Bursting Edison’s Bulb

I recently downloaded a new app to my iPhone called Bulb Blasters. (OK, full disclosure: it’s a game created by Xcel Energy that involves using a powerful laser-equipped CFL to blast incandescent bulbs that descend the screen a la Space Invaders.)

When I showed it my brother, he rolled his eyes. I’m not sure whether it was because he’s jealous of my ultra-cool phone or because he’s an incandescent bulb fan. Probably a little of both. The former issue he can fix by buying a new phone. The latter issue will be a little more difficult.

Incandescent bulbs, as we’ve blogged about before, are on the way out. Brazil was an early adapter and began phasing them out six years ago. The European Union followed suit a couple years ago. Canada is set to begin its phase-out next year. And President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which calls for manufacturers of light bulbs to make their product more energy efficient. The end-game is that eventually incandescent bulbs will go the way of the Stegosaurus.

The impetus for this is to encourage the use of more energy efficient lighting apparatus such as CFLs, LEDs and halogens.

My brother understands this; it’s just that he is kind of nostalgic toward incandescents. He argues that he doesn’t like the way CFLs light a room. Plus, the Edison-invented bulbs are a lot cheaper. He’s not alone in his opinions. A recent New York Times article detailed a number of artists, restaurateurs and interior designers who are hoarding incandescents because of the light they give off. Others, like Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, want to give Americans the choice to decide for themselves which kind of bulbs they use. She went so far as to introduce the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act in 2008 to repeal the bill signed by President Bush.

Where do you stand on this issue? I made the switchover to CFLs months ago, using the following metrics to make my decision:

• With CFLs you can save up to $50 in energy costs over the life of one bulb*

• They last up to 10 times longer than a traditional bulb

• CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy versus a traditional bulb

*Based on an expected product life of 10,000 hours at 10.5 cents/kilowatt-hour.

As it turns out, though, it sounds like I am in the minority. According to a separate New York Times article: “Roughly three-quarters of the four billion light sockets in the United States still have [the]inefficient, 130-year-old product,” said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

In other words, some people, like my brother, still need to be convinced that CFLs are the way to go.

Article by Dan Hauser, appearing courtesy Xcel Energy Blog.

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