Notes from the Green Party Candidate for South Norfolk, for General Election 2015. Longer reflections and discussions on issues relating to policy, the good life, justice, equality, anti-austerity economics and the future of the planet. This is also a forum for exchanging ideas on how to tread lightly on the planet and avoid supporting exploitation and corrupt practices. Here we go...

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Incandescent with rage...

A mailing this week from Lightbulbs Direct (my source of the otherwise unobtainable halogen bulb that I like to have in the uplighter, as well as whatever supplies of traditional light bulbs are still available) confirms that the EU have gone ahead with their threat to ban incandescent light bulbs. Such bulbs (the cloudy sort first) will start to become unobtainable from September (or rather before that, since most of us will panic buy whatever stocks can be supplied before that time). Clear ones may be around for a bit longer but eventually they'll be ruled out too.

Why are we to be deprived of the right to light? Presumably in the interests of saving CO2.

I wonder whether they've actually calculated the saving of CO2 correctly, though. The thing is, an incandescent light bulb produces both light and heat. A flourescent tube produces more light and less heat. The amount of energy put in (watts of electricity) is the same amount of energy as comes out (light and heat). Less energy in, less energy out. More energy in, more energy out.

If you use incendescent bulbs in a room that you are also heating, you will need less heating to keep the room warm than you will if you use a flourescent bulb. So in the winter, nothing is lost if you use an incandescent bulb in a room that is also heated by electricity. Your electricity usage will not go up or down by changing your light bulb.

Perhaps you heat your house by gas, and light it by electricity. Then your electricity usage will go down and your gas usage will go up if you change to cooler bulbs. But now, is this a good thing? It won't be saving CO2 if your gas and your electricity are both causing CO2 to be burnt off.

There is a risk (increasing as more of us join Green tariff electricity) that your electricity was actually coming from a renewable resource, wind power or solar or water or something, and not causing any CO2 emissions at all. So your incandescent bulb was giving you light and heat at no cost to the environment. Then the gas is worse than the electricity. In that case you are doing more damage to the environment by fitting the low wattage bulbs and adding heat from the gas fired heating instead.

So the only occasions on which you will assist the environment by going for the horrid low wattage bulbs is if the light is out doors, if the light is in a room you are not intending to heat or which tends to be too hot already, or if you are burning the light in the summer. But those are a tiny proportion of the occasions for switching on a light, and can be solved if we are all taught to fit a low watt light bulb in a room we never use or in outdoor fittings, and if buildings are built with adequate natural light so that no lighting is needed in the daytime, particularly on summer days. It can't be necessary to make incandescent bulbs illegal to achieve that!

And what about those of us who will have to resort to reading by candle light or gas or oil lamps, since we can't stand the flashing light of the flourescent lighting?

You don't think it flickers? Try this experiment. Sit in a room lit by a flourescent light, and try taking a picture with a digital camera (e.g. the one built into your computer if you have one). Now you'll see. That's why it's so uncomfortable to read by and why it makes you tired and brings on a headache.

My thanks to Bob De Wolf for pointing out how simple the physics of this is, and how dotty the policy is as a result.
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