Monday, 18 February 2008

Where Low Energy Bulbs Will Mean Waste

The government's proposed ban on traditional incandescent bulbs promises to be a bit of a blunt instrument. People should be able to make informed decisions about what kind of bulb to use where. For example, we have to switch on a light each time we go into our pantry, which has no window. It contains the fridge freezer, food storage, bar, ironing board and sundry other essentials. I reckon we go in about two dozen times a day from about 6.30 am to about 11.30 pm. Each visit probably lasts an average of about 10 seconds, meaning the light is on for about four minutes in all.

We will be expected, and possibly required, to replace the present bulb with an energy saving one. According to the Energy Saving Trust, switching these on uses the same power as leaving them on for a couple of minutes. More worryingly, it admits that turning energy saving bulbs on and off shortens their lives and that, as they are energy expensive to produce, it is best to leave them on for a 'stabilising period' of 10-15 minutes at a time to help make them last as long as possible.

In the case of our pantry, and similar situations, it will therefore be cheaper to leave the light on all day. Even when that daily 17 hours is factored down to take account of the greater energy efficiency, we will still be using 64 times more electricity in that room than we are at present. Similar arguments will apply in many 'short-use' situations.

From long-habit and Brother Tobias' frugality, we turn lights on and off in this house as we go in and out of rooms or pass through and between them. The 15 minute rule is going to defeat this, and I can see that we will be leaving many other lights on throughout the evening. Kitchen, scullery, stairs, bathroom, halls, utility room, bedrooms and lavatories are all examples of lights that are regularly turned on and off. We'll probably have more than a dozen lights burning where we used to have a couple. (An added problem is the need to allow time for the energy-efficient bulbs to reach full output. This makes them potentially dangerous in some situations - for example, switched lighting of steps and stairwells).

Any legislation on availability and use of bulbs needs to be flexible enough to allow people to take informed decisions about which bulbs are appropriate for which locations, otherwise the incentive to save energy will be undermined.


  1. Maybe Eskom will have an answer for you problem? Perhaps they'll let you off on the basis of load-shedding...

  2. You're right. Think what you lot in SA must be saving on electricity bills. Bet the birth rate is going up, though...