Light Bulb Hoarding
The government wants your old-fashioned energy-hungry incandescent tungsten light bulb gone, and gone soon. But some people are willing to go to great lengths to hang onto the lights they love.
Incandescent bulbs - that's the traditional kind to you or me - waste 95% of the energy they use, according to Greenpeace. They calculate that phasing them out in the UK will save more than five million tonnes in CO2 emissions a year.
And yet some households are so attached to them that they not only keep buying them - they're stockpiling them ahead of the day when they're no longer available.
In September last year, the UK government made a deal with major shops for the supply of traditional bulbs to be turned off. Some higher energy bulbs will be gone by January 2009, and all incandescent lights will be off by 2011.
The agreement is voluntary, but other countries have announced legal bans, including Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and the US.
The brighter bulbs are already fading from view, according to Glen Gotten of the light merchant Ryness. "100w and 150w are difficult to get hold of," he says. "The larger manufacturers have stopped making them. We still manage to get enough to supply our customers for now, but they will start drying up."
The 150w, in particular, is seriously rare. They're gone from Tesco. Morrisons have already chosen to ditch them, with 100w to follow in the autumn and 60w next year.
Hence the stockpilers. "I'm stocking up now, before they're banned or get ridiculously expensive," says Bradley, an insurance broker from West Sussex. "The green ones might save you money and everything, but I just can't stand them."
"They don't look right," he explains. "They're not bright enough and they take an age to come on. That's not what you want from a light bulb. You want it to light up the whole room, just like that." He clicks his fingers.
Jo, who works in the same office, agrees. "I did try the energy saving ones," she says, "but they're not the same. One of them made a buzzing noise, one of them kept going on and off. We gave up on them."
Are they not concerned about the environmental impact of incandescent bulbs? "I do my bit," says Bradley. "Recycling and all that. But at the end of the day, if they want us to use those bulbs they'll have to make them better."
"And anyway," he adds, "they've got mercury in, haven't they, these so-called green bulbs? What's that going to do to the environment?"
Government advice says that because of the mercury in low energy bulbs, if you break one you should leave the room for 15 minutes, clear up the pieces with rubber gloves, not with a vacuum cleaner, and take them in a sealed bag to your local council. The bulbs should not be thrown in normal waste.
The Migraine Action Association has raised another health concern. The group reports that members have found that low energy bulbs seem to increase migraine attacks.
For most stockpilers though, the concerns seem to be more aesthetic than safety-conscious.
In a nutshell, many people prefer the warmer glow of an incandescent tungsten bulb to an eco-friendly compact fluorescent (CFL).
Jill Entwistle, editor of Light Magazine, says much work has been done to improve CFLs but that many people still prefer tungsten.
"There have been issues with compact fluorescents. They have improved a lot, a lot of investment has gone into reducing their size and improving the colour by experimentation with the phosphors that affects the colour temperature. They have managed to warm it up."
She is against the ban and believes incandescent bulbs have been chosen as an easy target. "It is a shame. This is simplistic thinking."
But there are those who assert that the work done on CFLs mean that most people cannot tell the difference.
The Energy Saving Trust did a spot the difference test in a shopping centre. Of 761 shoppers, 53% could not tell the difference between a traditional bulb and a CFL.
"They produce the same level of light. The latest CFLs radiate a very similar light spectrum," says Lyndsey Hubbard, editor of Total Lighting magazine. The dislike of CFLs may be a result of encounters with more primitive examples of them sticking in the mind.
Campaigners see the hoarding of bulbs in a dim light. "It's a bad idea," says Ben Stewart of Greenpeace. "They're not only bad for the climate but mean a bigger electricity bill. Incandescent light bulbs were invented in the 1880s and use 80% more electricity than energy saving ones. The time has come to move into the 21st Century."
There are certain people who will stick to their incandescent lights, whether it be film companies, or art galleries using the yet-to-be-restricted halogen type, and get their supplies through specialist sources.
But for the ordinary punter, the pursuit of the warm glow of the traditional tungsten incandescent will soon get a lot harder.
Steve Tomkins - June 30, 2008 - source http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/7480958.stm