Why Don't Energy Saving Light Bulbs Work Right? - Home Energy Savings For Energy Watchers

Why Don't Energy Saving Light Bulbs Work Right?

Why does it seem to be so hard for us to develop a decent energy-saving light bulb? There are about 100,000,000 households in the U.S., each of which probably has 50 or more light bulbs in it. Each of those light bulbs gets replaced every five years or so on average. Every five years, then, the U.S. uses up five billion lightbulbs. At a dollar a bulb, that's a billion dollars a year. You would think that with the backing of the new administration and a prize of a billion dollars a year, some manufacturer would figure out how to make an energy saving light bulb that works right, wouldn't you?

Old-Fashioned, Finger-Burning, Energy-Wasting, Basically-Unchanged-For-100-Years, Totally-Unhip Incandescent Light BulbI've been experimenting with various green lighting at my house and I'm telling you that incandescent light bulbs — old-fashioned, finger-burning, energy-wasting, basically-unchanged-for-100-years, totally-unhip incandescent light bulbs — are starting to look like the best choice available. It's not that incandescents are good — it's that all of the new alternatives have something wrong with them.

In the plus column, incandescent light bulbs:

  • Turn on instantly

  • Emit a warm yellow light reminiscent of the sun

  • Don't make any noise

  • Radiate light evenly

  • Turn off instantly

  • Last 2,000 or more hours

  • Don't poison the environment when disposed of

  • Cost less than a dollar

  • Are a proven and tested technology
And as we all know, in the minus column, incandescent light bulbs convert 90% of the energy they use into heat rather than light, which is what has us searching for an alternative that doesn't waste so much energy.

Let's take a look at our serious alternatives:

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs

Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulbs

CFL bulbs are the hot tip on the green circuit these days — let's see how they compare to incandescents. In the plus column, they:
  • Last 10,000 or more hours

  • Radiate light evenly

  • Use less than 25% of the energy that an incandescent bulb uses

And in the minus column, they:
  • Turn on eventually — some CFL bulbs take 90 seconds to "warm up"

  • Emit a sickly white light that is entirely unnatural

  • Emit some heat, although 1/3 to 1/2 as much as incandescents

  • Make an annoying hum

  • Turn off eventually

  • Poison the environment when disposed of

  • Cost considerably more than a dollar

  • Seem to have real problems with manufacturing defects — about 20% of the CFLs we have installed in our house either did not work straight out of the box or failed within a month
Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Bulbs

Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Bulbs

LED bulbs are a promising new technology that could save us 95% on our lighting bills — if manufacturers could put together a design that works right. In the plus column, they:
  • Turn on instantly

  • Last 30,000 or more hours

  • Emit no heat

  • Make no noise

  • Turn off instantly

  • Don't poison the environment when disposed of

  • Use less than 5% of the energy that an incandescent bulb uses
And in the minus column, they:

  • Emit a sickly white light that is entirely unnatural

  • Radiate light straight up and not to the sides

  • Cost considerably more than a dollar

  • Are a brand-new technology

Halogen Bulbs

I'm not taking halogen lights seriously because they have all of the negatives of incandescents with the added danger of setting your house on fire.

So this is where we stand — there aren't any energy saving bulbs that can truly take the place of the venerable incandescent bulb. There aren't any problems with the science — it's not as if we are waiting on some sort of fundamental breakthrough in the science of lighting. What we have here is a failure of will. (I mean, I can design a better energy-saving light bulb.)

When will manufacturers deliver an energy-saving light bulb that works right? The first one to deliver will own the lighting market.