The Dimming of America

The other day, I went to the store to buy some hundred watt light-bulbs. Guess what? I found I had a choice of either 90 watt standard soft-whites, or reduced “natural” illumination 100 watt bulbs. I’d been hearing about the future phase-out of incandescent light bulbs, but this isn’t “future.” It’s now, and there’s clearly a great push to replace the once-standard 100 watt bulb with compact fluorescents or, apparently, with lower wattage bulbs.

It doesn’t stop there, either. I have track lights in my kitchen. We installed the track lighting some ten years ago to replace the fluorescent lights that always seemed dim, and never directed enough light to specific areas. The track lights solved the problems. Except now… I can’t find the 75 watt halogen bulbs the track lighting was designed for. All I can find are 70 watt bulbs that seem to produce less light than 60 watt bulbs, and the kitchen is getting noticeably dimmer as the 75 watt halogen bulbs expire. Some people may find cooking and eating in dimness romantic, but we’d prefer that it be a choice and not a requirement.

Then, too, we have ceiling lights in several hallways and rooms, and the fixtures were designed to provide adequate light based on incandescent bulb sizes, and they don’t take compact fluorescents. Oh… and by the way, the “natural light” incandescents burn out in a couple of days in ceiling fixtures.

I’m presuming that all of these dimming down light bulb initiatives are in the service of energy efficiency and designed to “replace” the inefficiency of the incandescent light bulb. I don’t have a problem with replacing less efficient lights with more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly lights, but I have a huge problem with a forced reduction in light levels. Frankly, even with glasses that correct my once-perfect vision back to theoretically perfect vision, I have trouble reading fine print in dim light. So do millions of other Americans, most of us past 50.

I have a lower level office [i.e., walkout basement] which has overhead fluorescents. With them alone, the office light level is that of a medieval monastery in midwinter. So I have a desk lamp that has a three way bulb, and it does make everything light enough in the work area — but it’s getting harder and harder to find the three-ways with the 250 watt bulbs.

Now… I suppose I could install more lighting with lower wattage compact fluorescents and modified incandescent bulbs… and the way things are going I may have to… but why should I have to? If compact fluorescents are so good, and so efficient, why can’t someone manufacture one that delivers the lumen levels I need? So far as I can see, all these initiatives and changes are merely semi-mandatory light-reduction measures, not a replacement of current light levels attained with inefficient technology with the same lighting levels obtained more efficiently.

Or am I missing something? Is this another part of the sinister plot to do away with reading? Is it a way to make seniors stumble and fall and increase their mortality to reduce Medicare outlays? Or is it another form of age-discrimination against those of us who don’t operate by the light of blackberries or palm pilots or the like? Perhaps it’s a way to keep light from shining into the way government operates? Or is it a hidden subsidy to the lighting manufacturers as we all have to buy new and redesigned lighting in order to be able to see in our own homes?

Whatever it is… it’s not efficiency.

4 thoughts on “The Dimming of America”

  1. Anthony says:

    It can be frustrating to be a consumer when one forgets that manufacturers are not in the business of meeting our needs, but in the business of collecting our money. They are not in our service, but rather, we in theirs. We must pay to advertise their brands, we must conform to their product usage agendas, and we must regularly buy the same products again and again on their schedules, not our own. Happiness lies in accepting this reversal, and fulfilling our duties as consumers, right? To do otherwise leads to madness, or moving to some compound in the boondocks to live off the land, stockpile weapons, and wait for the end times, doesn't it?

    While I jest, obviously, things like your illuminating tale do, at times, make a person wonder…

    Thanks as always for the great blog, sir!

  2. Nickers says:

    Don't worry; eventually you will be able to buy your light bulbs online from some lighting shop in Canada. Hey, it works for millions who buy their prescriptions that way.

    Seriously though, if there is a demand in the market that is not being met, a market will arise to compensate. It's a basic, and somewhat comforting/terrifying, economic fact. Heck, I bet if you go online right now you will find your 100w bulbs without too much difficulty.

  3. Derek says:

    Please note that the push for the change in lightbulbs is not the product of private industry and consumer trends but a byproduct of government regulation and tax credit based programs for homebuilders.

    There is a demand, and if it can't be met due to regulation from the government a non-regulated market will provide(black market).

    My family is deeply involved in the new Energy Efficiency industry, and though sometimes there are effective products I believe a large part of the incentive for it, or savings, are government subsidized.

  4. Nikki says:

    I so agree! My daughter got an easy bake oven for christmas but without a 100 watt light bulb, it will just be an easy sludge making oven. Also I heard that some cities in colder climates made the mandate to go to lower burning lights for their traffic lights. The problem was, that the lights didn't put off any heat and didn't melt off the snow and became covered. Don't people think these things through?

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