Was this really such a bright idea?


It seems that the decision makers think that everyone knows about the so called benefits of compact fluorescent light bulbs. Most people are only aware of the danger of mercury. To say that a wristwatch battery contains more mercury may or may not be correct, but we don’t open up our batteries to be exposed and we’ve been recycling all batteries for a number of years. 

Although legislation was put in place by the federal government a number of years ago, it was slated for the ban to take effect January 2012, so most people in B.C. were caught off-guard when the incandescent light bulbs started disappearing from the shelves. There was almost mass hysteria to buy up as many of them as they could before none were left.  

LED lights and CFLs may be considered to be energy-saving in the long run, but at the prices they demand they are a far cry from making the consumer happy. To pay $8 for a CFL or $20 for a LED, when you can buy four incandescents for $3 is a shot in the pocketbook. Of course, the LEDs and CFLs are intended for a longer life span, thereby costing the consumer less in the long run, but it’s not easy to digest when you are on a limited or fixed income, or are earning only $8 an hour (the cost of one CFL).b 

Imagine if you will, a household that no longer has access to incandescent light bulbs. They have say 20 lights in their house, and using the least expensive CFL available at the lowest reasonable lumens, it could cost this consumer upwards of $200.  

Not to mention the fact that not all current lighting fixtures in homes accommodate CFLs, so there is potential for additional costs to the consumer to convert over to fixtures that do accommodate CFLs. I refer to Energy Star web site… Learn about CFLs: “Check your controls. Most photocells, motion sensors and electric timers are not designed to work with CFLs. Always check with the manufacturer of the control for compatibility.” There will be a lot of work available to enterprising electricians due to this incompatibility, or the extra expense to find another fixture.  

There are seven tips on that web page that consumers should know about, but I don’t recall seeing any information suggesting that we should check it out. Most people don’t know that the lights are intended for longer term use, over 15 minutes, so their lights burn out faster because of the constant on/off, and customers complain about that. They also complain about how long it takes for the CFLs to reach full brightness; anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds.  The consumer hasn’t been educated in the use of the CFLs. They only know the danger of the mercury. They also need to be educated in the proper recycling process; not everyone is working at that level yet. Some are still throwing them in the trash because they find the recycling to be too much hassle, even more so because they have been forced upon them.  

The LEDs are probably the true way of the future but the cost is prohibitive – $20 to $60 a bulb at present. Again, it may last a lifetime, but initial cost can put them out of the reach of many consumers.  

It is important to note also that there are in fact some exceptions to the banning of incandescents, such as spotlights, appliance bulbs, traffic lights, infared, three-way, candelabra, coloured and other speciality bulbs.  For how long, who knows?  

Many countries have already banned incandescent lights, so it is inevitable that Canada should follow that road. My issue is that people have not been informed or educated properly. Not many people are averse to change if they are told what the change will be and how it will affect them. Specifically the financial impact. It appears that the ‘powers that be’ have not fully considered the immediate impact on the consumer, all in the name of what they see as the ‘way of the future’. It is expected that the average consumer in Canada will save a whopping $50 per year with this transition. It’s going to cost a whole lot more than $50 per year (again especially for low income and fixed income) to retrofit their home to accommodate this ‘dream’ of energy efficiency.   

I can envision families sitting around the dining room table so they can use the one or two CFL or LED light bulbs they can afford until the next pay cheque. This may sound exaggerated, but I’m sure there will be a few of them. Perhaps there should be some kind of incentive to help in this transition, a discounted purchase plan from BC Hydro perhaps. They did it with Christmas lights.  

Debbie Atkinson, Langley