How to save $500 on a light bulb… A statement often heard on the streets of Christiansted, Charlotte Amalie, Red Hook, Cruz Bay, Coral Bay and Frederiksted is, “If the government does it, it will be messed up.” Maybe, you have not heard it phrased exactly like that, but you have heard something along those lines and you have probably heard it often. We all nod our heads like it is a wise statement, when it is actually a stupid statement.
If governments did everything wrong they would cease to exist. Governments exist because people want them to exist. People know that a government is the best way for a society to achieve goals for the common good.
When someone makes the argument that a policy or regulation is bad just because the government did it; they really are not making any argument. Yet, that is basically the only argument you hear about the Energy Independence Act which will make lighting our home and work places more efficient. The argument goes, “Government is dumb. Government is telling me what kind of light bulb to use. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 is stupid.”
First, the act has many elements and it makes sense. Secondly, the government is not telling you what light bulb to use. The government is saying to manufacturers: Make bulbs more energy efficient. If you think the government is wrong in wanting more energy efficiency; you really should cut back on the hours you spend watching Fox News.
We are assuming here that, based on their environmental and economic benefits, all Virgin Islanders know being energy efficiency is a good idea. So, what exactly kicked in the beginning of this year that had newspaper pundits writing elegies for the incandescent bulb and the TV commentators decrying once again the evils of government telling you what to do?
The Energy Independence Act sets energy efficient standards – you put in so much power, you get at least this much light back. The government sets standards for many things such as the food you eat and the gasoline you put in your vehicle. If the government did not establish standards, the world in which we put so much trust in commerce would not be possible.
The light bulb standards were decided upon a half dozen years ago. The standard for the 100-watt bulb went into effect over a year ago. The standard for the 75-watt bulb went into effect this year. In other words, the standards are in now effect for the most common light bulbs.
Some pundits whine because the incandescent bulbs did not make the energy efficient cut. Some of the whining contained ignorance and before I get to the facts I have to include one assertion by conservative columnist Tom Purcell. He wrote, “Global-Warming issue has become a giant political football and power-hungry politicians hope to use it to pass lots of new laws and controls that further limit what we can and cannot do – and what light bulbs we can use.” Really? That is what he believes? Politicians came up with a scam about Climate Change and get scientists to go along with so they could come down to the Virgin Islands and tell me what light bulb to use. Really?
Anyway, to the point here. The pundits and commentators appeared to be even more ignorant than those crazy politicians. Purcell spends several paragraphs in a local daily newspaper on the compact fluorescent bulb. He is right about the weaknesses of CFLs, but he barely mentions LEDs which are the actual lights that are winning this battle on energy efficiency.
Here is the score card from United States Environmental Protection Agency:
• The standard 60 watt incandescent light bulb provides 13 to 14 lumens per watt.
• An equivalent CFL provides between 55 and 70 lumens per watt.
• An equivalent LED can range between 60 and 100 lumens per watt.
LEDs produce more lumens per watt burned than the other bulbs. What are lumens? When incandescent were the only bulbs you could buy it was easy to rate them on the wattage they used. Now, with the the new technology, rating a bulb on its wattage use, no longer works. Take a 60 watt incandescent bulb it produces 800 lumens; a 13 watt LED gives you 800 lumens as well. Once upon a time, as a shopper you looked at higher wattage to give you brighter light; now you are looking higher lumens to give you brightness. You are looking for lower wattage to lower your electric bill.
One additional element that you should be looking at when buying a LED bulb is the type of light one is looking for. Without going into too much detail except that the ratings are measured in Kelvin degrees. Here is what to look for:
• Warm White – 2500K-3000K (standard color of incandescent bulbs). For bedrooms, living rooms or dens.
• Bright White or Cool White – 3500K-4100K. For kitchens, workspaces and bathrooms.
• Daylight – 5000K-6500K. For reading.
If not careful when buying LEDs, you might want to blame the LED light, but the real cause of dissatisfaction was probably not paying attention to whether it was a warm or cool light.
What this means for Virgin Islanders is they are forced into savings on their WAPA bill. In front of me, I have an LED light bulb that produces 800 lumens (a good, decent light for the kitchen or bathroom). It burns only 10 watts an hour; a comparable incandescent would burn 60 watts in that hour. Burning watts in the Virgin Islands is expensive. On the light bulb package it says using the LED light will save the consumer $108 in its lifetime. In the small print it mentions that the saving calculations is based on 11-cent, kilowatt hour cost. Electricity costs in the Virgin Islanders are five times that amount. Over the lifetime of that bulb, a Virgin Islander is going to save over $500. You don’t have to be a math genius to see, even if that bulb costs $20 or $30; it is a good buy.
Yes, big bad government has done it again. The government is making you save money while we burn less fossil fuel and put less pollutants in the air.
Don Buchanan, St. Croix
Who Killed the Incandescent Bulb?
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