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Both the federal government and the state government are justifying the banning of incandescent lights and the argument is reasonably simple “incandescent lights are bad, bad, bad for the environment and anyone who uses them is evil”.

The NSW web site even goes on the show how much money you save by switching to a compact fluorescent or halogen light and at first sight it looks good.

But if it was so good, why didn’t people convert over without the government intervening? After all, if it drops the bill from $116 to $27 then surely we would all convert anyway.

The big joke is that the government almost had it right – lights are a big waste of energy, but they missed the real evil – down lights.

And I think it is because politicians are not engineers. I could go a step further and say that they are like a 10 watt bulb (not that bright) but I won’t.

People look at a down light and think “it’s only 12V so it must be OK” but we are talking about volts, not watts. Watts is how much juice it sucks, volts is how much a zap it will give you.

If it was a car, then watts would be your fuel consumption, and volts would be the number of cylinders in the engine. At the end of the day it is not the number of cylinders that determines how much it costs to run a car, but the fuel consumption. Not a perfect example, but hopefully you get the point.

So back to down lights. Even though they are 12v, they are typically 50 to 80 watts. But an incandescent light was typically 60 to 100 watts so it could be argued that they are worse. But one room used to require one (or two or three) incandescent light. So 100 watts would light up a room.

But walk into a modern house and it is lit up with not one, but a dozen down lights. In our kitchen/dining room there are 11 down lights. At 50 watts each, that’s 550 watts to light the room.

And the evils don’t stop there. Much of the light actually goes up into the ceiling. They can’t even get the direction right. And the heat. The ceiling insulation issues were largely due to down lights setting it on fire.

So why didn’t the government ban down lights?

But here we are, a couple of years down the line and what is happening in the market? Have we all converted to compact fluorescent lights? No way. And why? Here are my reasons:

  1. The quality of light is hopeless. They take time to warm up (some are better than others) and as they age, they get worse. So they may last 8,000 hours but within 1,000 hours you are ready to toss them.
  2. But they don’t last 8,000 hours. They blow too soon. Is this a result of poor quality electricity (with spikes and dips) or are they just not up to the task. Personally, I think they last just as long as incandescent lights.
  3. They are bad for the environment. They are loaded up with metal, plastic, mercury and other stuff (that’s a technical term for “I don’t know”). An incandescent light had glass and metal – both renewable resources and could be disposed off in a bin.
  4. They don’t fit in most of my standard light fittings. They were big and cumbersome. Now they are smaller, but more useless for light.

So there is an emerging alternative – the halogen globe. It looks like an incandescent light, works like and incandescent light, and gives the same quality light as an incandescent light, but with 30% less energy. It looks like a winner.

But it costs 10 times more, has more parts, and is saving a huge 30%.

But wait, in theory this is also meant to last longer. And so that’s why I started keeping the receipt for my lights and marking on the box when I installed them. Guess what – they blow within a month. Now if I leave my lights on 24 hours a day (which I don’t) then 24 x 30 = 720. They should be lasting a minimum of 3 months of continual use. If they are only on for 6 hours a day they should last a year. I am lucky to get 6 months out of them.

So now for the maths…

1 x 100 watt incandescent blowing every 500 hours for 8000 hours: $108 + $10 for new bulbs

11 x 50 watt down lights blowing every 500 hours for 8000 hours: $600-700

1 x 20 watt compact fluorescent blowing every 500 hours for 8000 hours: $22 + $80 for new bulbs + a head ache from poor light

1 x 65 watt quart halogen blowing every 500 hours for 8000 hours: $70 + 80 for new bulbs

And suddenly that incandescent bulb becomes the good guy.


That’s why I replaced all of mine with LED down lights. Now they have dropped from 50w to 9w and they do last a lot longer.

And what does this have to do with temperature loggers? Nothing. I just wanted to vent my frustration.

2 Responses

  1. Incandescent lights are usually not extremely energy efficient which is precisely why we need to replace them with much more efficient lamps such as CFL.

    1. Thanks for the feedback.

      My argument is that they aren’t inefficient when you consider the total amount of energy required to light up a space compared with downlights.

      The public is being misled into thinking low voltage downlights are good when, in fact, they are high power and it is power that matters, not voltage.

      It is sort of like 4-wheel drives promoting them selves as more economical because they now have green roof racks, and green means environmentally friendly. It’s a statement that just doesn’t make sense.

      Except most people don’t know the difference between voltage and watts, so they accept the silly statement as true.