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20 February, 2007

See the light

According to the BBC, the Australian government intends to ban 'traditional' incandescent lightbulbs in favour of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs.

It's a compelling idea, with few apparent disadvantages. A related BBC article reports that swapping each standard bulb for the fluorescent equivalent (much lower wattage, and wasting far less energy as heat) would feed through to emission of 70% less carbon dioxide. On a national scale, this could reduce Australia's emissions of the greenhouse gas by 4 million tonnes by 2012.

As usual, the main barrier is people's perception of the initial cost, but even on a merely economic level, that's false economy; CFLs use less electricity and can be expected to last far longer, so the per-usage cost is typically about £7 less ($12) per year (per household, I presume). The perceived cost dispariety could be reduced in the UK, and actual saving increased further, if CFLs were re-rated as 'essential' staples, subject to a reduced VAT rate of 5% rather than 'luxury' goods subject to the full 17.5%.

Personally, I switched to CFLs four years ago when I bought my own house. All the overhead lights use CFLs, but I have to use incandescents in two desk lamps, as they're incompatible with the physically larger CFLs. That's the only disadvantage I can think of at present: some lights might be rendered unusable if incandescent bulbs were banned. I believe Ikea sell small-profile CFLs, but I haven't seen them myself.

Oh; go on, then.... I wasn't going to link to the Ban The Bulb campaign website, as it links on to other Green propaganda/hippie-sh*t, but if you're able to ignore that... stuff, there is some useful content.


You're probably right that a total ban is a step too far right now, since not all fittings can take a CFL bulb, but something needs to be done to make CFLs a more attractive option to incandescent bulbs. How about charging extra duty on incandescent bulbs which subsidises the cost of CFLs, bringing them to roughly the same cost? And tax breaks for manufacturers who produce small-profile bulbs? (or some kind of encouragement). Ikea do sell them but I've not seen them in Tesco or the like.

Once the majority of bulbs sold are CFL, then a ban on incandescents may be more appropriate; or if not, a ban on the standard sized ones.

All the bulbs I buy now are CFL; originally I merely replaced incandescent bulbs which had blown but I'm now taking them out even if they still work, on the basis that it'll save money in the long-term.

Posted by Neil T. at February 20, 2007 03:27 PM

CFLs are already a more attractive option, really it's just that a majority seem to have the childish belief that 'cheap now' is better than 'cheap later'.

I found that CFLs from discount shops like Wilkinsons aren't drastically more expensive than incandescent bulbs from supermarkets, but again, someone who can't see further than the upfront price is unlikely to shop around.

Posted by NRT at February 20, 2007 03:47 PM

CFL are great in most situations but not for the cupboard under the stairs where the light is only on and off for a few minutes, the lamp on the front of the house that uses a PIR and can not switch cfl, the dimmer controlled lamp in the bedroom, etc etc,
I think there is place for both. The way to encourrge use is to put more tax on inefficient bulbs, reduce tax on bulbs with an A or B efficiency rating, try and standardise on profiles and peanalise lamp holder manufacturers who don't make luminaires which can accommodate the differnt size/pattern of a cfl

Posted by Gertrude Gorillatella at March 9, 2007 01:11 AM

The upfront costs for cfls are no longer high. Peter Jones online has 60W and 100W equivalent low energy bulbs for 49p each!

Posted by James at April 12, 2007 02:11 PM
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