Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not too bright

In my February 10th post I talked about the benefits of switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs. I learned today that Assemblyman Lloyd Levine has proposed legislation banning incandescent light bulbs and forcing everyone to buy compact fluorescents.

Though I am a hardcore advocate of compact fluorescent usage wherever possible, I cannot support making them mandatory. Despite their efficiency they do have limitations, and can't realistically replace every incandescent light bulb.

For example, compact fluorescent bulbs do not work on
circuits with electronic timers or photocells (those "electric eyes" that turn lights on at dusk and off at dawn.) Their electronic ballasts interfere with the electronics of the other device.

They are also not suited to some decorative fixtures, such as chandeliers where the bulb shape (such as a candle flame) is part of the design. Furthermore, most don't work with dimmers. There are so-called "dimmable fluorescents" but they have a very limited range of dimming before they go completely out. They can't be dimmed nearly as low as an incandescent can.

Finally, it makes no sense to replace incandescent lights that are only used for less than a couple minutes at a time. They aren't contributing nearly enough to the overall energy consumption to justify the cost of a fluorescent.

I would support a system of financial incentives and disincentives to encourage consumers to buy the most efficient bulb rather than the cheapest one. But an outright ban on incandescents is impractical for many situations.

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