Monday, November 24, 2014

1413 To Change a Light Bulb

How many lawmakers does it take to change a light bulb?  The answer: 329.

On Thursday, January 18, 2007, the House passed the Energy Act that eliminated the 100 watt bulb.  Two hundred sixty four yea votes.  About six months later, on Thursday, June 21st, the act drew 65 “yeas” in the Senate.

The Senate could have dragged things out a bit.  The final tally was announced at about 11:30 PM that day.  But Senators and Congress Creatures don’t “work” on Fridays.  That’s a day to return home to attend weekend ribbon cuttings, photo ops and other campaign events in their districts.

A smashing victory for bipartisan cooperation.

This law changed the light bulb.  And it changed us.

Beneath the flag of energy conservation and saving money, they threw us into dimness.

The effects of the law have just recently started to show their full effect.  Energy saving light bulbs do not work as well as what they’re replacing.

Sharp operators were out the door in the cold of January, ‘07.  They were stocking up on 100 watt bulbs.  Hoarding them.  Hiding them.  Selling them at prices Thomas Edison never dreamed of. Prices that even General Electric never dreamed of.

On a recent morning, we found almost 400 offers on eBay and about 100 more on Amazon.  You will find zero offers on the store shelves.

What you will find is a jumble of substitutes.  Or supposed substitutes.

Warm, bright, natural light…
Deciding on which is a terrible fright.

There are those corkscrew things that poison you if they break and you don’t call the hazmat team to clean up your mercury spill.

There are the LED bulbs that claim to match the old 100 watters.

There are incandescent bulbs of about 72 watts that make the same claim.

There are some you can dim, others you can’t and still others that do it by themselves.  The corkscrews lie when they say “instant on.” They achieve full brightness faster than earlier versions.  But they still fade up.  Slowly. Sometimes they barely light at all until they feel like it.  (Yes, light bulbs have feelings, too!)

And you have to learn a new skill: interpreting “lumens.” Lumen is a measure of emitted light.  A 100 watt bulb usually is rated at about 1500 lumens. It can be a bit more or a bit less depending on whether it’s warm or cool or something in between.

The 72 watt bulbs that scream “same light as a 100 watt bulb” usually throw off about 1000-1100 lumens.  So not only do they turn down the lights (for atmosphere?) but they should also turn down the scream.

A 1500 lumen LED -- light emitting diode -- bulb costs about $20 and that’s way below earlier prices.  But a 100 watt incandescent bulb (when you could get one) cost about a dollar.

It’s kind of hard to justify buying a light bulb for 20 bucks.  It feels funny.

“But, but, but … it lasts for twelve million years.”  No it doesn’t.  Read the fine print.  If there’s enough light and a magnifying glass handy.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to
© WJR 2014

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