Light bulbs - worth fighting over? Image via Wikipedia

by Lauren Pope

Light bulbs have been in the news recently…not the most exciting topic, but it seems to have got a few people very hot under the collar.

Take a look at these two articles from the Daily Mail and The Telegraph and their comments sections…almost 300 comments in total, on articles about light bulbs.

So what’s the reason for all this fuss? At the end of this month (August 2011) traditional 60w incandescent bulbs will no longer be available, under an EU ruling. (100w bulbs have already been phased out.)

Now, I’m not here to talk EU politics, but I will lay my cards on the table when it comes to light bulbs:

I’m glad 60w light bulbs are being phased out.

There, I said it.

I can only see this as a positive change and I can’t understand why there’s such resistance to something so small and insignificant.

The main gripes are:

  1. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs aren’t as bright/the light is too cold’
  2. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs take a long time to turn on’
  3. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs are ugly’
  4. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs are too expensive’
  5. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs are dangerous, they’ve got mercury in them’

As far as I’m concerned, these are all myths. So let’s take a look at them one-by-one…

1.Energy-saving light bulbs aren’t as bright/the light is too cold’

This myth that energy-saving bulbs are dim and ‘cold’ has come about because there’s some confusion over exactly what new bulb to replace your old bulb with. Many people chose or were given the wrong kind and, as a result, blamed the bulb.

The factors to consider when it comes to getting the brightness and light you want are:

  • Watts – as a rule of thumb, divide by five, so if you want to replace a 100w incandescent bulb, pick a 20w energy-saving bulb.
  • Colour temperature – colour temperature is measured in °K (Kelvin) and : 2700°K is a very warm, ‘cosy’ light like you might get from an old-fashioned incandescent bulb; 3000°K is about the warmth of a halogen bulb; 4000-6500°K is a cooler light, more like natural daylight. Energy-saving light bulbs with a colour temperature of 2700°K are available, so you won’t notice the difference.
  • Lux – it’s also good to look at the lux rating (another measure of light) – the higher the lux rating, the brighter the light. 12 lux is equivalent to a clear 60w bulb.

2. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs take a long time to turn on’

This was true of the first-generation of energy-saving bulbs, but it’s just not true anymore.

Most energy-saving bulbs now take under 30 seconds to reach their full brightness, with the best taking under a second.

3. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs are ugly’

Energy-saving light bulbs come in plenty of different shapes and styles and don’t look much different to traditional light bulbs:

You can even get beautiful designer energy-saving light bulbs:

Nothing ugly about these three, is there?

4. ‘Energy-saving light bulbs are too expensive’

This myth makes me the most frustrated of all.

Yes, energy-saving light bulbs cost a little more to buy, but they save you a lot of electricity and they last for a long time.

Installing five low energy light bulbs will cost about £15 and could save you as much as £32 a year on your electricity bills in the space of a year. Your investment will pay for itself in less than six months.

Plus, a typical old-fashioned incandescent bulb lasts 1000 hours (one year’s use) while energy-saving bulbs last 6000-15000 hours (6-15 years’ use).

You can’t argue with those savings.

5. ‘They’re dangerous, they’ve got mercury in them’

Yes, they do have mercury in them, but only about five milligrams (enough to cover the tip of a Biro), but that’s compared to three grams in a thermometer, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Even if you break an energy-saving bulb, they’re unlikely to be dangerous. DirectGov says that if you do break one, you open the windows for 15 minutes and leave the room to air, then carefully gather up the broken bulb with kitchen paper (not a brush, or vacuum cleaner), using rubber gloves. Then wipe the area with a damp cloth, put the broken pieces of glass and the cloth into a plastic bag and seal it. Take the bag to your local waste and recycling centre.

So, what I’m trying to say is that there’s no need to mourn inefficient incandescent bulbs or try to stockpile them – energy-saving bulbs really are better.

And if you’re still having trouble coming to terms with losing the old bulbs, why not have a look at this post about energy efficiency and embracing change?

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