I was sitting in the living room the other night when a bulb went. Took me a minute or so to work out what was going on, because modern bulbs last for ever, don’t they? Well, near enough. Now in terms of embodied carbon, this is, of course, a jolly good thing. However, it has a downside, as you don’t have to think about changing a light bulb for years on end, and by the time you do, you realise that you have been missing out on some very interesting developments. As a reader of this August newsletter you are, I suppose, way ahead of me in this field. Just in case, though, here is a report from the front line. 

I suppose I should really have sat down at the computer and researched available options. However, I was feeling lazy, so I just toddled on down to Homebase, and asked a few questions. Yes, I know that chain stores are an abomination, but their staff are occasionally both helpful and well-informed. I got lucky: this was one of those times.

There seem to be three salient points. Firstly, halogens are on their way out. It is still legal to sell, but not to import them. Bad news for the big DIY chains, who have warehouses full of the damn things. Secondly, CFLs – compact fluorescents – are not much better. They are less efficient than LEDs, and, since they contain mercury, end of life disposal is a problem. Thirdly, a lot of the problems associated with LEDs have now been solved. There are now warm white and daylight versions, they come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and fittings, some are dimmer compatible, and they use around 15% of the power that the old style incandescent bulbs required. So for the time being, then, LEDs are the best bet.

Armed with this knowledge, I came home and set about the thing methodically. Had you asked me, I would have said that all my bulbs were low energy types. I was wrong. We have a large cellar with a low ceiling, and thus, of course, plenty of wall lights. In these, it turns  out, were golf ball incandescents. I think I actually screamed, at this point. Four of them were forty, and one, sixty watts. The LED replacements were 5.3w each giving a saving for that room of 193.5w – that is, roughly the same as two 100w bulbs, that I had been turning on for no reason whatsoever. Throughout the house there were twenty three bulbs; replacing most of these cost me around £80.00, which is a lot of money, but then that is probably my total expenditure on bulbs for the next fifteen or twenty years, and anyway, it doesn’t all have to be done at once.

Whatever the actual outlay, those of us who have smart meters get a certain smug satisfaction from bringing down our daily expenditure on electricity from 97, to 94 pence. And from knowing that we are stealing a little less of the next generation’s carbon ration.

It remains to be said, though: the cheapest and least harmful bulb is the one you have remembered to turn off.

Jon Gunson, TTL.


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