A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that


Sunday, 13 January 2013

Hooptedoodle #76 - I See the Light, if dimly and only after a delay


A few weeks ago, I replaced the light bulb at the top of my mother’s stairs. My mother is 87, and disabled, and her staircase is dark, even in the daytime, so a good light is essential for safety. We tried an energy-saving bulb, because we are good guys, but it really doesn’t give a satisfactory level of illumination, and then there is that irritating warm-up period during which it produces hardly anything at all. I appreciate that low-energy bulbs are getting better all the time, but the delay is still enough for my mum to break her neck several times over if she misses her footing in the dark.

Luckily, my late father was a great stockpiler – he was always worried that world supplies of toilet paper, lemonade, batteries or whatever were about to run out, and used to buy in and hoard surplus stock – just to be on the safe side. Light bulbs were one his specialities, and a short hunt turned up a couple of old-fashioned 100-watt, heated-filament light bulbs of a type which Messrs Edison and Philips would have recognised immediately.

Problem solved – the replacement bulb gives a good light, instantly, on demand. Perfect.

This got me thinking about the whole subject of saving the planet by buying weird light bulbs. The excellent, cheap 100w lamp I put into my mother’s staircase is now a museum piece. You cannot find them on the shelves of hardware stores any more. They are, in short, against the law. You can still buy 60s, but nothing bigger. Interesting.

I am, I have to say, all in favour of saving the planet. There are a few things about it which I think could be improved, but it is important that it does not stop functioning any time soon. If my light-bulb useage and buying patterns can help then I’m all for it. But I would like it to make sense, please.

Without passion or spite, I offer the following thoughts for your consideration:

  1. If I have a room which uses a 100w bulb, and I wish to replace it, and if the low-energy equivalent is too depressing or otherwise unsuitable, how many 60w lamps shall I replace it with, do you think? One? – no, unlikely. Two? - maybe – possibly even three. Anyone spot a problem here? That’s right – my appetite for manufactured bulbs and electricity just increased. I don’t think that is what was intended.
  1. Domestic electricity demand is primarily for heating, cooking, tumble-driers, any piece of household white-goods which contains a heater, air conditioning – power stuff like lifts and pumps. Lighting and entertainment kit is only the shallow end of the problem, though waste is possible, of course.
  1. The waste resulting from my mum not using a low-energy bulb on her stairs is absolutely insignificant compared with all the office blocks in our cities, which are fully illuminated and heated for many hours at night so that the Health & Safety people will allow the cleaners to go in. The centre of Edinburgh, for example, is visible from the far side of the galaxy at night. 
  1. How many energy-saving bulbs are left on permanently in stairways and passages, because their warm-up time is a problem for the safety of people passing through?
  1. My own house was extended some seven years ago, and incorporates some jolly clever dimming circuits which allow us to control the level of lighting in a number of the rooms and – wait for it – save energy. Well, our days are numbered if bulbs in the sizes we need have to be replaced by low-energy equivalents (which mostly do not work at all with a dimmer).  We shall have to think again. I smell approaching expense and inconvenience. Oh, and waste – plenty of that.
  1. In my garage I have a 75w halogen bulb which I bought in IKEA years ago which produces the same light output as a 150w conventional incandescent bulb. It switches on and off instantly, it has been installed for some 12 years without problems – surviving all sorts of extremes of temperature and humidity – and it wasn’t very expensive. That seems a good way to go, but IKEA don’t stock them any more – nor does anyone else. Maybe they are illegal too.  
  1. I read recently that the cost of manufacture and disposal of mainstream low-energy bulbs is considerably higher than that for conventional ones – both in terms of cash and carbon footprint.

I could go on, but even I am getting bored here. To sum up, I am very positive about protecting the environment and saving money, but it seems to me that enthusiasts and half-assed regulators spend too much time and effort on items which are easy to target but have limited effect. There was a lady from Friends of the Earth on BBC Radio 5 recently, and she was having a go at the manager of an electricity generating station about consumption habits. The spirit of what she was saying was exactly correct, and I have a lot of time for many of the aims of Friends of the Earth, but it became very obvious that this particular lady had no idea at all about the power-consumption characteristics of various domestic devices – she dismissed this whole area of her subject as too nerdy to acknowledge. The fact that the lighting in a house is insignificant compared to wasteful heating meant nothing to her.

I’m not sure what my problem is here, in fact. I don’t have much expertise in the field of lighting, to be sure, but I understand enough to realise that a lot of what is proposed and enforced by legislation, worthy and well intentioned though it might be, is pointless and ill-informed.

If someone can – quietly and effectively, and without posturing – produce low-energy bulbs which tick all the right boxes and do all the things I need, I promise I shall buy nothing else. I’m sure it’s coming, but the debate which accompanies the process is idiotic.

In my humble opinion.

17 comments:

  1. Agreed. Have you read No Impact Man by Colin Beavan?

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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    Replies
    1. Hi Stokes - no, never heard of it, but I just looked it up on Amazon, and have ordered a copy!

      Many thanks - best regards

      Tony (typing in the dark)

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  2. I just bought some new-to-me low energy Halogen bulbs to replace the ^%&%$*^%$ CFL's. Mercury free, (dimmable not that it matters to me) instant light that allows me to actually see! I almost kissed the box before going out to buy more.

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    Replies
    1. Ross - there's been a definite lack of box-kissing here for a good while - it's possible that the regs and the product descriptions are different in your neck of the woods, but what are these things called? I understood that Halogen incandescents were outlawed as well now.

      Cheers - Tony

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    2. I don't really know about the regs or much about the bulbs which appear to be a new product to suit the US regs. We may just be "behind" in the colonies but one article indicated that these will covered in the EU by the next ban.

      Here's a little info on them.

      http://www.elightbulbs.com/A-Line-Halogen-Light-Bulbs


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    3. Thanks very much Ross - useful.

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  3. As always Mr. Foy, you manage to get across a point in a most erudite manor where I would only rant!

    Agree with each and every point you made, although the light on the horizon is that all bulbs; old, new and all the intermediates still kicking-around are 'supposed' to be replaced within a year or two with LED clumps, strips or bundles.

    Having been regularly blinded by Audi or BEEMA drivers with their LED bundles up my proverbial, I can assure you they will be good and we will rest on the next day!

    Indeed, I seem to have replaced all my torches with a small LEGO Darth Vader, who has two LEDs in his feet and manages to fit in my pocket!

    Hugh

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    Replies
    1. Hugh - the LED approach seems very sensible. We have a number of LED flashlights and headlights (as in 'lights-you-attach-to-your-head') and they are all pleasingly bright and economical in use.

      I am so impressed by the description of your Lego Darth Vader that I am going to check them out on the internet immediately. You may hear more of this.

      Cheers - and thanks! - Tony

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  4. I have a suspicion that the zealous drive for low energy bulbs will be viewed in the future in the same way as cutting down railings to make Spitfires in WWII has become - complete PR baloney! They're one of my pet hates and it makes me grumpy with all of my middle-aged grumpiness that they have been forced upon us...

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    1. Ian, I think it is essential that all middle aged grumps should stand up and be counted. As a kid, I used to hear tales of how all our railings had gone to make weapons, and initially I thought they used them as throwing spears. It was only later that I worried about the viability of cast-iron Spitfires, and later still that I learned that there were still great heaps of scrap railings lying around in the 1960s. The only good news is that the wartime scrap-metal speculators got singed. As you say, baloney - amazing how these things gain momentum. Cheers - Tony

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    2. My mother reports the locals going back up on to Blackheath common and reclaiming their cooking pots and suchlike from the heap the 'corporation' had failed to take away!

      H

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  5. "You can't change the planet by simply changing the light bulbs!"
    The sceptic might say that your point 1 (we buy perhaps 2 or 3 bulbs where previously we had just one) is in fact exactly what is intended.
    Excellent post.
    Perhaps you will do a follow-up: How many wargamers does it take to change a light bulb...?
    Enjoying your blog.
    Phil

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Phil - in fact there was an old post on this topic, as it happens - there was even a prize for the best suggestion. I still get death threats via email.

      http://prometheusinaspic.blogspot.co.uk/2011_08_01_archive.html

      Cheers - Tony

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  6. Perhaps the reason you cannot get replacement IKEA bulbs is they were so good noone ever needed to buy replacements?

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    1. Very good point - once upon a time someone brought out stainless steel guitar strings, which were excellent, but were taken off the market a hear or two later for exactly the same reason.

      Cheers - Tony

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  7. Are you suggesting that Friends of the earth should have put an electrician on the BBC? - LC

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    1. No - if someone comes on the radio to discuss why the budget doesn't add up, I would expect him to be able to handle basic arithmetic. It's the same sort of thing.

      Seriously, there are far too many innumerates making public use of numbers to support an argument. I am astounded how many people - especially journalists and trade union spokesmen - have no understanding at all of how percentages work. It is quite acceptable to say "I am hopeless at sums", but you don't often hear people announcing that they don't read very well.

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