As of this month, it is now illegal in the European Community to import or manufacture frosted or 100-watt incandescent light bulbs. Stores that carry them can sell out their stock, and that’s what they’ve been doing: across the continent, people are running to purchase the last of the old-school light bulbs.
The incandescent bulbs are supposed to be replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs that, according to legend, last ten times longer and use one-quarter of the electricity.
I wish I could like the new bulbs. Newer versions do a decent job of matching the color of an incandescent light bulb, and they do use less power. But we need light bulbs in our house, and last night I went out and bought… incandescent.
My big problem with them is that besides allegedly lasting ten times as long, they also cost ten times as much. It would be a fair deal if it were true. But the compact fluorescent bulbs that I’ve tried actually last 6-8 months, about the same as incandescent bulbs. So the amount of money that I save on electricity, which is supposed to more than cover the increased cost of the bulb, doesn’t break even.
And my experience in my home is not unique. A couple of years ago, the management in our apartment building replaced all the light bulbs in the hallways with compact fluorescents. More than half of them have since been replaced by traditional bulbs.
And there are other issues:
- Incandescent bulbs are light and simple to produce, and there could be an economic case for continuing to manufacture them in this country. Compact fluorescent bulbs are electronic devices, almost universally imported from China.
- I don’t have the figures, but I believe that it takes less in terms of energy, raw materials, and industrial toxins to make and transport an incandescent bulb as compared to fluorescent. It’s probably still favorable even if one compares ten incandescent bulbs against one fluorescent bulb.
- Fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, which is toxic. In New York City, households can still throw them in the trash, but businesses must recycle them. In the future, households may be required to recycle them as well.
- When an incandescent bulb fails, it goes out, and doesn’t draw any more power. A failed compact fluorescent may still draw power: it just doesn’t out out any light.
So I’m off the fluorescent bulbs for now, or at least until the Light Bulb Police come after me.