In a “World First”, the Australian government has announced plans to phase out inefficient light bulbs, aiming for full enforcement of new lighting standards legislation by 2009 to 2010.
Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull MP, claimed the step should reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tonnes by 2012.
Everyone knows that energy-efficient light bulbs use 20% of the electricity used by a conventional incandescent bulb, last 4 times as long, and offer considerable savings in energy and running costs. And the clincher is that they are directly interchangeable with ‘old-fashioned’ (OF) bulbs with no perceptible difference in use. It’s a no-brainer, right?.
Well, perhaps. As a conscientious consumer, I’ve tried really hard to embrace low-energy (LE) bulbs, but they have their drawbacks. A straight swap of an 11W LE for a 60W OF makes it very obvious that they are not like-for-like. The LE is dimmer, sometimes requiring the use of two lamps where one would have been enough before. Because it uses a different technology, LE light has a different quality, making it unsuitable for detailed work such as reading. OF lamps produce a white light spectrum that is nearly equivalent to that of the sun, whereas LE bulbs always have certain colours missing.
There are other issues too. LE bulbs don’t work with dimmer switches. Their quoted lifespans can be substantially reduced by erratic or marginal power supplies. Some LE bulbs take a long time to ‘warm up’ to full brightness, making a quick visit to the bathroom longer than it should be. Fluorescent lighting technology can introduce a strobe effect that has health and safety issues for power tool users, making OF lighting mandatory in workshop environments.
So will the Australian blanket ban on incandescent light bulbs actually work? I’m betting it won’t. There’s a getout clause in the press release: “Special needs areas, such as medical lighting and oven lights, will be taken into consideration”. Plenty there to justify a change of direction after the next election.
Low-energy lighting is great for the porch , the landing and the garden shed. It’s definitely not the automatic best choice.