescent light bulb is about to come into force, we read the following in the Register:
Optics boffins at the Rochester Uni in New York state say they’ve developed a process in which an ordinary lighbulb is zapped with a femtosecond-long pulse of extremely high-energy laser light. The laser blast travels through the glass to hit the tungsten filament, causing complex nano- and micro-structures to form on its surface.

Once the lasered light bulb is then powered up, according to the Rochester scientists, it emits a lot more light for the same energy compared to an untreated bulb – equivalent to 40 per cent energy savings. The process of lasing incandescent bulbs wouldn’t be expensive, apparently, so they’d remain cheap compared to fluorescent energy-saving jobs.
[Irdial blog post]
[Register article]
[University of Rochester press release]
But this has probably happened too late to make any difference. Production lines have been adapted or replaced and the industry is geared up to the new bulbs. More importantly, someone in government would have to acknowledge that fluorescent bulbs, their chosen solution to the perceived wickedness of Edison’s original, are inferior for the reasons catalogued above.

Even if they weren’t distracted by staving off the recession, the scramble to come up with reforms to mollify the public and their party’s own infighting, I can’t see the government doing anything other than dismissing this development. After all, they envisioned the installation of cameras in bins to monitor the contents of household waste, and the mind that can blithely contemplate that will not easily be persuaded that it is on the wrong track. They have given us our solution and now we must live with it—after all, according to the Blair doctrine, if it is what we are doing now then it is modern, and if it is modern then it is better.

The Wikipedia article on fluorescent bulbs enumerates the following potential sources of fun in the coming months and years:
Electronic devices operated by infrared remote control can interpret the infrared light emitted by CFLs as a signal, limiting the use of CFLs near televisions, radios, remote controls or mobile phones

CFLs not designed for outdoor use will not start in cold weather

Fluorescent lamps get dimmer over their lifetime, so what starts out as an adequate luminosity may become inadequate

Some CFLs are labeled not to be run base up, since heat will shorten the ballast's life. Such CFLs are unsuitable for use in pendant lamps and especially unsuitable for recessed light fixtures. CFLs for use in such fixtures are available

The CFL may not fit well in existing light fixtures

There are large differences among quality of light, cost, and turn-on time among different manufacturers, even for lamps that appear identical

Fluorescent bulbs can damage paintings and textile fabrics which are composed of light-sensitive dyes and pigments [due to ultra-violet emissions]

When the base of the bulb is not made to be flame-retardant, as required in the voluntary standard for CFLs, then the electrical components in the bulb can overheat which poses a fire hazard

When a CFL is dimmed the colour temperature (warmth) stays the same. Emotional response testing suggests that people find dim, bluish light sources to be cold or even sinister. This may explain the persistent lack of popularity for CFLs in bedrooms and other settings where a subdued light source is preferred [1]
Also, “the life of a CFL is significantly shorter if it is only turned on for a few minutes at a time. In the case of a 5-minute on/off cycle the lifespan of a CFL can be up to 85% shorter, reducing its lifespan to the level of an incandescent lamp. The US Energy Star program says to leave them on at least 15 minutes at a time to mitigate this problem”. Oh, and for those of you prone to migraines and eye-related headaches: research is ongoing, but it’s not looking very good.

Thanks, the government. You meant well.


[1] This last problem all but confirms my theory that for some people the actual necessity of reducing our impact on the world’s climate is merely a (figurative) springboard for (figurative) self-flagellation. “You will cower in your beds under a cold steely gaze of retribution. And if you even think of having sex in there, you will do so to the sounds of a bracing military brass band.”

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Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
chiller
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:15 pm (UTC)
I'm going to hang on to my incandescents as long as poss. I can't stand those other things.
strictlytrue
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
As I understand it, the fluourescent bulbs are already being superceded by LED bulbs, which are on the Government's menu, as it were. These do not affect people with migraines or eye-related headaches.

They have given us our solution and now we must live with it—after all, according to the Blair doctrine, if it is what we are doing now then it is modern, and if it is modern then it is better.


I'm sorry, but I think you're wrong on this. It's nothing to do with a Blair doctrine, and everything to do with the fact that traditional lightbulb use means far higher carbon emissions. This policy isn't the result of some Blairite wonk trying to look cool; environmental groups have been campaigning on this issue for years.

I'm not dismissing the objections you make entirely, but I think you're being spectacularly one sided.
webofevil
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
I'm aware that environmental groups have long highlighted the flaws of incandescent bulbs, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we therefore ought to have foisted on us a mercury and UV-emitting crapternative.

I'm not trying to pin inferior bulbs on Blair himself, merely illustrating how his profound philosophy continues to resonate today.
strictlytrue
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
I'm not trying to pin inferior bulbs on Blair himself, merely illustrating how his profound philosophy continues to resonate today.

Yes, but in this case, wrongly. This change is a direct response to environmental groups demanding it and nothing to do with any perceptions of Blair's philosophy. It's worth remembering, too, that the philosophy of "If it's old, it must be good" is just as powerful in this country and far more prevalent.

I'm aware that environmental groups have long highlighted the flaws of incandescent bulbs, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we therefore ought to have foisted on us a mercury and UV-emitting crapternative.

They have not just highlighted the flaws of incandescent bulbs, but have campaigned exactly for the crapternative you deride. On the Greenpeace site, they address directly the mercury issue and make the very salient point that the mercury emitted by all the extra electricity required by incandescent bulbs far exceeds the amount that will be produced by disposed CFLs. In fact, the myth-busting page there takes apart a lot of the objections from the wikipedia entry.
webofevil
Jun. 15th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
> On the Greenpeace site, they address directly the mercury issue

Yes they do:
“It’s not ideal but incandescents are probably responsible for more mercury emissions than CFLs; burning coal for electricity emits mercury, and incandescents use much, much more energy.”
Is our only viable choice really between larger mercury emissions elsewhere or smaller mercury emissions in our own house? I’m not suggesting that the first alternative is good, but the second is truly terrible.
strictlytrue
Jun. 15th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
There won't be any mercury emissions in your own house. You'll have to dispose of the bulbs differently from old bulbs, but we're used to recycling now, is that really so terrible?
webofevil
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)
> As I understand it, the fluourescent bulbs are already being superseded by LED bulbs

“In my short time testing out the variety [LED bulb] pack, the most light I could get from the brightest bulb was probably on par with a small nightlight or 25 watt bedside lamp bulb. The color is definitely blue and the light is dim. There's no way on earth these bulbs are worth running out and spending $30+ per bulb on. What's weird is that my LED flashlights are very bright on small batteries but these are just terrible on unlimited home power.” [A Whole Lotta Nothing]
strictlytrue
Jun. 15th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
That was written a couple of years ago - things have moved on since. I saw an LED bulb being demonstrated by someone from Ban the Bulb on BBC News a few weeks ago - it was indistinguishable from a regular incandescent bulb.
strictlytrue
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:25 pm (UTC)
When a CFL is dimmed the colour temperature (warmth) stays the same. Emotional response testing suggests that people find dim, bluish light sources to be cold or even sinister. This may explain the persistent lack of popularity for CFLs in bedrooms and other settings where a subdued light source is preferred

And as someone who has used CFL bulbs (in my living room), this sounds like a right load of old bollo.
lifesizemonkey
Jun. 15th, 2009 02:28 pm (UTC)
I think we should go back to candlelight. There's no romance in the world anymore.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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