Noisy Brain; Light Bulbs


My brain is too noisy right now to go back to sleep.

Experience tells me that this usually happens when I wake up hungry, but my dullard of a stomach isn't bright enough to realize that fact until the best hours of the night have passed. So, while my stomach is being satisfied with a piece of peanut butter toast, I figure I'll squeeze in a little writing. I was considering keeping this in my paper journal, but this doesn't seem, somehow, constructive.

There was a rather lively discussion on my Twitter feed today about the government mandate to band incandecent lightbulbs. I find myself in a curious position on this. On one hand, I fully understand and support the need for greater energy efficency in the United States. Reducing energy use in the first place would lead to lower carbon emissions as much of our energy comes from coal. Granted, we have a large reserve of the stuff here, that doesn't mean we should start tearing through it wastefully. Given my position on energy expenditure, you might think that my house if full of CFLs and nary an incandecent can be found.

You would be wrong. The actual situation is quite the opposite. There is currently only one sad, dustly little CFL in the entire house. There are a few reasons for this. I personally prefer the warm glow that incandecent bulbs provide over CFLs. I find the quality of light to be much more comforting and inviting. I find this not as significant of an issue any longer as the light quality from post-first generation, and mid-tier CFLs have largely elminiated the issue. I also tend not to have high wattage bulbs at all. Both Pazi and I are light sensitive, and a light source over 60 watts or even 40 seems an uncomfortable intrusion. (In fact, I'm whincing at the light from my desk at this very moment.) Pazi has historically had headaches with the use of CFLs. Perhaps, like the light quality issue, this problem has largely been corrected as CFLs have entered their third or fourth generation. I have not risked the money, however, to test this hypothesis.

Sticker-shock is one of the reasons I haven't converted my apartment to CFLs. The issues I've mentioned above, combined with my conservative use of electric light in the first place have not made the investment a competative one for me. Human beings, however, are not rational things; most of the time, I worry that I'll give Pazi another cause for headaches other than my terrible puns and cinematic bottom-feeding. I suspect that many Americans have a similar experience: We worry that the light quality will be poor. We fear that we will feel cheated. We ignore long-term savings over short term gratification. And of course, it wasn't broke, so why are we fixing it? 

CFLs do also have environmental issues of their own. I recall that many first-generation models used mercury vapour and other envrionmentally hazardous material. Like the big-tube flourecent bulbs, these CFLs would need to be disposed of specially. I suspect that many people aren't even aware of this, and throw out their old bulbs in the general trash out of conviencce or simple ignorance. Thus, the energy savings is balanced by chemical hazards and landfill pollution. I hope that LED-based bulbs will midigate some of these issues as well as provide additional cost savings. The first-gen of LED bulbs has only recently reached the mass market.

CFLs, reduced water toilets, and so on are just myopic pinpoints in the grand scheme of things. Our houses and apartments themselves are put together poorly. They are designed lazily. How much easier it is to put in an electrical light in a dark hallway than to redesign it to take advantage of natural light? We use water heaters instead of using hotboxes on our roofs. We use air conditioners instead of building with proper cross ventalation. We don't even use techniques that we used to keep buildings cool naught but 100 years ago! We live in practically disposable dwellings and pay for it dearly with every electrical bill.