Let's Bring Back the Incandescent Bulb

By:  Ann Shibler
Let's Bring Back the Incandescent Bulb

Courtesy of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, a cheap, reliable, and comforting 130-year-old invention would begin to be phased out in 2012 through 2014.

The switch is to be permanently thrown to "off" on Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulb, unless H.R. 91, Republican Joe Barton’s (Texas) newly introduced legislation will see the light of day. The Better Use of Light Bulbs Act would repeal provisions in the 2007 law, PL 110-140, and reinstate the disfavored incandescent bulb as a consumer choice for lighting homes.   

The debate for some centers around the energy efficiency of the incandescent bulbs vs. compact fluorescents and LEDs. The supposed longer life-span and estimates of 50 to 70 percent less electricity usage of the CFLs -- leaving LEDs out of the discussion for now due to enormous expense and technical glitches -- is highly touted. Unfortunately, they are more expensive to manufacture, are mostly manufactured outside the United States, cast a harsh “cool white” light on surroundings, emit UV rays, take minutes to warm up, and contain mercury -- a danger to people that causes disposal problems of EPA proportions and environmental concerns. The mercury in one CFL bulb, 5 milligrams, is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water. Low-mercury bulbs can still contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water, as a Stanford University study revealed.

In defense of the incandescent, users say they prefer the warmer, softer light that resembles the actual spectrum of the sun more closely, the instant on and off, lack of blinking as exhibited by some CFLs, and the fact that the bulbs have little impact on their environment making them a far more stable product and easily disposed of.

There’s also the point that the energy used to manufacture a CFL is far greater then for an incandescent bulb, perhaps to the point of canceling out any real energy savings by the time it’s screwed into the light fixture and turned on.  Bulb application affects the life span of both the incandescent and the CFL. Incandescents take better to being snapped on an off frequently, but if the same frequency occurs for a CFL a higher burnout rate is the result, something comparison tests don’t take into account but homeowners have come to realize.

But should the debate focus on the positive and negative aspects of these different kinds of light bulbs that, in the scope of everyday energy consumption use very little?

The regulations imposed in 2007 were specific in mandating lower energy usage, imposing energy consumption levels on individuals, something quite unconstitutional.

It should be left up to the individual what kind of lighting they choose for their homes and businesses, and how long they leave the lights on or off. Regulating a level of efficiency for any product that eliminates that product from store shelves is in effect a ban on that product. Hence, the government removes that product, giving a competitive edge to other products, and the companies, owners, and countries that manufacture them.

Help H.R. 91 receive a speedy review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power members. Contact your Representative and Senators and let them know you are skeptical of the highly touted advantages of compact fluorescent bulbs, urging them to stand up for personal freedom of choice by bringing H.R. 91 to the floor for a vote.

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