3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

Summary: Fundamentally, research shows at least two-thirds of Americans support the broad lighting-efficiency standards set to take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

This 35-watt incandescent equivalent LED bulb from Lighting Science reduces energy consumption up to 80  percent and lasts up to 25 times longer. (Image courtesy of Lighting Science Group)

This 40-watt incandescent equivalent LED bulb from Lighting Science reduces energy consumption up to 80 percent and lasts up to 50 times longer. (Image courtesy of Lighting Science Group)

As green techies doubtless heard or read late last week, people in Congress just can't seem to keep themselves from trying to mess with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. You know, the one that includes new light-bulb efficiency standards.

The latest strategy: impose funding limitations on the Department of Energy's ability to enforce the standards, which still take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

Personally speaking, I can't understand why this particular crusade is so meaningful to certain elected officials when we have far more important things to worry, but I also think they are wasting their time because. The fact is, Americans have figured out that energy-efficiency lighting is one of the quickest ways for individuals, businesses or municipalities to save money. Indeed, I believe there are three big reasons why politics can't kill the lighting efficience movement:

#1: Lighting efficiency projects work. Depending on what estimates you believe, lighting accountings for about 12 percent of the energy usage in the average American home. (Way more during certain times of the year, I'm sure; my husband's friend is one of those over-the-top Christmas light display artists, and his electricity bill at least triples during December and January.) In any event, the generally accepted estimate is that using energy-efficient lighting -- whether it is LED, compact fluorescent, whatever -- could save an average of at least $100 per year. That more than makes up the higher price tag for the bulbs, because they last much longer than the typical incandescent one. Back in July 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council did a state-by-state analysis of the potential savings and came up this figure for the potential consumer savings: $12.5 billion.

Businesses and municipal governments can realize an bigger return on investments in efficient LED, especially when they team it up with intelligent sensors and control systems that help automate certain functions. In November 2011, Pike Research predicted that LED technologies could account for about 52 percent of the commercial lighting market by 2021.

I've written about the sorts of savings that can be expected from lighting efficiency projects. Here's a new example that just crossed my inbox. The village of Baldwinsville, N.Y., is replacing 15 (just 15) streetlights with a system from Ephesus Technologies. The fixtures are supposed to last 50 percent longer, use 20 percent less power, produce 50 percent less heat and be 20 percent brighter. In a much larger implementation that I wrote about over the summer, Canon U.S.A. was able to squeeze out 2.7 million kilowatt-hours of annual electricity use through a number of measures including a lighting efficiency project. That translates into utility cost savings of $300,000 annually.

#2: Lighting technology manufacturers support the standards. One of the arguments that the lighting efficiency critics have used in their crusade is that the phaseout of certain incandescent bulbs would result in lost American jobs. The fact is that many American manufacturers, including General Electric, have invested millions in the transition and many new start-ups have sprung up around the movement, including Lighting Science in Florida, which doubled its workforce in 2010 alone.

NEMA (the Association of Electrical and Medical Imaging Equipment Manufacturers issued a statement Dec. 16 criticizing the call for enforcement delays, saying that it would cause confusion and regulatory uncertainty. This move would have the effect of penalizing those companies that have spent money on compliance.

"NEMA reiterates that EISA 2007 does not ban incandescent light bulbs. Consumers will have expanded lighting options that include energy-efficient advanced incandescent, compact fluorescent lights and new lighting technologies such as light-emitting diodes.

#3: The average person thinks the idea is pretty cool. Just this morning, I read an article on SmartPlanet about a new U.K. study that shows people feel safer around LED lighting. The research was based on the government's monitoring of LED replacement projects in public housing projects. Earlier this year, marketing firm EcoPinion published a study showing that two-thirds of Americans supported the adoption of more energy-efficient lighting technologies.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • The act needed messing with

    If CFL's are really as good as their advocates claim, then they shouldn't need any heavy handed government regulations forcing them on us.

    Also, I'm still trying to figure why those who are supposedly advocating for "green" technologies are trying to cram down our throats light bulbs that have to be disposed of as hazardous waste:

    • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

      @cornpie If CFLs are really as good as they say they are then how come I have a dead one on my workbench now that I plan on taking apart, to find out why it died. It lasted about a third as long as a regular incandescent bulb would have in the same fixture. I figure what killed it was the short cycle times I ran it. But I turned it on, and off just like I do with a regular bulb in the same capacity. No more, no less. Nothing uses less power than a bulb switched off!

      Those LED bulbs are really going to have to come down in price before I even address those. $40 for a light bulb? What are they nuts? The day I shell out $40 for a light bulb is the day I invest in a ski mask and a gun to supplement my extravagant lifestyle costs.

      The whole mercury issue is a wash if you get the life out of a fluorescent bulb that you should. As you pump more mercury into the atmosphere generating the extra power it takes to burn conventional bulbs. Now before you come back and say but my generated electricity doesn't put mercury into the atmosphere. Ah, that doesn't matter we're all on a power grid. Until all mercury producing power generation plants are taken off said grid power out equals mercury up the stacks. Now that isn't going to happen in anyone's natural lifetime reading this message today.
  • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

    Are there any limits to the power of government if it can mandate what kinds of lightbulbs we must use or how much water our toilets use when they flush? Just imagine how much good I could do for you if my power over you was unlimited.
  • What about recycling? You can't just throw away CFLs :(

    I get that CFLs last longer and cost less to use but they don't last forever...what does the 2012 regulation say about recycling? you can't just throw this poison (mercury) into your local landfills. Read more:

  • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

    The government has NO PLACE dictating what technology I CHOOSE to use. It's called Freedom honey. Learn what it means!
    • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

      @paulfx1: Nuclear weapons are technology... (get the idea?)
  • Eat this or we poke out your eyes

    We are early adopters of LED bulbs and have replaced all the outdoor lighting and a good part of the indoor as well with LEDs.

    But that's our choice when spending our money. I totally agree with the other commenters here that this is not an area of life that needs the boot of government on people's necks. Those who enjoy seeing that are a mystery to me. Perhaps the rest of us ought to gang up on them and have the government force them to eat rhubarb.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

      @Robert Hahn
      Rhubarb pie is about as good as sweet and sour gets! :)
  • Two-Thirds of Americans support Draconian Government?

    If you wonder what's wrong with America today, there's your sign. It's not the politicians, it's the people electing them.
    • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

      @People I wouldn't put too much faith in any poll or survey conducted by Eco Pinion. You have to consider the source in these matters, and Eco Pinion would rank pretty low as a reliable source. And, for that matter, so would Heather Clancy.
  • Cleaning Up a Broken CFL What to Do if a CFL Breaks in Your Home

  • Cleaning Up a Broken CFL What to Do if a CFL Breaks in Your Home

    Before Cleanup

    * Have people and pets leave the room.
    * Air out the room for 5-10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment.
    * Shut off the central forced air heating/air-conditioning system, if you have one.
    * Collect materials needed to clean up broken bulb:
    o stiff paper or cardboard;
    o sticky tape;
    o damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces); and
    o a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.

    During Cleanup

    * DO NOT VACUUM. Vacuuming is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. Vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor.
    * Be thorough in collecting broken glass and visible powder.
    * Place cleanup materials in a sealable container.

    After Cleanup

    * Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors.
    * If practical, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating/air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

    ??? Actions you can take to prevent broken compact fluorescent light bulbs

    ??? Information from other sources relating to the accidental breakage of CFLs

    Top of page

    Why is it important to clean up a broken CFL properly?

    CFLs and other fluorescent light bulbs contain a small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks in your home, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. To minimize exposure to mercury vapor, EPA recommends that residents follow the cleanup and disposal steps described on this page.

    Top of page

    What if I can't follow all the recommended steps? or I cleaned up a CFL but didn't do it properly?

    Don't be alarmed; these steps are only precautions that reflect best practices for cleaning up a broken CFL. Keep in mind that CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury -- less than 1/100th of the amount in a mercury thermometer.

    However, if you are concerned about the risk to your health from a potential exposure to mercury, consult your physician.

    Top of page
    Actions You Can Take to Prevent Broken Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

    * Always switch off and allow a working CFL bulb to cool before handling.
    * Always handle CFL bulbs carefully to avoid breakage.

    o If possible, screw/unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing.
    o Gently screw in the CFL until snug. Do not over-tighten.
    o Never forcefully twist the glass tubing.

    * Do not install CFLs in table lamps and floor lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.
    * Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.
    * Use CFL bulbs that have a glass or plastic cover over the spiral or folded glass tube, if available. These types of bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs and may be more durable if dropped.
    * Consider using a drop cloth (e.g., plastic sheet or beach towel) when changing a fluorescent light bulb in case a breakage should occur. The drop cloth will help prevent mercury contamination of nearby surfaces and can be bundled with the bulb debris for disposal.

    Information from Other Sources Relating to the Accidental Breakage of CFLs Exit EPA Disclaimer

    * Summary of May 2010 opinion of the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) of the European Commission Health and Consumer Protection Directorate on Mercury in Certain Energy-Saving Light Bulbs
    * August 2009 article in LD+A, the magazine of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America: "Dangerous Mercury in CFLs? One Big Fish Story" (PDF) (4 pp, 404 K)
    * February 2008 Maine Department of Environmental Protection Compact Fluorescent Lamp Breakage Study Report
    * February 2008 Mercury Policy Project report: Shedding Light on Mercury Risks from CFL Breakage (PDF) (23 pp, 2.3 MB, about PDF)

    Contact the CFL Web editor to ask a question, provide feedback, or report a problem.


    These instructions were from the EPA not the Rush Limbaugh I hate every liberal idea webpage. These lightbulbs are a bad idea for any home especially ones with children. The government should not be forcing this on us, they should be banning it.
    • RE: 3 reasons politics won't kill the lighting efficiency movement

      @edkollin: in other words, go for LEDs. (BTW: in Sweden, the recommended time to wait before entering the room to clean CFLs is 30 minutes.)
  • The government cant tell me what to do!!

    Unless it is 'be afraid and sacrifice your privacy'.. then I'm all for it!!

    Glad everybody jumped on the CFL hating, considering the article mainly addressed LED bulbs. Have fun with your higher electricity bills and 19th century technology.