Controls, Legislation + Regulation

What if 80% of the lamps in your house had to be fluorescent? Part 2

Great conversation still happening in the comments section in an earlier post here.

To which I’d like to add: Perhaps we are “banning” the wrong technology?


CFLs save energy but they have dimming issues with self-ballasted screw-in type units, thermal issues in some luminaires, sizing issues in others, color, time to reach full brightness, etc. Being forced to use CFLs will mean compromises for consumers of light.

Dimming, meanwhile, offers no compromises that I can think of except a cost adder compared to the light switch (which CFLs also have compared to the standard A lamp). Dimming enables homeowners to keep the advantages of incandescent lighting–warm color, easy control, instant ON, fits all existing luminaires, zero mercury in landfills (although admittedly more mercury would still be emitted by power plants producing the higher amount of electrical energy required), offers light distribution that existing luminaires were designed to produce. Plus many of them are made in America, not in China, and aren’t we trying to get more people employed on this continent?

Meanwhile, dimming can dramatically extend incandescent lamp life, which is good for the environment, and according to one study produces an average 20% energy savings.

I’d like to make the argument that if you use an energy saving halogen light bulb (such as the energy-saving version of Philips Halogena), which saves 30% energy at the expense of a 10% reduction in light output, plus a dimmer, which saves an average 20% in energy savings, and you get all the advantages of incandescent light plus longer life, with none of the disadvantages of CFLs, perhaps we are targeting the wrong technology?

Perhaps we should be allowing consumers to choose whatever light source they want, and instead ban the ON/OFF light switch and require dimming everywhere?

What do you think?

  • Michael Phillips March 6, 2009, 2:58 PM

    Very intersting idea. Well it ever happen? Unfortunatly I don’t think it well.

  • Joao Gabriel April 2, 2009, 11:44 AM

    How are difficult make changes! This is human being!

  • Adam Lisk April 2, 2009, 4:08 PM

    I’ve been encouraging dimmers every where for years. I think that dimming is a wonderful idea. Dimming an incandescent fixture has so many different bonuses. You could use it as a night light for stairways, halls, or bathrooms. I have used the idea in the living room and found it really handy while having movie night with my family. The other advantages are that the lights don’t flicker when they are burning out, there is no ballast humming, because there’s no ballast. The only other technology I like more than wall dimmers would have to be LEDs. I admit I don’t know a lot about them, but if you could dim LEDs then thats where I think we should be looking.

  • Bruce Allen April 3, 2009, 10:50 AM

    I have found that I like to replace a 60W incandescent lamp with a 75W or 100W CFL lamp. I still save money and energy and get more light. I have two problems with using CFL lamps. One is the availability of 4100K color. Most of the “big box” stores sell 2700K or 3500K and sometimes 6500K lamps. The first two colors are too red (warm) and the last color is too blue. 4100K (cool white) is my preferred color. The second problem is that I have a very hard time getting CFL lamps to last more than two years. There are no cost savings if I have to replace them that often. I can stand the slow warm up of the CFL lamp. I hope that LED’s become available in a white color. Many of the little flash lights are blue which is hard to see with.

  • David Bergman April 5, 2009, 12:04 PM

    But do people in fact dim their fixtures? My experience is that most people leave their dimmers set at full brightness most of the time.

    In other words, this requires user awareness and participation, where energy efficient light sources do not.

    I do agree that CFLs are not the ultimate solution. But until LEDs and OLEDs (or some other technology) mature, they are probably our best interim solution.


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