Monday, January 1, 2007

Wal-Mart's bright idea

From a New York Times article on Wal-Mart's (yes, Wal-Mart's) efforts to increase sales of compact fluorescent lightbulbs:

A compact fluorescent has clear advantages over the widely used incandescent light -- it uses 75 percent less electricity, lasts 10 times longer, produces 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and saves consumers $30 over the life of each bulb. But it is eight times as expensive as a traditional bulb, gives off a harsher light and has a peculiar appearance.

As a result, the bulbs have languished on store shelves for a quarter century; only 6 percent of households use the bulbs today.

Which is what makes Wal-Mart’s goal so wildly ambitious. If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, total sales in the United States would increase by 50 percent, saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoiding the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes.
Having lived with these bulbs for four days, I can't agree that the light is harsh. Nor am I bothered by the bulbs' resemblance to soft-serve cones. (Don't people usually keep their lightbulbs under shades or enclosed in fixtures anyway?) Compact fluorescent bulbs take a bit of time to reach their full brightness, but their advantages make that slight delay easy to accept. I can remember as a kid having to wait for the radio and television to warm up.
Power-Sipping Bulbs Get Backing From Wal-Mart (New York Times)

Related post
An Inconvenient Truth

comments: 4

Lee said...

I've used these bulbs for ca. 10 years in Germany; the one in my desklamp has lasted for at least 4 years! But do be careful - they are slightly more sensitive to impact, though here at least they are under a longish guarantee.

The cost of electricity is so high in most of Europe that it offsets the initial cost of these bulbs, and then some. I've always argued that one way to help deal with American energy consumption is make it far more expensive. In Germany, for example, we pay at least 4x the average price for petrol (gasoline) than you, which includes an ecology tax. As simplistic as it sounds, people do think with their wallets.

I also disagree that these bulbs are in any way harsh. And do we really always need intant gratification?

Blogaulaire said...

The short, straight fluorescent tubes in desk lamps are harsher. I use these newer screw-in types now as well. There is no ballast, no transformer to waste energy as heat.

At a local gallery-café this curly que variety is being used in reflectors to illuminate art posters and they do the job well.

I recommend that consumers buy the bulbs that are white balanced because I find the yellowish light from the other sort does not balance well with other indoor lighting.

Many shade style lamps allow plenty of room below the shade fixture on the top to fit in one of the hybrid screw in fluorescents. But before going out to buy one, you might take a few measurements. I would guess that by knowing ahead of the shopping where such bulbs will fit, the consumer will end up buying several more than when in doubt.

One reason I was an early adopter is that a couple decades ago I was influenced by Amory Lovens (HERE: who advocated these sorts of technological 'fixes' for the energy crunch.

Anonymous said...

We started using these new bulbs about 6 mos. ago and they are still burning bright, but not too harsh. I actually prefer them to regular lightbulbs for reading. Also, they seem to be unbreakable. I have a lamp that I knock over occassionally (I am such a klutz) and the bulb has not broken yet....but I will keep trying, unless of course I sign up for a class in grace!

Lee said...

Jeanne, that's interesting. Mine don't break in the sense that the glass shatters, but sometimes they stop working on impact. However, now that I think about it, it's been a while since that's happened, so either we're more careful, or the quality has improved.