Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Dim bulbs become a moot point

Quite apart from Charlotte Gore's discussion around the quality of compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light, we get confirmation that they simply aren't as bright as their incandescent cousins.
The Sunday Telegraph has conducted its own tests on level of illuminance provided by light bulbs from different manufacturers to see whether their claims stand up to scrutiny.

We found that under normal household conditions, using a single lamp to light a room, an 11W low-energy CFL produced only 58 per cent of the illumination of an "equivalent" 60W bulb – even after a 10-minute "warm-up".

Mind you, The Sunday Telegraph is a filthy capitalist venture and not to be trusted—especially when the good old BBC and their puppetmasters (Defra, in this case) both reassure us that this simply isn't the case.
However, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs denies they are a risk...

"The light is bright and clear and tests conducted by the Energy Saving Trust suggest that the majority of people cannot tell the difference between the light of a new CFL and an incandescent bulb."

There! The Beeb said it so it must be true.

Um, except that—according to The Sunday Telegraph—the European Union appears to disagree.
On a website intended to answer consumers' questions about the switch to energy saving bulbs, the European Commission states: "Currently, exaggerated claims are often made on the packaging about the light output of compact fluorescent lamps.

"For example, a 11-12 Watt compact fluorescent lamp would be the equivalent of a 60 Watt incandescent, which is not true. The light output of 15W compact fluorescent lamp is slightly more than the light output from a 60W incandescent."

So, there you have it: make of it what you will.

Let us also not forget that CFLs contain mercury and so you cannot just throw them away—and nor can councils simply landfill them. Under EU law (yes, it's the EU again) CFLs need to be properly disposed of.

But all of this is shortly going to become moot because these light-bulbs are low-energy but they cannot run on no energy at all.

Because, via Burning Our Money, it appears that we should all start bracing ourselves for blackouts over the next decade.
Britain is facing the prospect of widespread power cuts for the first time since the 1970s, government projections show.

Demand for power from homes and businesses will exceed supply from the national grid within eight years, according to official figures.

The shortage of supplies will hit the equivalent of many as 16 million families for at least one hour during the year, it is forecast.

Not since the early 1970s when the three-day week was introduced to preserve coal has Britain faced the prospect of reationing energy use.

One of the defining traits of both the Blair and Brown governments is total cowardice—a willingness to defer the important decisions in favour of ensuring that crucial next-election win.

NuLabour has dithered and prevaricated about the building of new power stations, and has finally approved (some) new generation stations. But it is too little, too late.

Most stations will take some ten years to come onstream and many of our powerstations—coal, gas and nuclear—are already operating past their recommended lifespan. This is, to put it mildly, not good—especially as regards the nuclear reactors.
The gap between Britain’s energy needs and demand throws fresh doubt on the Government’s assertion that renewable energy can make up for dwindling nuclear and coal capabilities.

Anyone who thinks—regardless of what future technologies might bring—that we can provide for Britain's current power needs through renewable power is a fucking moron.
The admission that Britain will face power-cuts is contained in a document that accompanied the Government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, which was launched in July.

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, outlined the plan amid much fanfare.

Under the plan, 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity will need to come from low-carbon energy sources including clean coal, nuclear and renewables.

Ed Miliband is, along with his half-wit brother, one of the single stupidest people alive in Britain today. Not only is he a creepy little shit with the kind of bulging eyes that makes one suspect that he has some sort of unpleasant thyroid problem, but he is utterly pig-ignorant of any kind of science.

Given the fact that Miliband is mentally sub-normal, I shall spell out a simple message to Ed: "renewables are simply not going to cut it, you cunt."

As a case in point, the current darling of the renewable-energy twats is wind power: as regular readers of The Kitchen will know, wind power is not only vastly expensive in and of itself—the only reason that any windfarms have been build is because they are massively subsidised by the taxpayer—but the industry rule of thumb is that wind power requires 90% back-up capacity (that means conventional powerstations). NINETY PERCENT!
[Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary Greg Clark] also pointed out that the scale of the blackouts could in fact be three times worse than the Government predictions. He said some of the modelling used was “optimistic” as it assumes little or no change in electricity demand up until to 2020.

It also assumes a rapid increase in wind farm capacity. There is also the assumption that existing nuclear power stations will be granted extensions to their “lifetimes".

The last time Britain experienced regular power cuts because of shortages of supply was in the early 1970s, when a miners' strike caused coal restrictions. The country was forced to do everyday tasks by candlelight and a three-day week was imposed on all but essential services to try and conserve electricity.

Needless to say, an awful lot of this gargantuan fuck-up can be traced back to the EU. Again.
The looming problem in Britain is caused by the scheduled closure by 2015 of nine oil and coal-fired power plants. They are the victim of an EU directive designed to cut pollution.

In addition, four existing nuclear power plants are set to be shut, adding to the need for new sources of energy.

We are already fucked: we simply don't have the time to bring new powerstations online, and nor do we have the infrastructure to import massive amounts of electricity from the Continent—even if they had the surplus to sell.

We simply cannot afford to let the lights go out because the situation now is far more crucial than in the 70s—if only because a far higher number of people use computers to do their jobs. If we have blackouts, almost every single business will grind to a halt: the entire banking sector would be (even more) screwed. Britain would be destroyed as any kind of economic force.

You think I exaggerate? These blackouts are not predicted to be for a couple of months: we are talking about a shortfall in power generation—even assuming no growth in usage requirements—lasting for nearly two decades.
The official figures are taken from the government’s Low Carbon Transition Plan, and here's their chart showing the projected energy gap (Expected Energy Unserved):

Ed Miliband has been poncing around Twitter recently—as well as getting short shrift from people he's spammed—encouraging people to sign up to his piss-poor campaign website, EdsPledge.com.
I'll be pushing for clear action to get a global climate deal that's ambitious, effective and fair. This means ambitious cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, keeping countries to their word and supporting poorer countries in adapting to climate change.

Really, Ed? I'll tell you what: here's a pledge I'd happily sign up to:
I, Ed Miliband, pledge that my ludicrous climate change posturing will not cause any power shortages from now until 2030. I, Ed Miliband, am so confident of this that I pledge—for every blackout that occurs—I will allow 100 people to kick the living shit out of me for an hour per minute of blackout.

There, that's a pledge that I would sign up for—so how about it, Ed? Want to put your shortly to be crackered knackers where you horrible, writhing mouth is?

Ed? Ed? Hello...?


Katabasis said...

Its even worse than you think.

Last year I had a meeting with a senior representative from Britain's nuclear industry to discuss the possibility of some of our work being used to make decommissioning cheaper.

He said that the true cost of decommissioning is yet another huge expense kept off of the government balance sheet - and its costs are appropriately astronomical because decommissioning schedules are often planned for 100 years into the future (thats NOT a typo).

So even if we do get a sufficient number of new generation nuclear plants up and running in time, we're still going to be hit with the massive cost of the complete decommissioning of the old stations. Thanks Gordon!

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side. Happy days will be here again. I have fond memories of chatting up girls in candlelit pubs in the 1970's, and all over a pint of real ale because all the fucking awful lager pumps didn't work.

Frederick Davies said...

1970s, Britain: "The last one out, please switch off the lights."

2010s, Britain: "Where's the exit? Why is it so dark in here!?"

Katabasis said...

By the DK - your pledge for Ed Milliband gave me some much needed laughs on this very depressing topic. Good work, and thanks!

Mitch said...

I had an email off the stupid milliband about this and composed a long vitriolic reply only to find out you cant....so I sent it to his parliamentary address.
What an utter cunt, he is happily sacrificing his(and yours& mine) country for party gain.
Stuff the pledge lets just put his lights out now before we need candles to find him.
They have known about this for decades and we get fuckin windmills.

Katabasis said...

"They have known about this for decades and we get fuckin windmills."

That's what makes it so mind boggling isn't it? There's absolutely no way they could claim they didn't see this one coming....

Lighthouse said...

Europeans, like Americans, choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10 (light industry data 2007-8)
Banning what people want gives the supposed savings - no point in banning an impopular product!


If new LED lights -or improved CFLs- are good,
people will buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
If they are not good, people will not buy them - no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
The arrival of the transistor didn't mean that more energy using radio valves were banned... they were bought less anyway.

The particular error of banning 100W+ ordinary bulbs is that bright CFLs or LEDs are comparatively difficult and expensive to make,
and the high wattage heat effect is not necessarily wasted (room heat substantially rises towards the ceiling by convection, and spreads downwards from there
http://ceolas.net/#li6x ).

Banning frosted lights smacks of particularly unwarranted EU pettiness, for any marginal savings involved.
Clear lights (including halogens) have a strong glare - hence the overwhelming popularity of frosted lights for ceiling use.

Another problem is that small bright CFLs and LEDs are difficult to make, so that candle/golfball lights are bulkier and may not fit some lamps.

Supposed savings don't hold up for many reasons - apart from the dimmer than expected bulbs that you mention, and the possible heat benefit already mentioned above -

Just a few examples here:
CFL Lifespan is lab tested in 3 hour cycles. That does not correspond to real life usage and numerous tests have shown real life type on-off switching reducing lifespan. Leaving lights on of course also uses up energy, as does the switch-on power surge with CFLs
Also, CFLs get dimmer with age, effectively reducing lifespan

Power factor:
Few people know that CFLs typically have a power factor of 0.5 - that means that power stations use up twice as much power than what the CFL rating shows. This has to do with current and voltage phase differences set up when CFLs are used.
Although consumers do not see this on their meters, they will of course have to pay for it on their bills.
This is explained with official links including to US Dept of Energy here: http://ceolas.net/#li15eux

if energy use does fall with light bulb and other proposed efficiency bans and electricity companies make less money,
they’ll simply push up the electricity bills to compensate:
Energy regulators can hardly deny any such cost covering exercise...

Does a light bulb give out any gases?
Power stations might not either:
Why should emission-free households be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to use?
Low emission households already dominate some regions, and will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas processing technology and/or energy substitution.

The Taxation alternative
A ban on light bulbs is extraordinary, in being on a product safe to use.
We are not talking about banning lead paint here.
Even for those who remain pro-ban, taxation to reduce consumption would make much more sense, since governments can use the income to reduce emissions (home insulation schemes, renewable projects etc) more than any remaining product use causes such problems.
A few euros (or equivalent) tax that reduces the current sales (EU 2 billion per annum, UK c. 250-300 million pa, Germany c 1/2 billion per annum), raises future billions, and would retain consumer choice.
It could also be revenue neutral, lowering any sales tax on efficient products.
However, taxation is itself unjustified, it is simply better than bans also for ban proponents, in overall emssion lowering terms.

John B said...

Your 10 year figure is the lead time on a new nuclear plant. The lead time for a new fossil (coal or gas) plant is three years.

Therefore, all that'll happen is that we miss our renewables targets (and some Fijians drown... but if you're a non-AGW-believer, then you don't believe the latter, so there's no problem at all).

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

What exercises my indignation on this topic is the fact that UK electrons are four times the price of French ones and twice the price of German ones.....

WTF is going on? - this simply doesn't get onto the MSM agenda - - now if they did the same for road fuel(£4/litre) - what do you think ?? Another gubmint in short order?

Anybody recall the way Enron manipulated the California electricity market by shutting plants, cancelling orders for new ones and sitting on their hands regarding capacity?

There's a recording of a phone conversation out there between two Enron "traders" chucking about how they were going to f**k up those Californian hippies....

I'd prefer that we in the UK are simply the victims of the cosmic class screwups that are populating our civil service and politics but, well - as other folk have pointed out - it's not like plenty of people out here haven't been foretelling this situation for some years....

WTF is going on eh?

microdave said...

Panic Over - The Daily Mash has the answer to Global Warming:


James Higham said...

Pretty impressive, DK. Am I being a philistine though to say that I like them and that they do last a long time?

microdave said...

I don't mind them either, but the whole point is that we no longer have any choice. And they won't last a long time if used in enclosed, unventilated, fittings. So forget using them for exterior security lighting purposes - exactly the sort of application where long periods of use would benefit from a low consumption lamp. They mustn't be controlled by electronic switching, or timers either!

W/V "fisele" - fizzle out is what will happen to them if abused!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

What, no awful puns about the Devil being incandescent with rage?

BTW, I moved recently and some bloke came round, claiming to do some kind of environmental audit on my old house. God knows where he came from or who pays for him, but he said it was an EU directive. Just to let you know that the house was scored on the number of dim bulbs it had and got points deducted for nasty incandescent ones.

I was so flabbergasted that somebody is actually employed to do this, I forgot to tell him to fuck off.

Anonymous said...

Its the usuall bulshit.
What about the mercury in fluoro bulbs.
Reminds me of the Bio degradable plastic shmuck.
i.e Normal plastic stays in the ground as an innert substance.
Bio degradable plastic breaks down releasing chemicals like Benzols into the soil.
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha, oh dear these fuckers are so thick I dont know whether to laugh or cry.

John B said...

"What exercises my indignation on this topic is the fact that UK electrons are four times the price of French ones and twice the price of German ones....."

...is lies. See the first page here: we're below Germany and only slightly above France, and below the EU average. Denmark is top, probably reflecting their windmill-related lunacy.

"What about the mercury in fluoro bulbs."

...is less than the extra amount of mercury released during the lifetime of an incandescent bulb by burning coal to fuel it. Thanks for playing, you lose.

James said...

less than the extra amount of mercury released during the lifetime of an incandescent bulb by burning coal to fuel it. Thanks for playing, you lose

It isn't the amount of the mercury released over any lifetime of a bulb that most people have a problem with. It's that the bloody stuff is released on your floor where you drop the damn thing with these new ones.

So, no, you didn't win with that 'zinger'.

MrA. said...

Personally, I wouldn't mind if the damn things worked. I had a few bulbs pop a couple of months ago and didn't have any spares except some free green bulbs the Leccy Co. dropped off as a present. Imagine my surprise then, when I put the things in and see that they take a second to come on (it took a while to get used to this - at first I thought the bulbs were faulty); they're as dim as hell until, like a 1960s TV set, they finally warm up; they flicker, like candles; the fact that they need to warm up seems to do something to my fusebox - pretty much every week now I have problems with a fuse switch popping (and it's definitely the bulbs as it's only that circuit that is affected). Oh, and they don't "last three times as long." I've replaced them both in the last 6 or 7 weeks. And what did I do with them? They're f***ing light bulbs! I'm not driving 7 miles to my nearest tip to dump them (as unGreen as that would be anyway). So, despite my knowing that dumping Mercury into landfill where it can get into the soil and water table is probably fairly unwise, I dumped them in the bin.

Strange how none of this was an issue with the old bulbs. I really feel as if these lunatics are driving us back into the (pun unintended) Dark Ages.

Rob said...

A simple solution, at least in the shorter term - ignore the EU directive on coal and oil stations. The French and Germans have an enormous hypocritical moan, the watermelons jump up and down but the lights stay on.

Let them take us to court - a fine of a few million at the end of a case which takes seven years is chicken feed compared to the costs of extended blackouts.

Rob said...

John B: if they are so harmless, why does DEFRA issue instructions which read like you are clearing up a nuclear spillage when one of the bastard things break?

Vicola said...

My own scientific test of switching on our standing lamp that has 3 of the energy saving lightbulbs in it has in fact proved my original hypothesis - that even after ten minuts of warm up I'd still get substantially more light from a jarful of ageing glow-worms.

John B said...

@James/Rob: gibbering paranoia, of precisely the sort you'd decry in any other situation. Let me know when you drop a CFL, I'll come and clear it up with my bare hands and it'll be fine...

Pogo said...

@Tom "What exercises my indignation on this topic is the fact that UK electrons are four times the price of French ones and twice the price of German ones....."

Maybe they're organic...

Anonymous said...

Actually 10 year lead time is if we use our own useless engineers to build a nuclear plant. The French can do it in 2. What will happen is the government will ride roughshod over local planning and nimby concerns and just get some built sharpish if it came to it.

Call me Infidel said...

How much will the fine be when the council stasi rubbish enforcement officers discovers fluorescent bulbs in your rubbish?

Let me know when you drop a CFL, I'll come and clear it up with my bare hands and it'll be fine...
Of course it will, by the time you get there they will have inhaled all the mercury...chump.

Anonymous said...


Panta Rei covered a lot of the pertinent issues, I'd like to chuck a few more into the mix.

One thing that isn't being punted is the fact that CFL's produce a LOT of heat (I've measured touch temperatures well over 60degC depending on the orientation of the bulb) and they are only warranted to 50degC!! And they cannot be installed in ANY enclosed or unventilated luminaire. The heat build up when so used will see internal temps rise above 50deg within 10 mins at room temp! Lamp life will plummet and punters will be mightily aggrieved that they only got 200hrs service despite the promises of Methuselan longevity on the box.

Internal exam reveals DC rated capacitors connected directly across the AC line! The only thing preventing it from exploding is a diode, if that fails the cap explodes in a shower of toxic electrolyte fumes and free pyrotechnics. When they fail through overtemp it is in the nature of electronic devices that the failure of one semiconductor cascades through the circuit taking everything else with it upstream and downstream. They don't just go "fring" when they expire like the familiar GLS

The heat issue means that bulkhead type outside lights are incompatible.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES install a CFL into a circuit that is controlled by a dimmer. Folks will try it in ignorance, find that it 'don't really work' and leave it wound full on thinking that it's getting its 230v, it's glowing so it's no problem. In fact what comes out of a dimmer isn't smooth AC it's quite a spiky waveform and combined with the fact that the circuitry in the dimmer interacts with the circuit in the CFL to produce some outrageous harmonic currents 3-5 times the nominal current draw. This increases as the dimmer is turned DOWN!!

They also employ a fusible resistor as an internal fusing element. This isn't the safe silica sand filled cartridge type you see in plug tops, they are like little glow-plugs and have been known to burn through housings, melt/ignite adjacent components... hang on is this the normal failure mode for a consumer product? How are they getting these things through CE/type approvals?? ffs!

I had an interesting correspondence from a colleague in Dorset who had installed a supply for and commisioned a piece of eqpt. in a scrapyard specifically for the 'disposal' of CFLs. A local wholesaler had been stockpiling spent and returned CFLs for four months whilst waiting for this thing to arrive from the US. They were gathered about the machine with the Environmental Health Officer in attendance as they ran 4,000 of these things through it. Noting that there was no enclosure of any kind in evidence other than basic machine guarding, he turned to the EHO and asked "What about the mercury in them, what happens with that?" To which yer man replied -

"It’s such a small amount that it does not require a control measure". !!! ROFPMFAO

Now here is a guy who just isn't getting it and I felt a twinge of empathy that my colleague had to bear the company of someone that pig-f*ckin'-ignorant for more than five minutes of his life.
For the record,
Each CFL contains around 5mg (0.005kg) of mercury.

0.005 x 4000 = 20kg

So what would the egit have said if he'd dumped a carboy of liquid Hg over the wonk's spotless rigger boots, do you think he'd get the point then?

What's incongruous is that legitimate private ownership, handling and storage of mercury by is all but outlawed by the EU yet they are simultaneously forcing thousands of tons of it into the houses of private individuals and their families. I'm sorry but I just don't get that one at all!

I have nothing against CFLs per se but all things considered they are NOT a straight replacement for tungsten filament lamps by any means, they are in fact a whole new class of consumer product, the characteristics of which the public is massively ignorant.
I’d also never ever use one as an unattended night light in a child’s (or anyone else’s) room.

Anonymous said...


Whoops! I mean 20 grams not 20 kilograms

John B said...

Quite. 20kg of Hg: significant. 20g of Hg: not.

Mr. A said...


Mine are on a dimmer. Maybe that's why they keep blowing my fusebox.

Thanks Gorgon! I really didn't have enough to think about without having to worry about my f***ing light bulbs and the potential dmamge they are doing to my private property.

PLEASE... won't someone just get rid of him?

Call me Infidel said...

John B
20g of mercury (vapour) is insignificant? Seems to me you must have been inhaling mercury vapour because you are obviously fucking retarded.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

OK - I was exaggerating on the 'leccy pricing

French Bill:0.0469 cents per kwh

UK Bill: 9p to 16p per kwh

I fucking hate this TARIFF HELL thing with a passion.

new user tariff
primary tariff
secondary tariff
low user tariff
high user tariff
prepay tariff
off peak tariff
internet tariff
green tariff
direct debit tariff
leaving fee
switching fee
nectar points
air miles

(please add more)

Death to utilities marketeers I say !

FFS all I want to do is buy some electrons - they seem to be able to measure them OK (most of the time) - why can't I buy them by weight? (Not a daft idea if you look at the way they price gas!)

This tariff fraud must be stopped - it's almost too tiresome for words.

The utilities - something mundane but necessary - have been turned into a frightful morass of marketing deceit, sharp practice, and gratuitous overcharging.

Duh, like UK Gubmint I suppose......

Budgie said...

Suppose there are an average of 20 lamps per household and 20 million households in the UK, and 5 milligrams per lamp, and a lamp life of 5 years. Do the maths:

(20 x 20M x 0.005g)/(5yr x 100 x 1000) = 4 tonnes of mercury per year.

If 50 per cent are recycled (a good figure) then half will end up dumped.

2 tonnes of mercury in Britain's soil, every year, is a catastrophe.

ThousandsOfMilesAway said...

Wouldn't worry about running out of electrical capacity as demand is about to go off a cliff over the next couple of years as the new great(er) depression kicks in...

Rob said...

"Britain would be destroyed as any kind of economic force." I think that's the plan as far as the EU is concerned.

Lighthouse said...

Guess what?

The man responsible for the ban,
EU Energy Commisioner Piebalgs,
is now responding to protests,
defending his ban on his blog
by saying it "increases choice"….

Ah, that makes it alright then!

See his blog entry
....and comments...

More about the strange - and unpublicized - EU and industrial politics that led to the ban:

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