Ban All Incandesent’s (A Not So Bright Idea)
Posted by Jeff Id on December 22, 2008
Banning of the incandescent light is one of the favorite topics of the AGW movement. The theory is that the use of high efficiency florescent and LED based bulbs will save enormous amounts of energy. A number of countries have already put this legislation in place. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.
A typical 60 Watt incandescent house lamp produces about 1000 Lumens placing the lamps at just over 15 Lumens output per watt used. Lumens are a measure of visible light energy, think watts of light that your eye can see.
A florescent replacement lamp is about 80 Lumens per watt form the bulb but typical output is around 40-60 after power supply.
The best LED lamps have typical outputs around 100 Lumens per watt today with about 60 lumens/watt after all the other factors are included.
These numbers are based on an extensive background in this field. There is no single source for them but they are available all over the internet if you want to check. (reports do vary)
It seems like a no-brainer, we can use less energy by switching to these sources. But there is another problem or two which must be considered. I just measured a typical 4 bulb fluorescent ceiling fixture in cool white, it produced an output of only 18 lumens/watt from a 200 watt input. The rest of the light was absorbed into the reflector, plastic cover and other surfaces. So now our excellent efficiency florescent light which started out with a high output 80Lm/Watt source has wasted the majority of the light.
What happened to the extra light? The same thing that happens to every inefficient engineering process, it turned into heat!
Fixture losses are common and quite large in the lighting industry. If you put an A19 bulb (standard screw bulb for the US) in a can ceiling light, often less than 30% of the light produced makes it out of the can. The rest is heat.
When world’s governments are making the decision to make the switch mandatory from incandescent the actual savings are always overstated. Not because of exaggerated claims in performance but rather because all heat is considered waste. In the northern countries on our little rock it get’s cold in the winter so a ten percent efficient incandescent turns into a 10% light 90% heat furnace. Of course that heat isn’t wasted, it heats the house and rooms so the furnace runs less.
We run our furnace in my house for about 8 of the twelve months of the year. Canada is north of us and therefore, colder.
Canada has legislation in place to eliminate the incandescent by 2012 (wiki).
Brazil and Venezuela started to phase them out in 2005, and other nations are planning scheduled phase-outs: Ireland and Switzerland in 2009, Italy in 2011, Canada in 2012, and the U.S. between 2012 and 2014. Most of these laws and regulations do not ban the usage of incandescents, but rather ban their sale (with minor exceptions). Australia is planning to ban the sale of lower efficiency incandescent bulbs while continuing to allow the sale of more efficient incandescents, for example halogen incandescent lamps. – wikipedia
Now in the equatorial regions of the world, it would save a reasonable amount of energy to switch from incandescent. In our area we run primarily on nuclear power. A mandatory switch to LED or florescent light will reduce load on the power grid and for 8 of ten months of the year we will produce higher gas bills for heating our houses. It would reduce energy consumption in the summer when air conditioners pump heat from our houses but our AC’s also run on nuke power. The net result in our case will be an increase in CO2 emissions because we will use more natural gas to heat the house.
In Canada or cold locations around the world where furnaces run most of the year, the change from incandescent makes little sense. If the heat is not thought of as wasted, the bulbs are extremely high efficiency sources using a minimum of excess resource. Instead of turning off the light when you leave the room, if it’s cold out and the heat is running go ahead and leave it on. There’s not much difference, just the cost/btu of gas to the cost/Joule of electricity. Either way the room stays warm.
I’m not against saving energy when it makes sense. Some of the best quality LED lights are actually a good cost saving measure for those who can pay the upfront price. It is a shame to see these costs forced upon a whole country like Canada when they will have so little benefit.