California to Ban the Bulb?

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 01, 2007

CNN reports that a California legislator wants to ban incandescent light bulbs.

The "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act" would ban incandescent lightbulbs by 2012 in favor of energy-saving compact fluorescent lightbulbs.

"Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications," California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine said Tuesday.

"Meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about 5 percent of the energy they receive into light." Levine is expected to introduce the legislation this week, his office said.

Even though compact fluorescent lights (CFL) cost more initially, they use only a quarter the energy as incandescent bulbs for an equivalent output of light, and they last for several years. Ultimately, they pay for themselves several times over.

According to the CNN article, 20 percent of home electricity costs are related to lighting. By switching from incandescents to CFLs, a home could reduce its total elecricity costs by fifteen percent.

I'm not sure if simply banning incandescents is the best legislative way to proceed. Rather than legislating particular technologies, it may make more sense for lawmakers to legislate standards.

Set the efficiency bar high enough, and incandescent bulbs would be effectively banned because they're not efficient enough. The benefit to this approach is that it encourages further innovation, particularly if the structure of the law is gradually to increase the minimum standards.

In the future, white LED lights may surpass CFLs for overall efficiency, since LEDs last longer and are less costly to dispose.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.


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By Izel (anonymous) | Posted February 01, 2007 at 12:36:58

As a person that has lived with Keratoconus (corneal disease) for more than 10 years I believe this ban is an imposition on me. Florescent lighting for a keratoconus patient can be very painful and it’s hard enough that we have to endure these lights in public, now these also are going to be imposed in our homes.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 01, 2007 at 13:32:17

This is part of why I think a ban as such is a bad idea. Instead, the government should mandate a minimum efficiency standard and let innovation provide a variety of options.

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By John M. (anonymous) | Posted February 02, 2007 at 17:29:25

Places where I don't use CFL's, around the house, and the reasons why:

On a dimmer fixture in the Dining Room: Even the $12 - $15 per bulb "dimmable" CFL's that I've tried don't work well enough yet. I have tried 2 different high quality name brands (G.E. and Noma) and it seems more like a tri-light bulb, i.e. they do not dim smoothly, and also make an audible "buzz" when dimmed.

In the workshop: Because they have a "strobe light" effect that make the blade on my table saw look like it is stopped some times even when it is still spinning. Yikes!

In my photography darkroom: They give off enough residual light to damage film for several minutes after you shut them off, much of which is ultra-violet so you can't even tell by looking at them if they are really "dark".

In 2 desk lamps which use T4 style halogen bulbs only (12 volt very small bulbs)

In the motion sensor controlled security lights outside because CFL spotlight bulbs are quite dim in the winter for a minute or so after power on due to the ballast being cold.

Inside the oven in the kitchen: They don't make a CFL rated for 400 deg. C. temp.

I don't feel too bad about any of these specialty uses. Every other bulb in the house is a CFL and for most uses for most people they are great!

So, in addition to the reasons mentioned above by others I think there are valid reasons for not banning incandescent bulbs.

Most people buy the old style bulbs rather than CFL's because they are cheaper to buy, even though the life cycle cost is lower when you include the saved electricity. If a tax of $1 or $2 per bulb was added to old style bulbs at the point of manufacture or import I think it would make folks stop and think...

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By Anonymous (anonymous) | Posted December 21, 2009 at 23:34:25

I am not in favor of banning products because they are consider too high of energy use.

As for incandescent bulbs I replace them with CFLs of LED lights where applicable but I still have several fixtures using incandescents because I have dimmer switches on them to adjust the lighting to my desired level. CFLs can not be dimmed like that and as far as I know neither can LEDs. We need a real solution before we start banning products without clear thought.

I don't think California should have banned high energy TVs either. Rather they should have required large clear labels stating they were high energy use TVs so consumers could make the appropriate choices.

Banning is the communist/dictator approach and we live in a supposedly free society. People wake up! What is next, books and movies they don't like?

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By nanamin (anonymous) | Posted June 26, 2010 at 15:28:53

I have a form of reflex epilepsy which causes me to have seizures under CFLs and regular fluorescent lights. It's enough of a problem that I can't go most places in public, but if incandescents are banned, I won't even be able to live in my own home.

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