January 26, 2012

The Battle of the Bulb

Why the switch from incandescent has become a big deal.

Gary: In the beginning, there was darkness. Then came fire. It wasn’t until the nineteenth century that artificial light was first generated. The big leap came in the 1880′s, when Thomas Edison lit homes across America with the incandescent bulb. For the next 130 years, incandescents ruled the nights and the roads.

Today, lighting makes up 10% of energy use in U.S. homes. And Edison’s invention sucks up a lot, with only a little output. Ninety percent of the energy that these bulbs produce is heat, not light. And now, the last glowing filaments of incandescents could be burning out. This year, a new federal law goes into effect which requires all light bulbs to be 25% more efficient. And that is leaving Edison’s light in the dark.

“It’s the nature of technology. It has a lifetime, a start and an end. It’s time to end.”

Gary: And end for Edison, but a beginning for alternatives that use less energy, like compact fluorescents.

“You might install a light bulb in your foyer, when your kids are born and that lightbulb will still be working, no problem, when the kids go off to college.”

Gary: But not everybody is happy with the change. For one thing, the alternatives are more expensive up front.

“This one’s about $9, and this one’s about two.”

Gary: Many consumers complain the newer bulbs just don’t look right.

“There’s a pushback from people, who say I’m sitting in my living room, I want a warm, comfortable light and that’s the word they use — warm.”

Gary: Some of the earlier compact florescent products, they were not ready for primetime. They buzzed. They had lousy color. They made everything grayish-green. But experts say the compact fluorescent bulbs today are better than in the past. And there is a range of colors you can choose from to get the warmth you’re looking for.

And they say compact fluorescents can save the consumer big bucks. They use about 75% less energy and last up to ten times longer.

But if you are not into the fluorescents, there is another bulb lighting the way.

LEDs or light-emitting diodes use 80% less energy and can last the longest – up to 25 years. LEDs produce a warm glow, similar to a standard 60 watt incandescent. They fit anywhere and are powered by only nine watts. But those stats aren’t enough to convince some people that we should get rid of incandescents.

“I believe in liberty for lightbulbs.”

Gary: The battle of the bulb has become a political issue, and was even referenced in the Republican’s response to the State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

“Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids. Why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong lightbulb!”

Gary: Some Republicans are using the incandescent light bulb as a symbol of how the government is too involved in peoples lives. And to combat the law, which was signed in 2007 by President Bush, Republicans in Congress eliminated all funding to enforce it. Which means it is unclear whether you will still find incandescents on store shelves or not.

So, while Edison’s light is fading, it seems it is not out yet.

Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.


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