July 05, 2009
Incandescent Bulbs To Close Efficiency Gap With Fluorescents?

Here's a happy story for incandescent bulb lovers and also for those who just like to see innovation making things more efficient. Spurred by a US energy efficiency law that set standards for light bulb efficiency innovators are developing ways to make incandescents

The first bulbs to emerge from this push, Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers, are expensive compared with older incandescents. They sell for $5 apiece and more, compared with as little as 25 cents for standard bulbs.

But they are also 30 percent more efficient than older bulbs. Philips says that a 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb and lasts about three times as long, eventually paying for itself.

So this regulation for light bulb efficiency spurred a lot of innovation.

A company called Deposition Sciences is developing methods to increase efficiency and licensing the technology to light bulb manufacturers. One approach: reflect heat back onto the filament the heat gets converted into light. Other innovators are also finding ways to improve the efficiency of these bulbs.

The people who dread what previously seemed like an inevitable switch to fluorescents and LEDs are going to be happy to hear that the incandescents will survive.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 July 05 11:43 PM  Energy Lighting


Comments
Engineer-Poet said at July 6, 2009 2:02 PM:

So they've been able to get the same lumens from a 70 W "new incandescent" as a 100 W conventional.  Big deal; a CF gets the same lumens from about 20 watts.

I don't see this going very far.

K said at July 6, 2009 2:17 PM:

This seems like beating a dying horse. In pain it may stagger a few more steps. And those few steps may solve your problem today.

Your horse still dies.

But improvements in technology can usually be viewed calmly. It is hard to be passionat about the future of incandescent lighting. The incandescent and fluorescent makers must increase efficiency and/or durability faster than the LED makers solve objections about cost and colors. And I doubt they can.


I bought LEDs where I could use them. The color doesn't bother me and the cost was bearable. A problem with LEDs is still selection, you may not find the sizes or shapes you need.

John Moore said at July 6, 2009 5:30 PM:

Doesn't matter. Nanny government in the US has already outlawed them starting a few years into the future.

Shannon Love said at July 6, 2009 5:32 PM:

So this regulation for light bulb efficiency spurred a lot of innovation.

Oh, nonsense. Electric lighting has grown progressively more efficient ever since Edison. The only thing that artificial political design parameters do is drive up cost short term and force people to make tradeoffs they don't want to make. They don't even save energy because owing to Jevon's paradox, raising the efficiency of a technology such as lighting increases its overall energy consumption when people use more of it.

Engineer-Poet said at July 6, 2009 5:50 PM:

Shannon, do you really think that people replace 100 W incandescents with 100 W of fluorescents?  You can't even buy 100 W units that will fit in your typical table lamp.

I do hope you were being sarcastic.

Jake said at July 6, 2009 6:14 PM:

The trouble with CFS is that America's homes will be flooded with mercury. Only the federal government could have a department that uses draconian measures to remove mercury from our environment. And at the same time have another department that uses draconian measures to flood our environment with mercury.

Fat Man said at July 6, 2009 8:25 PM:

I have an LED flash light with one led that produces 100 lumens. A standard 60 watt bulb produces 800 lumens. I feel fairly confident that within a few years LEDs will have reached a price performance level where they will be able to completely replace bulbs.

No more fixtures shaped like 18th century artifacts, no more light bulb changing. Much less electricity consumed, less waste heat.

dave said at July 6, 2009 8:27 PM:

Well good, maybe our rich liberal eco-fascist overlords will allow the masses to keep a few lightbulbs. Only rich liberal scum like Obama and Pelosi would purposefully raise energy prices on the middle class. Hey, doubling energy prices isn't a big deal for Obama and his rich lefty pals. Too bad for the rest of us I guess. Good thing we morons have Obama to tell us how to live our lives and pass laws to control our behavior. Who needs freedom and individual liberty anyway?

averros said at July 7, 2009 1:08 AM:

> Shannon, do you really think that people replace 100 W incandescents with 100 W of fluorescents? You can't even buy 100 W units
> that will fit in your typical table lamp.

No. They will simply keep lights on. Because, you see, they're efficient, and cheap to keep on.

averros said at July 7, 2009 1:15 AM:

Anybody who thinks fluorescents and LEDs are superior to incadescent lights needs to take a spectrometer and take a look.

LEDs are particularly crappy, as are most fluorescents. A few CLFs (rather expensive "full-spectrum" ones) do a decent job. Still far from the blackbody-like spectrum of incadescents.

(And do not think that bad spectrum lights are harmless... they make your eyes and brain work much harder to parse confusing color signals, which gets you tired faster, contributing to chronic stress).

mad-as-H said at July 8, 2009 11:24 AM:

Hey, what about candles? They were good enough for Lincoln, they should be good enough for Herr Obama.

FreddyKWatt said at July 8, 2009 11:33 AM:

Watts is energy in. Lumens is the amount of light being generated.

CFLs need about 80% fewer WATTS to generate the same LUMENS as an incandescent bulb.

In addition to efficiency, quality of light is also important (metamerism). This is much more subjective than energy, but still can be quantified by LAB, CIE and other spectral standards. This is a major reason people prefer incandescents over CFLs. Long warmup time is another negative for CFLs.

That's why we need to let engineers and scientists make technical decisions, NOT POLITICIANS or PUNDITS.

jim2 said at July 8, 2009 11:44 AM:

" ... eventually paying for itself."

There seems to be a bit of a math problem here.

Even of one fully and generously credits the 70-watts energy equal to 100-watt energy and lasting 3x as long, that's still a gain of just 4.29 (100/70 x 3) versus 20 times the cost ($5 versus $0.25).

Joshua R. Poulson said at July 8, 2009 11:54 AM:

LLF Inc, now Cree, produces can lights, 2x2 troffers, and PAR-38 replacements with better efficiency than CF, and better color quality, with half the power of CF and 1/5 the power of "old" incandescent, but with 10X costs and 10X service life.

Why consider CF or even this "new" incandescent even with this kind of up front cost?

David B said at July 8, 2009 11:59 AM:

There are not words strong enough to describe how much we hate CFLs in our home.
Every time we have bought a pack 25-30% have either not worked or gone out after a short time (weeks or a few months).
The light is horrible compared with the variety & clarity from regular bulbs. If you don't see it, I want to know where you get you specs?
And don't get me started over trying to thoroughly clean up after our toddler knocked the lamp over.

These are chinese produced POS. We will never buy another bloody pack again, despite what DC, Walmart or GE want.

So bring on ALL of the innovation possible in every area: regular lighting, LCDs & yes CFLs & give ME the effing choice as to what I want in MY home. Algore & Nancy & the rest of the freakshow can light their funny farms any way they want.
Just leave me the hell alone.

Ps I'm not a Republican, never voted for W.
Simply a Brit in the Bluegrass, utterly amazed at what is happening to the country I fell in love with...

bill b said at July 8, 2009 12:11 PM:

Engineer poet

How do you say CFLs are more efficient when for over half the year I heat my house and I gets to 30 below??? The heat is a waste product???

In the summer, the days are longer.

There will be no savings in this, except perhaps south of Virginia.

Nother example of a one size fits all blunder by beaurocrats.....nice

John Bono said at July 8, 2009 12:13 PM:

The irony, of course, is that incandescent bulbs are only inefficient in the summertime. Winter is another story. Every watt an indoor bulb "wastes" as heat is radiated into a room that would otherwise burn oil, natural gas, coal, or wood to heat that room.

Korla Pundit said at July 8, 2009 12:21 PM:

Fluorescent bulbs suck. The light is ghastly. They are not dimmable, except for some very expensive semi-dimmable ones that have awful light. Also, they are just too honking huge and ugly. They do not fit my current fixtures. Should I rip out all my ceilings and put in new recessed fixtures, and all new switches as well? To what end? To get a bunch of Mercury in my house and a whole lot of terrible and depressing light?

The only fluorescent bulb I want is the one I shove up Al Gore's anus before I kick him down the stairs.

Korla Pundit said at July 8, 2009 12:25 PM:

> I feel fairly confident that within a few years LEDs will have reached a price performance level where they will be able to completely replace bulbs.

I have a lamp with LED lights in it. One of them stopped working. The manufacturer says it can't be replaced or fixed.

Great new technology! Hope! Change!

College Know-It-All Hippy said at July 8, 2009 12:37 PM:

What's Mr. Slave going to do with a CFL?

Ragtimer said at July 8, 2009 12:37 PM:

> Shannon, do you really think that people replace 100 W incandescents with 100 W of fluorescents? You can't even buy 100 W units that will fit in your typical table lamp.

I do. I also have access to a metal shop and injection molder, so if the bulb doesn't fit because of the lampshade, I cut it off and attach a new one that does.

I also fixed up my Mom's house, replacing all the 25W bulbs in her ceiling fans with 100W (23W actual) CFCs. It really makes the carnival glasses in the china cabinet sparkle.

Rich said at July 8, 2009 12:38 PM:

I have bluish CFL's in my house that are quite nice for reading and some general work. Problem is the limited wattages available. Bigger problem:
Using CFLs outside. My outside lights on on two level motion and light level detectors (they go one when it gets dark and they are at a low light level until something passes by). This allows me to have lite areas around the house without too much light but plenty when someone comes down the walk.
The CFL bulbs do not last when it is cold, they burn out very very quickly. So what are we supposed to do for utside lights?

2. I have ceiling fixtures that use dimmers for mood or background lighting - cfls are not in general dimmable, those that are require a very expensive dimmer.

CFLs solve a problem that does not exist. Most of the people that pushed this are relying on junk science by people who have an agenda to push.

Combine this with cap and trade and we won't have to worry about cfl or not because we will be back in the 1700's economy along with the rest of the dirt poor 3rd world.

Anonymous said at July 8, 2009 12:54 PM:

Anyone notice that running these wonderfully green lights rather than incandescents that you are running your heaters more during the winter?

More "green" BS, sigh.

Principlex said at July 8, 2009 1:01 PM:

There's a lot more to lighting than efficiency and price. There's the quality of the light and how that affects mood, pleasure and so forth.

The other day I saw a ghastly light issuing from an apartment in my building. My first thought was, "They must be growing marijuana in there." There will be no way that I would live in such an environment. Unless, of course, you want to force me with a gun or threat of prison, and I wouldn't put it past the nanny state to try this.

Koblog said at July 8, 2009 2:02 PM:

There's a problem called "spectrum" involved with all these alternate light sources. Non-incandescent light sources simply don't put out a full or even continuous spectrum of light. It's why we instinctively know something's wrong with the light.

For instance, fluorescent usually has a pronounced green spike and whole sections of the spectrum missing altogether. Try shooting film under that light. Very challenging. It's getting better, but to make it work, multiple phosphors must be applied to the inside of the tube, each one fluorescing at a different spectrum. Together, you get "white" light. To make full-spectrum light they really need to be sophisticated. And you don't find such bulbs for $2 at your local grocery store.

LEDs are similar. They like to put out very specific wavelengths. It's why you can get a blue, green or red LED. White LEDs are getting better, but we still sense something is missing or wrong. They're like lasers. Very bright, but also annoying.

The sun is the baseline. That's really full spectrum. Incandescent is closer because it's basically a controlled burn that emits full spectrum, but limited at the blue end.

TTT said at July 8, 2009 3:38 PM:

Most people don't know the difference between Watts and Lumens. This is part of the problem.

edison said at July 8, 2009 4:27 PM:

What people fail to take into account is that current light bulbs in the colder climates are close to 90% efficient. How can this be? People forget that in cooler climates heat is a feature not a bug for 9 months out of the year. In the winter I use every bit of energy (light AND heat) that the bulb converts from electricity. Better still, in the warmer months I don't use the bulb that much since the days are long. This whole effort of regulating energy efficiency really just ends up causing more pollution as the more complex replacements take a whole boat load of energy to manufacture. That is one of the reasons why the big price difference. Oh well as long as everyone FEELS better!

AuricTech said at July 8, 2009 7:11 PM:

mad-as-H said at July 8, 2009 11:24 AM: Hey, what about candles? They were good enough for Lincoln, they should be good enough for Herr Obama.

Ah, but you're forgetting the carbon footprint of candles....

Pickles said at July 8, 2009 7:20 PM:

Do CFLs still have that potential fire-starting issue when recessed or covered by glass (such as in a ceiling fan)? I had my idiot neighbor accidentally start a fire that burned down an entire row of townhouses a few years ago; I'm not going to risk that happening again now that I own my own home. I haven't found a CFL that I like the light quality of yet, and they're pricey enough I'm not going to run my own quality tests. Plus, it's a security risk to walk into your own home and not be able to see instantly if someone's there waiting for you (I live in a good area now; I didn't always). If you're not as paranoid as I am, how about being able to see whether your pet is trying to escape out the door while you wait for your eyes to adjust and/or the light to finally flicker on?

I tried an LED bulb in a reading lamp and found myself straining no matter how I adjusted it or how close I was. I discovered the new incandescents about a month ago and love them. Sorry, but I don't like the light quality of LEDs or CFLs, I'm not fond of mercury in my food or in my home, and the risk of my house burning down *again* since my spouse always forgets to turn the lights off just isn't worth it. I'm thrilled.

Joe said at July 8, 2009 7:32 PM:

A pure fluorescent requires 25% of the electricity of traditional incandescent. Once you twist the fluorescent, as many CFLs do, it's more about 30%-35%.

As an aside, I've tried CFLs and didn't like them. On my last vacation, our hotel had CFLs from Harmony. They were nice, though were only about 80% as bright as a 60 watt bulb would have been.

mplsbob said at July 8, 2009 9:13 PM:

The normal stupid person will throw their CFL into the garbage where it will accumulate into a landfill. A few years later, we will start to see birth defects and nervous disorders due to the increase in mercury levels in our water supplies that will surpass anything that current coal fired power plants will emit.

Unintended consequences is the common mantra of government mandates.

mplsbob said at July 8, 2009 9:16 PM:

Efficiency of a CFL drops every degree below 70F
In Minnesota, that is quite a lot of days below 70F

John said at July 9, 2009 6:29 AM:

Jim2, yes, if you do the math correctly, the new bulbs DO pay for themselves (leaving asside the issue of how they contribute to heating/cooling costs anyway). Basically, the upfront costs for the bulbs are $0.75 for the old bubls (you need three to get the same amount of time) and $5.00, leaving a difference of $4.25. Assuming a cost of $0.10 per kilowatt hour for electricity, the new bulbs (100 watt equivilent) save you $0.003 an hour, so after less that 150 hours of use, the new bulbs are in positive territory. Since typical old style bulbs last in the neighborhood of 1500 hours, electricity would have to be even far cheaper than I estimated in order for the new bulbs to not save you money (on average anyway).

John said at July 9, 2009 6:34 AM:

Oops, my math was bad, its not 150 hours its 1500 hours.

jim2 said at July 10, 2009 10:17 AM:

John -

The new Halogena bulbs appear to be marketed as lasting 2,000 hours.

Best I can tell, the 100w bulbs they intend to replace last 750 or 1,000 hours, depending on brand, so the 3x is a bit (2250 versus 2000) or more than a bit (3000 versus 2000) generous to the Halogena.

With your postulated electricity cost (10 cents/kwh), and neglecting the other factors, the break-even point does seem to be about 1500 hours.

Note that the average proce of electricity in the US in March 2008 was 9.11 cents/kwh and in March 2009 was 9.75 cents/kwh, per the latest data here:

http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html

That would make the electricity coat appear to again be generous to the Halogena case.

Additionally, note that the higher electric costs raising the overall average are in the more northern states, which would mean the extra watts might be more of a positive factor.

Other neglected factors would include inadvertent breakage. That is, if one or one's kid inadvertently breaks a 100w, the loss is much less than the breakage of the Halogena. While not a math factor, it is a real-life one.

On balance, it looks like an overall break-even, it that, for the Halogena.

jim2 said at July 10, 2009 12:22 PM:

Wow -

I sure make typo mistakes when I'm in a hurry!

Particularly easy to miss ones that pass spellcheck.

Engineer-Poet said at July 10, 2009 8:56 PM:

I find it very amusing that a bunch of geek-wannabes are extolling the virtues of electric resistance heat when they know full well that it is far more efficient to burn the fuel directly on-site, or to use a heat pump.  (The excuse used to be the 120 Hz flicker rate, but the high-frequency electronic ballasts took that one away so a new excuse had to be invented.)  Cognitive dissonance is fun to watch; it's like a bunch of people getting stupid-drunk without any chemical excuse (except maybe the endogenous brain chemicals from re-affirming their tribal identity).

I have been using fluorescents for nigh unto 14 years now.  I started with the circle-tube inserts suitable for table lamps, and I still have some that work.  I can swap the tubes out if I don't care for the phosphors.  With the exception of the cheap-ass Feit Electric bulbs and Lights of America 3-way units (which vaporize their current-sense resistors when the tubes fail), all have done fairly well.  Yes, I have been using 3-way CF's for over a decade.

So far I have broken ONE, and that was a hairline fracture of a folded tube (I was messing with it at the time).  The EPA limits on mercury exposure are not exceeded by a broken tube as long as you sweep it up.  Mercury is volatile and won't stick around long.  If you're paranoid, only buy bulbs with protective plastic outer casings.  We get far more mercury exposure from coal-fired power to run incandescents than we'd ever get from CFs sitting in landfills... assuming that we don't get a proper disposal program in place for them.

When I switched from incandescent to CFs, I saw my electric consumption drop by about a quarter.  I didn't change my refrigerator, my computer, or anything else; that was just due to lights.  I am running one light in the house right now, and it is a CF.  The one thing they do poorly is dim, because of the mis-matched response curves between CF and incandescents.  This is a technical issue; you can literally fix it in software.

Incandescents with heat mirrors are a huge step backwards.  They would have been worthwhile 30 years ago, but things have moved on.  The path of progress goes to things like OLEDs.

Randall Parker said at July 12, 2009 10:50 PM:

The people who argue that waste heat from incandescents is beneficial are missing something basic: Electric space heaters are about the most expensive way to heat a building. Oil heaters are cheaper. Natural gas heaters are cheaper still. Using electric power to run a ground sink heat pump is a few times more efficient than an electric space heater.

jim2 said at July 13, 2009 11:32 AM:

Those folks are not arguing for the efficiency of incandescents due to waste heat being an efficient source of that heat. Instead, they are simply pointing out that the side effect of a hotter bulb over the cool incandescent one are not usually a loss but a gain, albeit small.

Nick G said at July 13, 2009 12:08 PM:

Jim2,

Don't forget that for most people in the US, A/C is equally or more important than heating. The extra power used by A/C to get rid of incandescent heat in summer is generally substantially more expensive than the savings on heating in winter.

jim2 said at July 14, 2009 7:05 AM:

Nick -

I was simply explaining the side-effect benefit that others had cited.

However, I would be glad to address your point.

First, I am not convinced that heat is easier to get rid of (power-wise), since heat pumps lose efficiency in cold weather, not in hot. Perhaps you could provide some evidence to support your remarks?

Second, as I pointed out in an earlier response, electric rates are generally higher in the more northern parts of the US (I provided a link), where the A/C needs would be relatively small/short.

Mr Alias said at July 14, 2009 10:01 AM:

What's all this crap people are always touting about freedom of choice? Nobody would do anything responsible if there weren't laws telling them to do so! Maybe we shouldn't have speeding laws? Or laws telling us not dump nuclear waste in the harbour? Or child labour laws? Or laws telling you not to walk across railroad tracks, or dangerous appendages to your motorcycle? Hey, freedom of choice, right?
The" 'free market' will magically sort itself out!

Seriously, you need to see the the Simpsons episode with 'do what you feel day'.

peter dublin said at July 14, 2009 11:51 AM:

Americans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10.
Banning what Americans want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

If new LED lights -or improved incandescents, like you mention - are good,
people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned... they were bought less anyway.

All lights have their advantages
The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

100 W+ equivalent brightness is a particular issue - difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS - yet such incandescent bulbs are apparently first in line for banning (as in the EU)!

There are also problems in achieving small size bright bulbs with fluorescents and LEDS, while halogens, related to ordinary bulbs are only slightly more efficient, and will gradually be phased out too given the proposed efficiency limits.

In any case:
Since when does America need to save on electricity?
There is no energy shortage, there are plenty of local energy sources, Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation.
Consumers pay for any power stations, just as they do for factories and shops generally.
Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money - but why force them to do it?


Emissions?
OK: Does a light bulb give out any gases?
Power stations might not either:
In Washington state practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in states like New York and California.
Why should emission-free Seattle, New York and Los Angeles households there be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.

Also, the savings amounts can be questioned for many reasons:
For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see
http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x onwards

jim2 said at July 14, 2009 5:13 PM:

Salmon-free electricity is no paragon.

Korla Pundit said at July 15, 2009 8:55 AM:

It's all about lining the pockets of people at the top, in the name of global warming, er... I mean "climate change" (just to cover all the bases in this, the coolest summer on record!).


Engineer-Poet said at July 17, 2009 11:17 PM:

Addressing some of the misleading statements above:

  1. Compact fluorescents PAY FOR THEMSELVES with their cost savings.  A CF which saves 78 watts over a 5000 hour lifespan uses some $39 less in electricity at $.10/kWh; show me the CF that costs $39 (I bought 6 for $10 a while back).
  2. While it may be difficult to retrofit high-wattage fixtures with CFs of equivalent brightness, this does not mean that you can't design new ones.  There has been at least one 250-watt-equivalent fluorescent torchiere on the market.
  3. Yeah, Washington may be sitting pretty with all its hydropower.  Now make the case for incandescents for consumers served by the TVA.
  4. If utilities were allowed to GIVE CFs to consumers (or sell them at the same price as incandescents) and collect even half the savings as profit, they'd be on it like stink on shit.
CFs make so much sense, commercial users like hotels switched to them years ago.  There's no reason to waste power in 4%-efficient incandescents, heating the air on summer nights like tonight.  I am currently lighting my house with 2 CFs, using about 30 watts total in 2 rooms.  If you think I'm crazy to do this, do feel free to bet against me—I own utility stock, so all you're doing is paying me dividends.

Engineer-Poet said at July 18, 2009 10:03 AM:

Here is a 300 W-equivalent CF torchiere which uses only 70 watts.

At 10¢/kWh, this lamp saves about 2.3¢/hour over the incandescent equivalent.  At $45.95, it would pay for itself in 2000 hours of use.

joseph55 said at July 22, 2009 4:00 AM:

RE Engineer-poet

"There's no reason to waste power in 4%-efficient incandescents, heating the air on summer nights like tonight. "
Noone is forcing you to use incandescents - noone should force you to use CFLs.

"Compact CFLs pay for themselves"
Good - so let people who want to buy them - there are plenty of reasons including preferred light quality, why people might prefer
incandescents....money is not everything, yet that is all that ban proponents focus on.
As the peter dublin link http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x above shows, the overall savings, taking all switchover factors into account, are doubtful anyway.

Engineer-Poet said at July 27, 2009 8:10 AM:
Noone is forcing you to use incandescents - noone should force you to use CFLs.
Incandescent users can get a pass from me when they pony up a deposit for the additional powerplant capacity they require.  Aren't plants running upwards of $2/watt today?  Figuring the difference between a 100-watt incandescent and the 23-watt CFL of similar brightness, that's about $150 of extra powerplant they're using.  Why should I have to pay for that?  (Yes, the exact same argument applies to inefficient air conditioners and other appliances.  If the capital cost of the powerplant was paid directly by the consumer, top-efficiency gear would be a no-brainer.)
Good - so let people who want to buy them - there are plenty of reasons including preferred light quality, why people might prefer incandescents....money is not everything, yet that is all that ban proponents focus on.
I'm all for people doing what they want as long as they aren't shifting the costs onto others.
As the peter dublin link http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x above shows, the overall savings, taking all switchover factors into account, are doubtful anyway.
Dublin shows nothing of the sort.  His claims are laid out in bold but he doesn't link to anything to support them (probably because the claims are baseless).  Elsewhere, he ignores cost-shifting.  Example:  "Around 9 out of 10 times consumers in the EU, USA, and elsewhere, prefer to buy ordinary light bulbs."  Why would they do that?  Could it be because THEY are not paying the cost of the powerplants at the time of purchase, and aren't even looking at the cost over the lifespan of the bulb?

You didn't answer my point 4 above.  Should utilities be allowed to sell CFLs to consumers at the same price as incandescents, and then collect half of the cost savings as profit?  If not, why not?

joseph55 said at July 27, 2009 9:26 AM:

Engineer Poet
what you say about unfair costs doesn't make sense.

If incandescents are using more energy, people pay more for the energy use and so are paying their share in any power plants needed.
If you are making such great savings, you are not having to pay much towards power plants either.
{Plenty of references on http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x if you scroll down - eg http://www.ceolas.net/#li6x and from
http://www.ceolas.net/#li13x scrolling on)

Engineer-Poet said at July 27, 2009 11:41 AM:
If incandescents are using more energy, people pay more for the energy use and so are paying their share in any power plants needed.
No, they are not, because of the way utility regulation works in most places. 
If you are making such great savings, you are not having to pay much towards power plants either.
Utilities take out bonds to build new powerplants.  When the plants are completed, the utilities apply to the PUC to add them to the rate base.  This increases the per-kWh cost for ALL users, whether they increased or decreased their demand.

And you STILL can't answer point 4.  Why's that?  Are you afraid that "consumer choice" would stampede the other way?

Paul Bracciano said at July 30, 2009 7:26 AM:

Engineer poet

the point 4 you mention
"If utilities were allowed to GIVE CFs to consumers (or sell them at the same price as incandescents) and collect even half the savings as profit..."

Presumably you are thinking of something like cell phones.
Give away the hardware and make money on the usage.
Except in this case - if the usage savings are so great - the utility companies lose twice over.
First they give away energy saving light bulbs, then they earn less from people using them, instead of ordinary light bulbs.
Not a very bright idea, is it?


"Utilities take out bonds to build new powerplants. When the plants are completed, the utilities apply to the PUC to add them to the rate base. This increases the per-kWh cost for ALL users, whether they increased or decreased their demand."

Sure, power companies finance new plants by taking out bonds.
But the repayments still come out of income from customers.

One can add - for example - state subsidies paying for jobs in building power plants (or any other state contribution to construction), sure, it can mean that public finance - and hence taxpayers - shouldering some of the costs.
If that's unfair, that's unfair with pretty well all else in society, that tax payers pay for, and don't use.
No need for a particular gripe here.
Those who pay more for usage, are still paying more towards power plants as well: towards infrastructure and maintenance.

Engineer-Poet said at July 30, 2009 8:54 PM:
First they give away energy saving light bulbs, then they earn less from people using them, instead of ordinary light bulbs.
What part of "collect even half of the savings as profit" didn't you understand?  The savings from a $2 CF can be in excess of $30.  As a utility, putting money into capital assets with annual ROR of as much as 100% is a no-brainer.
Sure, power companies finance new plants by taking out bonds. But the repayments still come out of income from customers.
The issue is who pays the rate increases from capital expenditures vs. who actually generates the need for those expenditures.
Those who pay more for usage, are still paying more towards power plants as well: towards infrastructure and maintenance.
You're ignoring the issues of efficiency and equity (they are closely related).
  • It is certainly inequitable for users who have decreased their demand paying increased rates because of users who have increased their demand.
  • It is inefficient if the costs are mis-allocated.  For instance, it may take only a fraction of the capital expenditure to put in a bunch of Ice Bear cooling units instead of adding peaking power to run conventional A/C; it would also decrease average grid losses and peak-load related wear on equipment.  But the mis-allocation of the capital costs to all consumers fails to reward the most efficient option, so overall costs are higher.
You may have noticed that credit is no longer easy to come by, and we certainly do not have infinite supplies of steel and concrete.  We need to allocate our resources wisely, and misallocation of costs is going to screw things up to a lesser or greater degree.  Measures like time-of-day rates, with the capital cost recovery allocated mostly to the peak hour rates, would start to fix some of this.
joseph55 said at July 31, 2009 8:47 AM:

Hello again Engineer...

Not much savings worth arguing about anyway, if you looked at those links above

Paul Bracciano said at August 1, 2009 5:48 AM:

Engineer Poet said

"What part of "collect even half of the savings as profit" didn't you understand?"

(and earlier: "If utilities were allowed to GIVE CFs to consumers (or sell them at the same price as incandescents) and collect even half the savings as profit...")

Actually, I understand none of it:
You don't explain how your great idea would work in practice:

WHO is going to hand out free -or cheaper- CFLs to power companies?
WHO is going to pay "half the savings"?
WHO is going to cover the loss of power company earnings from people using CFLs instead of incandescents - assuming that CFLs save so much power?

Of course, it's the customers who end up paying for CFLs and usage.

Any "billions of savings" is of course from banning what people want to use, since incandescents are so popular.
Why not ban them from using freezers etc too, or other popular products, lots more savings for you...

So you are in effect saying they have to pay more for using CFLs, since power companies are going to be paid out of their savings... hardly a popular move, since they don't like CFLs as it is, from sales stats.

As an engineer, surely you understand that people should be allowed to use what safe products they want in their own homes, and emissions and other problems dealt with directly and properly, at power station level.


Engineer-Poet said at August 1, 2009 12:06 PM:

joseph55:  I did look at your links, remember?  The author of ceolas.net is writing BS.  If you can't tell the difference between BS and hard data because you can't evaluate the basis and follow the calculations, you won't be able to understand my explanation either.  Further effort to educate you is pointless.

Bracciano:  You've also got a comprehension problem there.  I didn't suggest a specific program.  But I'll come up with a skeleton of one just to illustrate the concept.  Suppose that the utility:

  1. Buys the CFs out of its own funds.
  2. Sells them to consumers at the same price as incandescents.
  3. In return for the discount, the utility adds half the calculated power savings to the consumer's bill, giving the other half of the savings to the consumer.

Suppose that the consumer was using some 100 watt bulbs 1500 hours per year and getting 1000 hours of life out of them.  The consumer would be paying for 1.5 bulbs/fixture/year plus 150 kWh/bulb/year.  At a discount retail price of 75¢/bulb and perhaps 8¢/kWh retail, the consumer's total cost is $13.12/fixture/year.

The utility sells the 100 W CF to the consumer at 75¢.  The CF uses 22 watts, for a total consumption of 33 kWh/fixture/year at a retail cost of $2.64.  The retail savings come to $9.36/year for the 3.33 year lifespan of the CF (5000 hours).  The consumer collects half of this savings, for a total of $15.60 over the life of the CF.  The consumer saves a further $3 from having to buy only 1 bulb instead of 5.

The utility pays $2/unit to buy and distribute the CFs, collecting $0.75/ea for a net loss of $1.25.  Once in the field, the utility saves 3¢/kWh generation cost over the life of the unit (78 W savings * 5000 hr = 390 kWh, $11.70 saved) plus billing half the savings to the consumer at retail ($15.60).  The utility's gross profit is ($11.70+$15.60-$1.25)=$26.05/unit over the 3.33 year lifespan.  That is $7.82/year in gross profit on a $2.00 investment.

Everybody's got a better bottom line (except the people selling fuel).  The utility makes nearly 400%/year on the CFs themselves.  What's not to like?

Why not ban them from using freezers etc too, or other popular products, lots more savings for you...
The popularity of incandescents comes mostly from two things:
  • trouble with older-technology or poor quality CFs (stay the hell away from Feit and Lights of America!).
  • Not being able to see the savings beyond the immediate purchase price.
What's wrong with a ban on INEFFICIENT freezers?  We could slash power demand to a fraction of what we use now by using e.g. vacuum-insulated panels instead of just urethane foam insulation.  The only reason vacuum insulation costs so much now is that it's a low-volume product.  It would be very cheap in mass production because there is almost literally nothing to it.

If there is a problem with the capital cost, we could create a similar deal to the one I proposed for CFs:  let the utility (owners and bondholders) make the investment and split the savings with the consumers.  You'd keep the same stuff cold for a fraction of the power, and as a BONUS your food would take several times as long to thaw if the power went out.  Seriously, do you think the public would go for it or not?

So you are in effect saying they have to pay more for using CFLs, since power companies are going to be paid out of their savings... hardly a popular move, since they don't like CFLs as it is, from sales stats.
I have several lamps I want to put CFs in, but I can't because the necks of the globes are too narrow for the ballasts.  That is the kind of thing which affects sales stats.  How hard do you think it would be to make a long-necked CF (like a 3-way bulb)?  It's very simple, and they will be on the market just as soon as something generates some demand.
As an engineer, surely you understand that people should be allowed to use what safe products they want in their own homes, and emissions and other problems dealt with directly and properly, at power station level.
As an engineer, I understand that some problems CANNOT be dealt with at the power station level.  You are aware of things like time-of-day rates and interruptible service?  They exist to solve those problems.

As an engineer, I understand that a system-wide approach yields superior results in most cases.  If it takes less capital to make an end-use more efficient than to build a plant to supply the excess, the wise approach is to target the end use.  It doesn't matter if the product is safe; if I can slash 75% of the demand from a segment of end-uses using different products, my problem at the power station just got smaller and cheaper too.

peter dublin said at September 18, 2009 12:59 PM:

How the "energy saving" lights (CFLs) power factor affects your Electricity Bill

Power companies typically need to generate more than twice as as much power to operate a typical CFL
than what your electricity meter - or CFL rating - shows, once everything is taken into consideration.
Of course you end up having to pay for this anyway, in electricity charges being higher than they otherwise would have been.

Without going into technicalities, this has to do with current and voltage phase differences set up when CFLs are used.
There is nothing new or strange about this
Industries are today penalized if they present such a work load to the power station.

Explaining power factor is not easy.. but people do their best.
The US Department of Energy ( http://www1.eere.energy.gov/industry/bestpractices/pdfs/mc60405.pdf ) compares with a horse pulling a load, while Sylvania light bulb manufacturer uses a foamy glass of beer analogy, before going into technical details - and light bulb comparisons ( http://www.sylvania.com/content/display.scfx?id=003680184 )

Unfortunately, that is only the begining of the extra costs that may be involved,
since the way CFLs use power also sets up so-called harmonic distortion in electricity grids that may therefore need to be adapted accordingly,
and there are other factors increasing electricity transmission costs
See http://www.ceolas.net/#li15eux onwards

Expensive CFLs do exist with corrected power factor, but they are rare on the market and power factor tends to worsen with use anyway.

Unsurprisingly politicians prefer to keep quiet about this as about other CFL disadvantages - and you will never know that your electricity bill is affected.

peter dublin said at September 18, 2009 1:17 PM:

Rebound effects acting against supposed savings

There are many reasons, as referenced from http://www.ceolas.net/#li13x onwards,
why supposed savings of banning ordinary light bulbs and other inefficient household products, don't hold up.

Also:
There are rebound effects.

See more on
http://ceolas.net/#cc214x

Examples

Effect on Electricity Bills
If energy use does indeed fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans,
electricity companies make less money,
and they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate,
given fixed overheads that have to be met regardless of using less fuel
(especially since power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition)
Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise…
- Money savings then affected

Conversely:
Since energy efficiency in effect means cheaper energy,
people simply leave appliances on more than before
(in the case of CFLs they’re supposed to be left on more anyway, to avoid cutting down on their lifespan)
These effects have been shown by Scottish and Cambridge research, as linked on the website.
- Supposed energy and emission savings then affected

Chris Prelitz said at January 11, 2010 9:13 AM:

CFL's like infernal combustion engines have come a LONG way in the last decade. I have beautiful dimmable CFL's in great color (2700K) with no danger of mercury. They use an amalgam similar to dental fillings that, will NOT LEACH mercury if they are broken in a home or landfill. It's like the difference between a Yugo and a Lexus. The challenge is finding thesed high quality lamps. Best place I know is New Leaf America dot com. Come on...who wouldn't want a 20% - 30% drop in the electric bill.

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