Get Smart about Energy™


Each week I receive a number of comments or emails that strongly (and often emotionally) disagree with something I have written.

CFL Light Bulb I have no issue with this at all. We live in a society of free speech and I really do encourage all reasoned opinion, no matter how different it may be. I find it a little upsetting when the comments posted say more about my character than what I have written, but I accept that this has become a common practice today! I do try and follow up on any comments sent to see how the information might benefit our readers.

So, I received an email this week saying "UK householders have been charged a billion pounds for 'free' light bulbs that don't work" - with a link to an article - click here to read article >> - posted on a radio controlled model aircraft web site. I must confess I was a little surprised, but trusting in the web safety of my Kapersky Internet Security software and a long time interest in anything that flies, I clicked on the link offered to see what I would find.

How glad I am that I did!

I am not saying that I agree 100% with all the information in the article, but it does raise some most reasonable arguments for the continued use of incandescent light bulbs, particularly in cooler climates. I do encourage our readers to follow the link above, and at least consider the thoughts expressed!

I think the term 'don't work' may be better expressed as 'does not save energy' but this is semantics. The point is well made, energy efficiency is not the same in all situations. And it raises three most serious issues:

a) Where does the role of government end when it comes to spending our taxes on energy efficiency?
b) How can we be protected from 'passionate' but technically inappropriate solutions to energy efficiency?
c) Where does the average person find accurate information so that they can make an informed choice between Incandescent, CFL, LED and the technologies to come?

In the last few months I have needed to update a number of my postings on CFL lighting . Yes, I have established that they use up to 75% less electricity per lumen of light emitted, but this is not the only factor to consider. After all, you could save 100% of the electricity if you live in the dark. We do need to consider the efficacy of each light source in delivering its intended purpose.

It seems we need to add even more factors to our opinion on lighting and home energy efficiency. I have already noted in previous postings that the 75% energy saving per lumen of light emitted by a CFL is really a 50% efficiency gain after deducting the additional energy required for CFL manufacturing and disposal.

If the excess energy required to produce the light was being perfectly converted to heat, as with an incandescent bulb, one could argue that the heat source was most likely to be perfectly positioned to where the occupant was located. This assumes that the home owner is turning off lights in unused rooms. I may not be able to remember warming my hands under the light - but why not?

Over the last 6 months I have had the dubious pleasure of observing some most strange pricing policies from our local energy utility in California. I am frequently reminded that they are also a gas supplier and that a large portion of their annual profits come from selling gas. To themselves, to make our electricity. I have wondered how much of their reluctance to embrace a distributed energy generation model, particularly local solar generation is more about reduced gas sales, than a legitimate concern over managing a constant voltage in a distributed grid.

I imagine that British Gas would be quite happy to see incandescent light bulb 'heaters' replaced with an increase in home gas consumption by central heating boilers. I cannot remember a single day during my 8 years in England in which I mastered our central heating system. It had a life of its own, between air locks, leaking radiators and adjustment controls that had rusted solid, it was 'burn away' or freeze. The best part is that government will even pay extra to fund this increase in gas heating bills each winter!

Of course we will never be able to prove any 'gas' conspiracy, but somewhere something is not right!

SmartEnergy - Get Smart about Energy™