EU No Longer Selling 100w Light Bulbs

Apparently today the EU is banning the production of 100w light bulbs.  While I rather like this idea, it has been met with much opposition for various reasons.  However, there was quote by EU commission which was rather startling about how effective this change will be.    lightbulb-idea

The EU Commission projects the ban on the energy-inefficient bulbs will save about 40 terawatt hours of energy in the EU per year — enough to meet the energy demands of a small country.

Ya folks that is Terawatts.  Just to kind of wrap your head around that, the typical home today uses about 26 kilowatts a day.  There are a thousand watts in a kilowatt, a thousand kilowatts in a megawatt, and a thousand megawatts in a gigawatt and a 1000 gigawatts in a terawatt, in the end a terawatt is 1,000,000,000,000 watts!  (thanks for the correction Grant 🙂  ) Times that by forty and it is seriously astounding!  Treehugger wrote this article about how people are hoarding these bulbs and its their point counter point against these bulbs.

Reprinted: Treehugger Loyd Alter 9/09

1) Compact Fluorescents have Mercury in them, and that’s bad for the environment

Mercury is bad stuff when it gets into the environment, but the main source of environmental mercury is from coal burning power plants. As Pablo showed in Should I Worry About Deadly Mercury In My CFLs?,

Over 5 years (the life of a CFL) it may be responsible for 2.4mg of smokestack mercury emissions, so a total of 6.4mg of mercury over the life of the bulb. By comparison the incandescent bulb is responsible for almost 10mg of mercury emissions over 5 years. But CFLs can be recycled to recapture the mercury. Smokestack emissions can not be recaptured after they enter the atmosphere.

2) If you break a bulb you will need to call a Hazmat Team to clean it up.

The two to five milligrams of mercury (smaller than the nib on a ballpoint pen) will evaporate quickly; open the windows and ventilate the room. See Ask TreeHugger: Is Mercury from a Broken CFL Dangerous?

3) Incandescents put out useful heat in some parts of the country.

Electricity is a very expensive way to heat, and the bulbs are not putting out the heat where you need it. Even if this were not the case, it is only true for half the year. More: Study Shows Incandescent Bulbs Are Warm and Toasty

4) I don’t like the quality of the light.

The Energy Saving Trust in the UK set up a sort of Pepsi challenge to see if people really could tell them apart. Smart Planet reports “Although 70 per cent of the 761 shoppers that were asked to step inside the booths thought they could spot the difference, 53 per cent got it wrong or admitted they couldn’t see any difference. A whopping 64 per cent of the guinea pigs said they preferred the light in booth A, which was in fact the energy-saving lightbulb.Last Post Ever on Compact Fluorescents, It’s Settled

5) I am waiting for LEDs.

So am I. But right now most have lousy colour balance, are not bright enough and are still very expensive. They have a long way to go before they will be competitive. Meanwhile, if you wait five years for them, you will have paid a lot for electricity, contributed a lot of CO2 and added 3.6 milligrams of mercury to the environment.

6. They give me headaches.

Um, join the line and stock up on incandescents, and hope that LEDs are available before you run out. Or, try different brands; some people react differently to different types.

  1. You made a minor mistake in your conversions. There are 1000 watts in a kilowatt, 1000 kilowatts in a megawatt, 1000 megawatts in a GIGAwatt, and then 1000 GIGAwatts in a terawatt. Making a terawatt a total of 1,000,000,000,000 watts. By comparison the power released in the Heroshima bomb blast was 13 kilotons or about 15.1 Gigawatt hours. That is no small amount of power.

  2. I guess I'll be the one to say it. I think the energy savings will be fantastic BUT I really don't like people having the choice made for them.. I'm scared to see what laws will be like in another 40 years. I was just on another site where they are going to put in legislation regulating carry on bags! Seriously? Anyways, the benefit will be great, I understand that. I just like to make sure I look at the whole picture.. and I find choice a very high cost. Keep up the great posts by the way, Love the site!

  3. "…uses about 26 kilowatts a day…"

    Sorry to be pedantic but the difference between kilowatts and kilowatt-hours really confuses people so it's better to get it right: this should be kilowatt-hours. 26 kilowatt-hours per day is an average energy consumption of just over one kilowatt.

  4. CFL mercury is a much bigger problem than coal power mercury…

    What Pablo says refers to an old EPA diagram which only applies where untreated coal is the ONLY power source!
    Not actually true anywhere….

    More: As USA EPA administrator Lisa Jackson has confirmed, coal power mercury emissions will radically decrease over the next few years
    90% power station mercury emission reduction by 2018 using new injection and photochemical techniques etc
    for all the reasons and references why CFL mercury is a bigger problem

  5. (continued)
    Why CFL mercury is a much bigger problem than coal power mercury…

    In a nutshell:

    1. We know where the ever decreasing local coal power stations chimneys are and we can treat their emissions with ever increasing efficiency at lower costs.

    2. Compare that with billions of scattered broken lights on dump sites, when we do not know where the broken lights will be, and so we can't do anything about them
    – refund schemes would help, but have had limited success here in Europe.
    While it is true that mercury impacts on the glass in old CFLs , and so doesn't get released as vapor,
    that just means it is leeched into the ground instead, potentially contaminating water supply, river systems etc

  6. RE mercury breakage and what to do

    Sure, the question is how much worry is justified.
    The "tip of a ballpoint pen" argument doesn't really hold though – toxicity is the key.

    While the stringent EPA recommendations have been questioned,
    Maine state government breakage testing in 2008 found worries to be more than justified.
    influencing new recommendations to be put in place nationwide….

  7. RE ' Terawatt' energy savings….

    Supposed savings don't hold up for many reasons:
    ( onwards
    referenced and official research about CFL brightness, lifespan, power factor, lifecycle, heat effect of ordinary bulbs, and other factors)

    Effect on Electricity Bills
    if energy use DOES fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans and electricity companies make less money,
    they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate:
    (especially since power companies often have their own grids with little supply competition)
    Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise…

  8. A right to choose…

    Certainly it is good to think of efficient choices.
    Efficiency is however only one attraction of a product – or no inefficient products would be bought.
    While usually cheaper -no crime- people don't keep buying cheap but useless products, just like they don't necessarily avoid expensive alternatives.
    Ordinary simple light bulbs have many well known attractions – not least the bright warm broad spectrum light quality.

    Americans choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 8-9 times out of 10
    (lighting industry data 2007-8)
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings – no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- 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 were banned… they were bought less anyway.

  9. Energy?
    There is no shortage of energy:
    People -not politicians – pay for energy use, and if there was an energy shortage,
    the price rise would lead to more demand for efficient products anyway – no need to legislate for it.

    Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

    A direct way to actually deal with emissions (for all else they contain too, whatever about CO2) =

  10. What if direct emission reduction is said to take too long?

    = The Taxation Alternative

    A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
    We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
    This is a ban for consumption reasons.

    Even for those who remain pro-ban,
    temporary taxation to reduce consumption would make much more sense,
    since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.

    A few dollars tax that reduces the current sales (USA like the EU 2 billion sales per annum)
    raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
    It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.

    However, taxation is itself unjustified,
    it is simply better than bans also for ban proponents, in the overall lowering of emissions or of energy use.

  11. The only problem I ever had with CFL's was that they sometimes did not fit into my existing light fixtures.

    I'm sure the manufacturers knew this, because the bulbs keep getting smaller and I no longer have that problem…

    BTW – after replacing all the bulbs in my "tiny" home (250 sq ft) the combined wattage is less than a single 100Watt bulb, the light is warm, comfortable and inviting, and I couldn't be happier with the results 🙂

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