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The Light Bulb That Can Change the World 1137

An anonymous reader writes to tell us FastCompany is reporting on the latest and greatest version of the compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). While CFLs of the past may have been efficient, they certainly were not effective. However, according to the article, CFLs have come as far as cell phones have since the mid 80s while still maintaining that high efficiency. From the article: "if every one of 110 million American households bought just one [CFL], took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. One bulb swapped out, enough electricity saved to power all the homes in Delaware and Rhode Island. In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads."
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The Light Bulb That Can Change the World

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  • by dudeman2 ( 88399 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:55PM (#16002388) Homepage
    Does the above estimate of energy savings take into consideration the energy and raw materials required to produce 110 million CFL bulbs?

  • I've converted (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neonprimetime ( 528653 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:55PM (#16002393)
    Earlier last year, I started buying those Wal-Mart swirl bulbs and haven't looked back. I have replaced nearly every old light bulb with one of the swirls in my house now. It's an awesome idea, and I wish I could convince others to do the same. The savings on your energy bill is nice too! I have since given away to relatives my extra pre-purchased packs of old light bulbs, and I will never buy one of those oldies again. Swirl bulbs it is!
  • If this is true... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:55PM (#16002395)
    In terms of oil not burned, or greenhouse gases not exhausted into the atmosphere, one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

    Setting aside the debate over that statement - if it is even remotely true, then these bulbs are not just simply a 'good idea'.
    They are a moral imperative.

    Remember where those $100 bills that Hezbollah is handing out come from. Hint: they do not originate in Iran.

  • White light? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rackhamh ( 217889 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:55PM (#16002396)
    From TFA: "The bulbs come on quickly; their light is bright, white, steady, and silent."

    In my experience, the problem with non-traditional lightbulbs isn't that they're weak -- it's that they cast a harsh light. Many people I know would refuse to place even the most efficient light bulb in their living room if they didn't find the light warm and pleasing. When TFA says the light is "white," this makes me think that there is at least one problem remaining to be solved -- though perhaps it would be as simple as using lightly tinted glass for the bulb.
  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:56PM (#16002402)
    Is for the big box stores to start carrying the dimmable CFL bulbs.

    My house is almost entirely on dimmers. Its a ten year old rennovation of a 70 year old house. Modern McMansions are almost entirely on dimmers as well.

    With all these dimmers out there, you'd think you'd be able to get dimmable CFL bulbs places other than the very occasional lighting shop or online.

    I've switched essentially everything else in my house over at this point, except for the ones on dimmers.
  • by rayde ( 738949 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:56PM (#16002404) Homepage
    i think this is great, the only issue is that people go to the store when a bulb is dead, see a pack of 2 for under a dollar at walmart, and will buy that. sure, those fancy flouresent bulbs are there, but they cost $6 or more a piece... and the average person is probably just going to grab the cheap one.

    flourescent light bulbs are an investment. and for normal people, light bulbs are not exactly the type of thing you think of investing in.

  • by pickyouupatnine ( 901260 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @04:57PM (#16002422) Homepage
    Honestly - since these bulbs are so efficient, shouldn't there be a government sponsorship / subsidization to make them as widely available (read: cheap) as regular bulbs? One would hope that it was be a no-brainer to include this in the energy plan - especially if we're funding experimental stuff like hydrogen powered fuelcells.
  • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dlcarrol ( 712729 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:00PM (#16002453)
    Higher capital investiture up front.

    While most Americans have more disposable wealth than the greater part of humanity's history, it is still not insignificant to look at spending $5-$15 on a light. Yes, with sufficient planning you could likely phase that in pretty easily over time and save in the long run, but we're asking that of people who live check-to-check for cigarettes, new cars, and cable TV.

    In short, "more expensive" now is even more expensive than "more expensive" later so it will be put off by all but the most thorough and forward-looking planners.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:01PM (#16002464)
    > Remember where those $100 bills that Hezbollah is handing out come from. Hint: they do not originate in Iran.

    No, but a good chunk of them originate in North Korea. The DPRK runs a very big counterfeiting operation.

    I'd rather Hezbollah was volleying cash instead of rockets, but yeah, Iran buys those with our money.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:02PM (#16002483)
    " if every one of 110 MILLION American households did this thing"

    Well geez, the title of the article should be, "Tiny numbers of stuff, multiplied by a HUGE NUMBER, gives you..., A BIGGER NUMBER! SURPRISE!!"

    Guess what, if 110 Million People ate less, THERE WOULD BE A LOT LESS FAT PEOPLE.
    Guess what, if 110 Million People gave me a dollar, I'd have $110 Million !

    This is a non-story. This is just basic multiplication.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:05PM (#16002510)
    Natural Gas == electricity. Since deregulation of the power industry, power plant builders are looking for quick ROI, and a coal plant that takes 5 years to come online has a dismally slow ROI compared to a NG plant that can be built in 9 months. Never mind the fact that the NG plant is far weaker, thus requiring many more of them, and that NG power is quite a bit more expensive than coal power. Quite a bit of this nation's power comes from gas, which is often a direct tie-in with oil production.
  • great spin! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by nasor ( 690345 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:07PM (#16002530)
    "if every one of 110 million American households bought just one [CFL], took it home, and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. "

    Yeah, I guess it sounds a lot better to put it that way than to say "A 0.5% reduction in electricity usage".
  • The trade off (Score:1, Insightful)

    by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:07PM (#16002533)
    So we trade off co2 emissions for high levels of murcury being dumped in the land fills from disposal of the spent CFL bulbs?
  • Re:Correction (Score:1, Insightful)

    by russ1337 ( 938915 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:07PM (#16002541)
    the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people
    one bulb is equivalent to taking 1.3 million cars off the roads
    Once the oil companies get a 'whiff' of these savings... somebody is going to disappear, a company will be purchased, allowing the technology to be discovered 'again' in another 25 years...
  • by AnyoneEB ( 574727 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:09PM (#16002552) Homepage
    If the demand is less, then the production will be less. Of course, switching to more efficient lightbulbs will probably not actually decrease demand, but it would at least make it increase slower.
  • by jvarsoke ( 80870 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:11PM (#16002576)
    One roadblock on the path to acceptance is the color temp or quality of light for these bulbs. As soon as I can secretly replace the bulbs in my house and my wife doesn't walk into the first room screaming at me, "Oh, my eyes!", I'll covert the whole house.

    While the all too warm traditional bulb is rather a poor standard, it is what we're used to. CFLs are way too blue. Too cold.

    I've tried a few (rather expensive) CFLs. Haven't found one yet that isn't religated to an less travelled part of the house -- usually closets.

    For desk lamps the GE "full spectrum" natural light bulbs are the best yet. If the CFLs could put out that light I'd buy them at twice the price.
  • by cybermage ( 112274 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:12PM (#16002581) Homepage Journal
    The last time I checked, the US generates very little electricity from oil. It's coal and nuclear these days.

    I made the same observation. However, the point being made is that we generate electricity in ways that put carbon in the air, keep in mind that more than 50% comes from coal []

  • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:17PM (#16002617) Homepage
    You could see sheets of uncut $100 bills in one of the photos taken in the region. []

  • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:17PM (#16002621)
    Does the above estimate of energy savings take into consideration the energy and raw materials required to produce 110 million CFL bulbs?

    Yes, considering the scale of power savings here. Over just one week of 4 hour-per-day operation, there is a 2kWHr difference between a 30W CFL and the 100W bulb it replaces, and I haven't even addressed cooling costs.

    If you want further proof, look at just purchase costs. CFLs last several times longer, but cost more- yet they still last long enough that the consumer comes out ahead on replacement costs over the lifetime of the bulb.

    The only problem I have yet to see addressed is that most CFLs don't work well in already-installed overhead recessed lighting; they don't like the higher temperatures, and the electronics bite the big one faster. Most people also like dimmable lights, and dimmable CFLs are much more expensive and harder to find.

  • by j1m+5n0w ( 749199 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:41PM (#16002881) Homepage Journal
    I would also ban standby mode and try to find ways for consumer electronics to generate DC power more efficiently.

    I don't think that banning standby mode altogether is a good idea; if implemented correctly, the energy consumption should be negligible. I think the easiest way right now to reduce electricity consumption without significant negative side-effects would be manditory energy-use labeling on all electronic devices (including components like video cards and hard drives) sold. These labels should state the maximum energy use (in watts) of the device when in use, idle (on and ready for use, but not actually doing anything), and in standby mode.

    A big problem right now is that consumers have no way of comparing products in terms of energy efficiency (save for water heaters and the like, which are already subject to such rules). When consumers aren't educated, bad products prevail [].

  • Re:Mercury (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kalirion ( 728907 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:45PM (#16002932)
    I know it's rather selfish, but I'd rather reduce the risk of spilled mercury in my home than reduce mercury emmissions in the environment.
  • by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:49PM (#16002967) Homepage Journal
    As I mentioned in other threads, in Ontario, Canada the total usage of energy by homes is 22%. A study showed that changing all of the homes to be completely energy efficient (switching to new efficient appliances, using energy at night instead of daytime etc.) will bring a total saving of less than 10% of total production. There is no reason for homes to do anything more than they are doing already and there is no reason to throw away the old working stuff and pay for someone to spend more energy to produce new stuff.

    It's not 'I can't make a difference' attittude, it is a perspective that is lacking here. Powerplants are not god-given, we create them to satisfy our demand and that is as simple as that.

    We will have to build more powerplants because we are going into the future and not back into the 19th century. The building where I live covers all expenses from my maintenance fee. So for 480CAD/mo I get electricity, water, sewage, hot/cold air etc. It's included. Personally I only use it when I need it, but most people do not. They use it any time they want and in any quantities they desire. Their usage reflects on my monthly fees. But I am not going to fault those people for wanting to use all of that energy. I rather see this is a production issue than a usage issue. We are in the 21st century and we will need more capacity every day. The way to do this is not by trying to limit what people are using, but by creating new capacities.

    We have to switch from coal/oil to nuclear/hydro and at some point to thermonuclear. Whatever it takes, we can use up all of the energy that is available and it is good. That's what we do. You want to be 'one' with the nature, it's your choice but it is not the choice of 99% of all other people
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jgc7 ( 910200 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:49PM (#16002968) Homepage
    Another thing to consider is where you live. In hot climates, where the excess heat from incandesent bulb must be transferred outside, the total household consumption from a 60W bulb can be closer to 90W when including the A/C. Thus by switching to CF, one can save more than 60W by replacing one 60W bulb. The reverse is true in cold climates... The excess heat from an incandesent bulb serves to heat your house, there by lowering your gas/electricity/heating oil/etc. costs, and so the total power savings is less than the difference between comparable bulb power ratings.

    Personnally, every bulb in my NY apartment is CF, primarily because I am not charged for heat and electricity costs a ridiculous $0.20 per kW-hr

  • by prandal ( 87280 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:50PM (#16002990)
    More than 10 years ago. I've been using CFLs since the early 90's.

    But then, we Brits always were ahead of the yankees in lighting technology.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:56PM (#16003041)
    Agreed, and insightful point, but remember that the cold climate caveat only applies when the house is heated solely by electricity. As far as generating heat goes, gas/oil/geothermal are much more efficient in terms of money per joule heat than electricity. It also increases the total entropy of the universe less.

    in conclusion, gas-supplied houses with electric hobs will hasten the inevitable heat death.
  • Re:Mercury (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Canthros ( 5769 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @05:58PM (#16003056)
    Nuclear plants. They're not without their hazards, but they're more efficient and cleaner.
  • Re:Too much work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tiger4 ( 840741 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @06:19PM (#16003221)
    I used to do the CFL bulb in every socket thing. But I later learned there is real scientific evidence that full-spectrum light will put you in a better mood.

    The mistake you make here is replacing like-for-like wattage bulbs. I went through my home and replaced the high usage bulbs with CFLs. And as the low usage ones die I replace them. But I replace them with CFLs of a higher equivalent strength. 60w incandescents get replaced with 75w equivalent CFLs, 75w are replaced with 100w. They only draw about 1/4 the juice of incandescents, so I still save big. But now I have more light in the same area, and the picket fence spectrum problem is reduced. Plus, when I can, I mix Cool White, Warm White and Daylight color temperatures. Looks odd, but only if you look at the fixtures and not the room.

    I think it is worth the cost to my pocket and the Earth.

    Thank you for consuming more than your share. The rest of us apprciate it.

  • Re:Mercury (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) * on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @06:44PM (#16003379) Homepage Journal
    I know it's rather selfish, but I'd rather reduce the risk of spilled mercury in my home than reduce mercury emmissions in the environment.

    Selfish, short-sighted, delusional... the list goes on.

    It's not as though your home wasn't in the environment.
  • Effect (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mark_MF-WN ( 678030 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @06:52PM (#16003437)
    It could have an effect. Stores needs fewer trucks delivering bulbs. Fewer bulbs means fewer factory-hours spent making bulbs (and virtually every industrial process uses oil somewhere along the line). The decreased amount of glass required is a big one -- lots of oil gets used heating silica to make glass. Decreasing demand for electricity brings the price of electricity down, making electric vehicles more attractive.

    None of these effects is pronounced, but the ripple spreads out. And that's just one of the things you have to accept with the quest to reduce oil-dependence: it will be thousands and thousands of little things that win the war. A few E85 SUVs here, a few electric cars there, some scooters and motorcycles for the cool kids. CFLs all over the place. Industry starts taking conservation seriously and revamps their processes (you can find hundreds of success stories of manufacturers bringing their power usage way down while simultaneously making their entire operation faster and more efficient). A smarter chemical industry. Old houses being replaced by better houses. Nothing can solve the problem in and of itself, but it all adds up.

  • by Ex-MislTech ( 557759 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @07:07PM (#16003510)
    Flourescents have a small amount of mercury in them. amp#Environmental_issues []

    LED lights last up to 11 yrs with continuous use.

    And use 1/30th the power of a regular light bulb, vs. 1/4 with a CFL. []

    Only thing really holding it back right now is price and the fact they
    wouldnt sell many to repeat customers with an 11 year always on lifespan, lol.

    The ones featured here on thinkgeek don't put off quite as much light,
    but with 2 lights vs. one you can get there.

    The price is the only real thing hindering it, but if you consider long term
    energy savings, its awesome.

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @07:11PM (#16003540) Homepage Journal

    How many light bulbs does it take to change the world? No wait, that's not right...

    The problem is people use these little efficient doodads to feel good about doing something green. Then they go out and buy a power-sucking plasma TV.

    Electrical use is way up since the 80's. Possibly because we all have tonnes more electronics bits to plug in and nearly everyone has a PC which adds a certain minimum for the hours its on. If you had a few lamps burning around the house which added up to the energy consumption of most desktop PCs you'd notice it right away and wonder why it's necessary. Alas, we sit at our keyboards and type merrily away (there's that batsard, ackthpt again, oi if only I had the mod points to bury him.) oblivious to the power consumption of our tin box full of CPU, DDR-RAM, HD, Whizzo Video Card De-Luxe, etc. Quite possibly we even have a reading lamp going beside us in the evening (I don't know about you, but at my age I get a headache looking at a glowing screen in the dark.) Plus there's all these little black plastic cubes and rectangles to run all manner of gizmo, which all add up.

    On another thought. I've got these wicked little LED flashlights which run for 130 hours on a battery the size of an aspirin. When will I see these in my house, rather than a fluorescent lamp?

  • by itscolduphere ( 933449 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @07:19PM (#16003578)
    Let's keep things in perspective here. A few million homes powered is a drop in the bucket globally. Even within the context of the US it like a percent or so. Maybe nice but no big deal really.

    True, but that is only if every household only replaced one bulb. If every household replaced two or three (and major retailers like Target/Wal-Mart sell them in three-packs for under ten bucks) then the savings would be even greater.

    This attitude in general is why energy conservation and alternative energy sources have such a hard time catching on; people act as though if it doesn't solve the entire energy problem then it isn't worth bothering with. You go ahead and wait for cold fusion. Personally I'd rather replace a few incandescents with flourescents, drive a Civic instead of an F-150, and vote for politicians that will actually fund alternative energy sources (such as wind).

    That, and turn the light off when I'm not in the room and turn off the computer when it isn't really doing anything. Drive a few miles per hour slower. Cut the temp back by a degree or two in the winter. No one of these changes really makes that much difference, but if you could convince a majority of people to enact a majority of these changes it could actually make a significant difference.

    Because after all, 10% is just 10 times 1%, right?
  • Re:How many... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eccles ( 932 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @07:35PM (#16003656) Journal
    that's really funny. Unfortunately nothing would really change, only the prices would go up to reflect the loss of revenue.

    I remember paying $2000 for a new, mid-range computer. What has gone up because computers are cheaper now?

    The cost of living doesn't go down, perhaps, but that's just because we get more. My parents didn't have central air until I was 14; I haven't lived in a place without it since. I remember my dad showing the power locks on his new car; can you buy a car without them now? Or, would you rather have a like-new '79 Rabbit, or a like-new Honda Fit? Homes are larger now with fewer people living in them. etc. etc.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @07:36PM (#16003664)
    If you want further proof, look at just purchase costs. CFLs last several times longer, but cost more- yet they still last long enough that the consumer comes out ahead on replacement costs over the lifetime of the bulb.

    I've been in my house for 8 years. Of probably 75 bulbs in my house, I've replaced only a handful in that time (with incandescent bulbs). The original bulbs cost next to nothing, and the new bulbs cost next to nothing. Further, about half those bulbs went out because of power surges, or being whacked by an errant broom handle. That would have broken a CFL as well.

    It is extremely unlikely that the consumer will ever come out ahead on replacement costs for CFLs, particularly given the time value of money, until prices for CFLs drop substantially.

    There was a promotion offered in my area (Hillsboro, Oregon) where PGE sent out coupons for virtually free CFLs from Home Depot. During that time I picked up around 15 of them. However I don't use them except in a couple bedside lamps because they are dim, they buzz, and the light they put off is very unnatural. Periodically I buy a new bulb to see if there are any improvements, but I'm disappointed every time.

  • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @08:03PM (#16003784)
    Everyone pays taxes, but not everyone pays them in equal amounts. If poor people pay little in taxes, but have high energy bills because they can't afford the up-front costs of CFLs, then that segment of the population will only benefit.

    Ah, so you're talking about a wealth-transfer program. Because I'm in a high tax bracket I'll help folks further down pay for their light bulbs. Should I also help them pay for their food and clothes? Maybe they should just move in? Ha ha, no thanks. Having to pay for your own stuff is the best possible incentive to stay in school, get a job, save a little, stick to a sensible budget -- i.e. to grow up. Who am I to deny the benefit of learning life's most important lessons to my fellow man?

    In fact, most every tax bracket would benefit. There are long-term cost savings for the consumer, and those savings should more than counterbalance the taxes for the vast majority of taxpayers.

    Sounds like doubletalk to me. Joe Poorboy, who would otherwise buy a $1 incandescent, buys a $3 swirlie instead because he gets $2 back from the government. Joe also enjoys a $20 reduction in his electricity costs over the life of the bulb (which you'd think would be enough to get him to buy the bulb directly, but I guess we're assuming poor people are irrational here). Nice for Joe. Richie Rich, investment banker, being no fool, also buys a $3 swirlie, and also enjoys a $20 reduction in his electricity cost. But he also needs to pay more taxes to cover the subsidy to Joe. How much? Hmm, well, the program is pointless unless it induces lots of people to switch bulbs, and of course by definition there are lots more poor people than rich, so Rich clearly must get whacked for a lot more than the price of one extra swirlie for Joe. Say he needs to cover the subsidy on 10 bulbs. That's $20 extra in taxes. So how does Rich see any net gain from the program?

    Maybe you're thinking Rich and everyone would benefit from reduced general electricity costs, leading to less CO2 emissions, a cleaner environment, et cetera. Could be. But if that's your goal, how about attacking it directly, instead of in this weird indirect way? Tax the use of fossil fuels in power plants. Zone lots of land so it can't be used for power plants. Pass laws mandating scrubbers on power plant stacks. The problem with clever, indirect approaches to a problem is they have unexpected side effects. Just for example, you are aware, I assume, that the swirlies (unlike incandescents) contain 5-20 mg of mercury, an exceedingly nasty environmental toxin. What if the people you encourage to buy swirlies happen to be exactly the type that don't bother to recycle the bulbs? Ugh, now you've reduced electricity use but increase the amount of mercury in landfills. Maybe it works out on balance, but maybe it doesn't. That's the problem with complex mechanisms. The side effects are by definition hard to know before you begin.

    The size of the bureaucracy has very little to do with the amount of money being spent.

    Well, that depends, doesn't it? If the purpose of your bureaucracy is to build a fusion reactor, then maybe not. But if the purpose of your bureaucracy is to sort out which citizens get a $2/bulb benefit, and which others must pay for it, then I'd say, yeah, roughly speaking the size of the bureaucracy would scale with the number of people eligible for the benefit. I suspect the size of the Social Security Administration does indeed scale with the number of people applying for benefits, receiving benefits, dying and needing to have their benefits canceled, et cetera.

    Subsidies early on could jump-start demand for CFLs, increasing production capacity, improving manufacturing techniques, and enabling them to compete more successfully in the market when the subsidies are eventually removed.

    Come on. We're not talking about a market where no private party will enter because of the risks. Or some cottage industry where people are han
  • GE gets it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NaDrew ( 561847 ) <> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @08:44PM (#16003972) Journal
    FTA with emphasis added:
    "The real issue is, if we don't do it, someone else will," says GE's ecomagination vice president, Lorraine Bolsinger, of Wal-Mart's effort to push CFLs. "It's old thinking to imagine that you can hold on to a business model and outsmart the consumer. You can't."
    GE understands that it's smarter to make money selling what people want to buy than trying to force people to buy what they don't want. Now if someone could tell the RIAA/MPAA and other Luddite organizations...
  • Re:How many... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ddillman ( 267710 ) <dgdillman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @09:34PM (#16004181) Journal
    All of my home lighting is LED using the luxeon 3 and 5 watt models. I use about 1/20th the energy that I used when I was using CFs. Granted, I had to build nearly all the fixtures and powersupplies myself, but the 5 watt units only cost about 7 $US and put out light equal to an 80 watt tungsten. They cost far less and use way less energy that CFs, I don't know why they haven't caught on.

    You just answered your own question. When they're a simple screw-in replacement, they'll catch on. I've been waiting for the price and ease of use to come down, myself.

  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:04PM (#16004342)
    In part 4, it is brought up that a theoretical solar power plant 100 miles long by 100 miles wide in the Mojave desert would cover 100% of U.S. energy demands. This is using existing technology and under existing energy standards.
    You wouldn't even need to change bulbs!

    That's 2.59 * 10^10 m^2. At approximately $600 per square meter, that's 15.5 TRILLION dollars - and that's not even including installation, grid integration (inverters, etc.), and other costs and efficency losses.
  • by wwf ( 126101 ) on Tuesday August 29, 2006 @10:14PM (#16004384)
    At least GE seems to get the idea. From the article, emphasis mine:

    GE, too, has launched a green business initiative: ecomagination, an effort to make environmentally sustainable technologies an ever-larger part of GE's business. Swirls fit well, despite the inevitable cannibalization. "The real issue is, if we don't do it, someone else will," says GE's ecomagination vice president, Lorraine Bolsinger, of Wal-Mart's effort to push CFLs. "It's old thinking to imagine that you can hold on to a business model and outsmart the consumer. You can't."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:04AM (#16004882)
    Can you provide some more info on this projects & the politics around it? A few minutes of googling didn't turn anything beyond articles concerning more recent efforts to install standalone (ie. not associated with the bridge) underwater turbines. I think this is a different effort because the bridge has been under construction since before some of those articles were published.

    In particular, can you provide a source for the figure "3" re: the number of fish that are in danger of being killed? How was this figure attained? Is that per turbine? Per year? Or just "3"? More generally, can you back up the claim that it was unreasonable environmental demands that killed this projects?

    Also, can you quantify "tons of free power"? The article I read about the dedicated generating station said power for 11000 homes. Seattle metro area has 3.8 million people. It's not clear that the bridge could generate what a dedicated station could (fewer turbines?). What exactly is your definition of "tons" with respect to power? Is electrical power somehow measured by weight in washington?

    Also, can you show that the proposal indeed used enclosed turbines? The standalone ones seemed to have turbines with large, naked blades. Nevermind salmon for the moment, with all their migratory patterns and fisheries, etc.: is it possible that the concern may be for larger organisms, such as whales and orcas? Are those to be written off, too, cause hey, free (maybe) bridge!

    Also, do you know if it's documented anywhere that it that they didn't simply just want a new goddam bridge, on time, on budget, without unproven newfangled crap in the base that might fuck with sea life and that might, if all goes well, pay for itself in "a few dozen years".

    Also, please clarify "few dozen".

    What I'm trying to figure out here is whether your post was in fact a reasoned explanation of a bogus call be some goddam hippies and their 3 fish, or was it a naked, nonsensical appeal to hippie-hatin slashdot libertarians. In which case, you should listen to yourself, wacko.
  • Re:How many... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Firehed ( 942385 ) on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @12:43AM (#16005037) Homepage
    There are several screw-in LED bulb replacements out there. Two problems though - one: they're incredibly off-the-wall expensive ($30+ for the lowest light output), two: they're arrays of superbright LEDs rather than a specialty thing, so it's very likely that they won't put out enough light to substitute for a standard bulb. Now, the price probably pays for itself very shortly, not only in electricity bill savings but having something that should considerably outlast a CF bulb, and most certainly an incandescent (CF burntime is more based on the number of starts and stops, due to the circuitry inside, generally about 3000 cycles AFAIK). Plus, IIRC, LED burntimes are measured in mean time to half light output, not MTTF.

    It's a great idea, but it needs a lot of improvement before it goes mainstream. Availability at storefronts would be a good start. But if it's not obvious enough, most people are too stupid to do any sort of vaguely long-term cost analysis - a CF bulb will be far cheaper over its lifetime, even if they cost $5 instead of $0.75 initially. I've gone all CF bulbs, and while I'm not the billpayer of the house (well, actually I'm at school now so it's irrelavent, but as of a week ago...), I can tell that they're using a heck of a lot less power on the simple fact that I don't melt skin if I touch one when it's on (still unpleasant, but not unbearable-to-cooking). Nevermind the cool white bulbs, while unfairly more expensive, really are a bit better on the eyes IMO. Yeah, LED bulbs would be a big improvement in terms of watts per lumen, but aside from the whole AC and diode thing (I've seen LED-based Christmas lights, they drive me nuts like a 60Hz monitor, though many don't notice it), the initial cost really is too high at this point for non-DIYers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @09:54AM (#16006977)
    I'm Canadian so I'll let my socialist side do some talking: I have begun thinking that the government should consider legislating the light bulb industry, much the same way that the automobile industry is, by setting a standard of lumens/watt, and setting up a proper displosal program. Of course, the lumens/watt standard would be such that it would effectively ban the sale of incandescents for home use.

    The amount of energy saved as all the old bulbs burned out would be enormous. While many groups kick and scream at the thought of any standards, the auto industry is a good example of how strict standards, when combined with an open market, produce hugely improved products.
  • Re:How many... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pnutjam ( 523990 ) <slashdot&borowicz,org> on Wednesday August 30, 2006 @02:03PM (#16009111) Homepage Journal
    because married women hate admitting they're wrong, she'll live with it rather that admit she thought it was incandescent.

    And remember it venemously forever.
    Ask my mom about the time my dad put generic cherios in a real cherio box.

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