28 July 2009

Germans are hoarding incandescent light bulbs

As the Sept. 1 deadline for the implementation of the first phase of the EU's ban on incandescent light bulbs approaches, shoppers, retailers and even museums are hoarding the precious wares -- and helping the manufacturers make a bundle...

"It's unbelievable what is happening," says Werner Wiesner, the head of Megaman, a manufacturer of energy-saving bulbs. Wiesner recounts a story of how one of his field representatives recently saw a man in a hardware store with a shopping cart full of light bulbs of all types worth more than €200 ($285). "That's enough for the next 20 years."

And what's ironic -- in the short term, at least -- is that the companies that manufacture the climate-killing bulbs are seeing a big boost in sales. According to the GfK market research company, sales in Germany of incandescent light bulbs between January and April 20, 2009, saw a 20 percent jump over the same period a year earlier, while CFL sales shrank by 2 percent.
The phrase "climate-killing bulb" seems to bespeak a bit of bias on the part of the Der Spiegel writer or copyeditor, but I'm blogging this re the phenomenon, not re the sentiment.


  1. Hardly surprising about the German hoarding..
    it is supposedly even worse in Austria, and will no doubt increase over the next month everywhere in the EU.

    Germans - like Americans, and like other Europeans - choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (European Commission and lighting industry data).
    Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!

    If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
    people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned... they were bought less anyway.

    All lights have their advantages.
    The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

    100 W+ equivalent brightness,
    is a particular issue - difficult and expensive with both fluorescents and LEDS - yet such incandescent bulbs are first in line for banning both in the EU and USA.

    Since when does the EU or America need to save on electricity?
    There is no energy shortage, there are plenty of local energy sources, Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation.
    Consumers - not politicians - pay for the energy used.
    Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money - but why force them to do it?

    OK: Does a light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    In say France or Sweden, like Washington state, practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in states like New York and California and in many European countries.
    Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
    Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology or energy substitution.

    Also, the savings amounts can be questioned for many reasons:

    For a referenced list of reasons against light bulb bans, see
    http://www.ceolas.net/#li1x onwards

    Even if a reduction in use was needed, then taxation to reduce consumption would make more sense since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
    People can still buy what they want, unlike with bans.
    However taxation on electrical appliances is in principle wrong for similar reasons to bans (for example, emission-free households are hit too).

  2. I save energy in my house by having dimmers. My bedroom, my daughter's bedrooms, and my living/family room are all on dimmers.

    Try running a CFB on a dimmer.

  3. In Britain, our energy suppliers have been giving out free cfls for a while, the price in stores has plummetted, and they use less energy..... what's not to like?
    Well, in my case, the slow start-up time. Turn an incandescent light on, and almost immediately it runs at full brilliance. Not so the cfl, which might take a few minutes to wake up. then there's the myth of long life.
    In fact, I made the mistake long ago, of using one in an outdoor light fitting, it barely managed a glow in wintertime.
    Then there's the longevity myth. In my home, and in my job (maintaining commercial and industrial properties) I fail to see any really significantly longer life in cfl fittings. Whereas in some parts of the older buildings there are incandescent light bulbs that have not been replaced, certainly in the last twenty years, probably much longer.
    cfls may meet their claimed longevity targets in a lab environment, with no switching cycles or vibration, and a 'clean' electrical supply. But in the real world, they seem to fail as quickly or more so than incandescents.
    Then, I recently bought a new fitting for my room, replacing an old lampshade which lit the room adequately with a 60W incandescent. The new one has a 'feature' globe cfl, allegedly a 100W equivalent.
    That's why I've got three other lights on then?
    The 100W equivalent, despite being touted as a "warm white" has a cold insipid, unwelcoming glow.
    At the weekend, I'll be replacing it with an incandescent. Hundred watt. and I'll refit my dimmer switch.


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