Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let there be (incandescent) light

Sandra Parshall

I’m hoarding lightbulbs.

I can’t help it. Every time I go to a supermarket, I buy more incandescent lightbulbs. Beginning in 2012, they will no longer be manufactured in the U.S., they will vanish from store shelves, and all I will have are the bulbs I can accumulate between now and then.

Yes, I know lightbulb hoarding is a shameful thing to admit. In every other way, I try to be environmentally responsible. I drive a hybrid car and scowl at gas-guzzling SUVs. I turn in ink and toner cartridges for recycling. I carry even the tiniest scrap of clean paper to the recycling bin and hate it when paper is so soiled that I have to toss it in the trash. Bottles, caps, cans, anything and everything that can be recycled goes into the bins.
 

I’m also in favor of saving energy by using more efficient bulbs. In principle. But this is where environmental consciousness collides with personal needs. Fluorescent lighting gives me headaches. It makes my eyes hurt. The longer I’m subjected to it, the worse I feel. I’ve read that this reaction is caused by flickering that’s invisible to the eye but nevertheless has an effect on the body and brain. Whatever the reason, the ill effects I suffer from fluorescent lighting are real and unmistakable.

And I hate the way it looks. Weak, watery, with a blue-green tinge. Manufacturers can give fluorescent bulbs the outward appearance of  incandescents, and they can claim fluorescents have equivalent light output, but I have yet to find one that is bright enough and provides the kind of warm, soothing light an incandescent does. We already have fluorescents in the fixtures outside our two back doors, and the low level of light they provide is noticeable, regardless of their “equivalent” wattage. When a fluorescent is installed in every lamp and fixture in the house, I will feel deprived, trapped in a dim, cold place that will be bright only when the sun streams through the windows. I expect to have a constant headache. How will I write under these circumstances?

I have read that professional studio photographers are concerned because they’re being robbed of the best lighting for their indoor work. Photographers may be doing a lot more Photoshopping of images if they’re forced to shoot in fluorescent light. Maybe some of them are hoarding bulbs right now too, just like me.

I will collect incandescents and I will use them until the last one burns out. Maybe by then the manufacturers will have found a way to warm up fluorescent light and make the lamp bulbs brighter and less irritating to the eye than they are now.

How do you feel about fluorescents? Are you prepared to screw them into every socket in your house and never look back fondly at the days when a lamp cast a a soothing, natural glow over a room? Or are you collecting incandescents against the dreaded 2012 date when they will disappear from stores forever?

16 comments:

The Cat Bastet said...

My husband is also hoarding lightbulbs. Glad to know we're not the only ones doing this!

Mary said...

When I changed all the bulbs in the house I though I was going blind. I changed back and relieved to find I could see clearly again.
Yes, I have a stash.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yikes! I had no idea. Thanks. Off to the store..

(When they banned cyclamates in the late 60's? My college roomante and I scoured the stores and bought up all the Diet-Rite cola we could find. I still laugh. It was banned as a carcinogen! But at 19, we thought it was more important to be thin.)

Judy Alter said...

I had no idea this was on the horizon. I thought the incandescent were environmentally sound. I too am going to hoard them from now on. Thanks for the heads up.

Sandra Parshall said...

Omigosh, I've set off a hoarding trend!

Hank, I remember how bereft I was when cyclamates were banned. The taste of Diet Coke was never the same again.

Jessie Crockett said...

I plan on reverting to tallow candles and going to bed when the sun goes down. Or I'll start a firefly ranch and will keep canning jars of them in every room of my house.

Will the refrigerator lights be fluorescent too? If so, won't the time it takes standing there with the fridge open for the bulb to warm up enough to see anything offset any gains made by the switch? Or is this just a government conspiracy to help America slim down by causing us to slam the fridge door, empty-handed, in frustration?

Rochelle Staab said...

I love your post because I relate - my new lightbulbs are driving me nuts. I'm in the dark ages - the kitchen bulbs take minutes to 'warm up' to bright, so I'm scarfing for breakfast in the dark. I'll give the new ones credit for lasting longer, but they're so big and ugly. And, as you can read, I haven't mastered calling them by their proper name yet. Rebelling.
Candles or the fireplace for me.

Marilynne said...

I don't mind fluorescent light by my outside doors. I don't mind it in places where I just need a little lighting. They are forgetting that I need to see. I'm getting older so I need even more light to read by. I like to see what I eat.

I guess I'm going to have to stock up too. I can't live by fluorescent lights alone.

Marilynne said...

Hank and Sharon, the taste of Diet Coke has never been good. You just drank it for the Coke name and the lack of calories. That's my opinion anyway.

Sandra Parshall said...

I'm wondering if (and when) halogen lights will be banned. They're super-bright but produce a huge amount of heat, so they're not as energy-efficient as fluorescents (but more so than incandescents, apparently). Maybe I should stock up on halogens too. You can take pretty good photos indoors under halogen light. Fluorescent is hopeless, unless you like the look of green skin.

Sandra Parshall said...

FYI: Britain and the European Union countries took incandescents off the market last year. They're phasing out halogens by 2016. Countries all over the world are imposing bans on the manufacture and sale of incandescents. Canada is one of those countries, so people in the US can't cross the border to buy contraband lightbulbs. (Imagine being stopped by border police and arrested for possession of frosted lightbulbs. Oh, the shame.)

Christine Hammar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Hammar said...

Living in the EU I'm going to buy these German "heatballs" :).

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE69E4EM20101015

Anonymous said...

I have bathroom light fixtures and expensive lamps that do not take any of the currently available "green" lights. So I am stockpiling!

Anonymous said...

Since these bulbs (all the ones I've looked at) are made in China, not an environmentally friendly manufacturing environment, and since they contain mercury, which is a polluter once they're thrown away, aren't they not as good as we seem to automatically think? And they don't work well if at all on dimmer switches, etc. etc.

Michele Drier said...

Sandy, we may be sisters-under-the-skin. I drive a hybrid, have recycled for years (even tearing the labels off my cans), wrap up in a blanket rather than turning on the heat, ya-ta-da, ya-ta-da...but I can't fathom giving up incandescent bulbs. Not only a headache, but now I find I can't see to read unless I'm outside or have a 100-150 watt bulb over my shoulder. Hoarding, here I come!