Category Archives for Environment

Let There Be Incandescent Light


I have tried nearly every kind of light bulb out there. I was a very early adopter of compact fluorescent bulbs. Pay a bit more now for a bulb that lasts longer and uses less energy, thus saving a lot of money in the long run? What’s not to like?

Nearly everything, as it turns out. First, the bulbs were a lot more expensive than the plain old incandescent light bulbs. I spent a pretty decent amount of money to change everything out in my house. Second, after literally changing every single bulb in my house… the energy savings was far too small for me to pick it out of the noise in my month-to-month energy bills. I probably really was saving energy, but it was such a small amount that I couldn’t even prove it to myself. Hardly worth the time and effort. Third, there’s a bit of an annoyance factor with them because they take a bit to “warm up” and really come up to full light. Fourth, there’s a new environmental factor: disposing of them without leaving mercury traces everywhere.

But worst of all – by far – is that the light quality absolutely sucks. Now, most people don’t notice this – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t bothered by it. Light quality has a huge subconscious effect on us. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a real phenomenon, and the primary driver of it is light. A decent portion of that is physical – a lack of true sunlight causes vitamin D deficiencies. But some of it is purely mental. The visual quality of the light has a direct effect on our subconscious minds. This effect is also present in other forms of depression, not just SAD.

As it happens, depression runs in my family and in my wife’s family. SAD also runs in my family (and, although undiagnosed, probably in my wife’s family as well). So after dealing with shitty light for a few months, I made another sweep through my house later and threw out all of the compact fluorescent bulbs. I replaced them all with good old fashioned incandescent light bulbs again. Only this time, not the cheap ones. I paid a bit more for the good ones that were a bit fuller spectrum.And it made a difference. Not a huge one, but it was noticeable – more noticeable than the energy savings I was theoretically getting from more expensive light bulbs.

On occasion since then I’ve run similar experiments with newer technologies – although I’ve never since changed out the whole house without running smaller scale experiments first. I learned my lesson there. And I have yet to find a bulb that lives up to good old incandescent light.Until recently, it was hands down the price winner as well (ignoring energy costs). So I paid a bit more in energy, but saved on the bulbs. Even the more expensive full-spectrum incandescent bulbs were cheaper than the “high efficiency” bulbs. This became an even bigger deal when we moved into our current house. Something isn’t right in the house. It burns through light bulbs like no tomorrow. At the moment, there are at least nine light bulbs burned out in our house. And this is only in the last few weeks – we replace them frequently.Or, at least, we try to.

The problem is that some assholes in Washington (aka Congress) decided that for some reason this was in issue that just absolutely needed their input. And now the manufacture or import of incandescent bulbs is heavily regulated. The result is that the full spectrum bulbs we used to get now cost four times what they used to. At the rates that bulbs go out in our house, the price is killing us. We’re having to drop back to cheaper incandescents (which still cost twice what we used to pay for the more expensive ones).

I’m all for saving energy. I’m all for helping the environment. But I refuse to do so at the expense of my family’s mental health. Congress should never have placed this burden on us – and on you. Because whether you know it or not, this is effecting you at a subconscious level as well (the degree to which this effects people varies, but the effect is very real and well documented).