06 May 2013

Unexpected Inutility

While I'm all for energy efficient light bulbs, I've never been fond of those spiral compact fluorescents. The shape is often wrong for a fixture, and the color temperature is too cold and blue, and you really don't want to have to look at them. But the LED bulbs that are starting to be available are much better: the shape and size is pretty close to an old-style incandescent bulb, the color is warmer, they go on instantly, and they're dimmable. [They are, however, exceedingly spendy up front.]

I flipped on my office desk task light this morning, and poof! The incandescent bulb expired. When he got in, the building manager scrounged me up an 8 watt LED bulb made by Philips. Lovely!

But...it didn't work. You see, the light fixture is a wall mounted, adjustable, spring arm fancy-pants thing by Tolomeo.

And as soon as I put the bulb in, it gently sank down and rested its little head on my telephone.

The problem is that the old incandescent bulb (A) weighs about an ounce, and the new bulb (B) weighs 4.4 ounces - way too heavy for that particular fixture. Happily we had some old style bulbs, but what are we going to do when we can't get them anymore? In all the hullabaloo about the phase out of incandescent bulbs, it never occurred to me that we might need to get new light fixtures.


S said...


I too hate the cold, blue color of the new bulbs.

Bibliomama said...

Same here. It's no good for reading. There's something wrong with a light bulb that's supposed to be more efficient necessitating the replacement of a light fixture.

MARY G said...

I have stocked up on what I fondly hope to be a lifetime supply of old style bulbs for problem lamps.
Depending on how much I use them, I may have to jump off a cliff in a decade or so unless the efficiency police lighten up.
Um, not punny.

edj3 said...

We apologize to our grandchildren every time we screw in an incandescent bulb -- and we do still use them.

Anonymous said...

In our race to move to GREEN, we are not helping our environment. Don't worry as much about incandescent. See below.

LED light bulbs are becoming increasingly popular with designers and consumers of green technology, as they use less electricity, last longer, and emit more light on a pound-for-pound basis than traditional incandescent bulbs. However, while it may be tempting to look at them as having solved the problem of environmentally-unfriendly lighting, researchers from the University of California would advise against such thinking.

Scientists from UC Irvine and UC Davis pulverized multicolored LED Christmas lights, traffic signal lights, and automobile head and brake lights, allowed residue to leach from them, and then analyzed its chemical content. They discovered that low-intensity red LEDs contained up to eight times the amount of lead allowed under California law, although generally brighter bulbs tended to contain the most contaminants. While white bulbs had a lower lead content than their colored counterparts, they still had high levels of nickel.

Besides the lead and nickel, the bulbs and their associated parts were also found to contain arsenic, copper, and other metals that have been linked to different cancers, neurological damage, kidney disease, hypertension, skin rashes and other illnesses in humans, and to ecological damage in waterways. UC Irvine’s Oladele Ogunseitan said that while breaking a single bulb and breathing its fumes would not automatically cause cancer, it could be the tipping point for an individual regularly exposed to another carcinogen.

The study found that the production, use and disposal of LEDs all present health risks, which the public should be made aware of. It suggests that a special broom, gloves and mask should be used when cleaning up broken bulbs, and that crews attending to car accidents or broken traffic lights should be required to wear protective gear, and treat the material as hazardous waste.

LEDs are currently not classified as toxic, and are disposed of in conventional landfills.

Ogunseitan blames the situation on a lack of proper product testing before LEDs were presented as a more efficient replacement for incandescent bulbs – which are now being phased out around the world. Although a law requiring more stringent testing for such products was scheduled to begin on January 1st in California, it was opposed by industry groups, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put it on hold before leaving office.

“Every day we don't have a law that says you cannot replace an unsafe product with another unsafe product, we're putting people's lives at risk,” said Ogunseitan. “And it's a preventable risk.”

Incandescent bulbs, incidentally, contain very high levels of lead and mercury, while compact fluorescents are also high in mercury.

The UC Irvine and UC Davis team's study appears in the January 2011 issue of Environmental Science & Technology.