Shedding light on the bulbs

By November 7, 2011

Turning the clocks back an hour earlier couldn’t come at a better time at our house. Besides making life a tad bit depressing, the reduced sunlight during the day required more use of artificial light sources. It was this source of light that now affected my wife’s ability to perform the crossword puzzle.

“What’s wrong with the lamp?” I asked while squinting across the couch.

“You wouldn’t believe how difficult it was finding a 100-watt light bulb for that lamp” she quipped.

I soon learned of her shopping travails while seeking a replacement light bulb.

Missouri is often referred to as the “Show Me” state. My wife is originally from Missouri. I spent three years there. So I guess some of that “Show Me” attitude rubbed off on me in that I had to experience the difficulty of purchasing a light bulb for myself.

Walking down the electrical supply aisle of our local hardware store, I was surprised to see so many different types of funky curlicue light bulbs. So many in fact, it was difficult locating any of the old incandescent ones.

We heard this was coming. In a grand effort to save our planet the federal government is now dictating what kind of light bulbs we must use.

But wait! What about the recent disclosure those curlicue light bulbs contain mercury? I guess its OK to accept mercury contamination if we want to save the planet from carbon emissions. It’s a trade-off. Kind of like rationalizing the killing of endangered birds flying into windmill turbines.

So the new rules put in place in the event someone accidentally breaks one of those curlicue light bulbs is as follows:

1: Evacuate the immediate area.

2: Cordon off the room or area with yellow hazardous tape.

3: Contact the Environmental Protection Agency and alert them of this hazardous mercury spill. They’ll record your home or business address into their hazardous waste site database (for future legal action).

4: Remove broken glass while wearing a protective face mask and gloves.

5: Ventilate the contaminated area for a minimum three hours before re-entering.

Needless to say, I refuse to replace any of my light bulbs with any of those mercury filled environmental time bombs. I get more quality light from a candle than I get from any one of those goofy looking bulbs.

After what seemed like an eternity, I finally found some old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs. They were packaged as Philips Soft White 71-watt bulbs.

Huh? Seventy-one watts? Where did the other four watts go?

What happened to the gold standard of American light bulbs? Where are the 60-, 75-and 100-watt light bulbs?

Philips also makes the Eco Vantage bulb. Anytime I see “Eco” included in a product name I immediately become suspicious. It’s like hearing the phrase “sustainability.” There’s no real meaning behind it. It just gives consumers the false impression the business really cares about the environment.

Eco Vantage includes their light bulb conversion math right on the label. For example, their 53-watt bulb equals 75 watts. Their 71-watt bulb is the equivalent of a 100-watt bulb and so on.

Kind of reminds me of the days when our government tried converting everyone over to the metric system. Thirty years later, highway road signs still read “mph” for speed instead of kilometers.

We Americans just aren’t as chic as those Europeans.

Light bulb manufacturers are very creative with their marketing. Old fashion light bulbs (when you can find them) promote “mercury free” on the package. Consumers will no doubt find this appealing.

Packaging for the curlicue mercury bulbs boasts a longer lifespan and energy savings. One bulb claims a lifespan of 11 years. And if you really want to save money there’s an 8-watt LED bulb that lasts 46 years!

That’s nice but I don’t particularly need an expensive light bulb that outlives me. I suppose I could bequeath all of my light bulbs to my children when I die.

What happens to my energy savings if I accidentally break the bulb two years from now?

“Why did you buy two dozen regular light bulbs?” my wife asked when I returned home from the store.

“Once the government bans them outright I’ll be forced to pay double on the black market” I responded.

Accepting the new light bulbs may help reduce carbon emissions. But I suspect they’re more profitable to the manufacturers producing them. And where are they you wonder? You’ll find the answer on the back of the package.

“Made in China”

Richard Esposito is publisher of VIllage Life. Contact him at [email protected] .

Richard Esposito


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