How Many Irish Politicians Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

from the it's-not-a-joke dept

American politicians have been toying with such legislation for a while, and Australian politicians have already approved similar legislation, but it appears that Irish politicians are in something of a rush to ban incandescent lightbulbs. New legislation would ban the sale of the traditional lightbulbs as of January 2009 — basically just one year. The Australian plan, that was approved earlier this year, would phase out the bulbs by 2010. While we can understand the basic reasoning, it’s still unclear why a full ban is really necessary. Fluorescent bulbs keep getting cheaper and cheaper (and better and better in quality) than incandescent bulbs. They last so much longer and use so much less energy that it won’t be long until most people voluntarily move to fluorescents, without any unnecessary ban on incandescents.

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Comments on “How Many Irish Politicians Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?”

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dz says:

Mercury in CFL

For the case where CFL is powered by fossil fuels:

The amount of mercury in a CFL is 4mg, with 2.6mg emitted from a coal plant in its lifetime

The amount of mercury emitted from a coal plant in its lifetime from powering a incandescent is around 10mg.

Start moaning again when we are in a position that these figures are reversed as we are soley on renewable energy sources.

VW says:

Re: Mercury in CFL

The assumption that 100% of electrical power comes from coal fired plants is not accurate. 50% might be more accurate for many places. You are also assuming that all light bulbs will be used to their maximum useful lives in a socket and not broken due to dropping the light or accidentally damaging it. – I’ve lost 2 CFLs in the last 2 months from dropping them.

According to the websites posted in prior posts, to clean up a broken CFL you shouldn’t use a vacuum or use your bare hands this could spread the vapor or contaminate your hands. If indoors, you should open windows to dilute the vapor.

This isn’t Chernobyl clean up but its not common knowledge either and encouraging 10s of millions of people to outfit their homes using these lights and not educating them on the risks is unwise. I would rather take a centralized approach to reduce the number of greenhouse gas producing power plants than rely on millions of people to handle with care and properly dispose of 100s of millions of light bulbs containing mercury.

sean says:

Ireland leads the way - again...

Ah, that’d be the Green Party, who are in the governing coalition now, in charge of the ministry for Transport and Environment, and they’re really getting things done – changing the car tax to be based on carbon emissions, rather than engine size. Banning lightbulbs. Pushing public transport.

Big dirty motorways right through precious 3,000 year old archaeological sites, though, that they can’t do anything about… bleedin’ fantastic, these Greens! Watch the decimation at the next election.

John says:

Ireland leads the way....

This is another great idea by the greens – NOT
Yes Lightbulbs are the big issue not the fossil fuel stations that pump electricity into our houses. This whole green thing really annoys me. Not because I am against the planet but because they make the small man pay with taxes and changes to lifestyle. Instead of changing how they produce electricity or differing fuels in service stations they say I must drive some crap car and have light that doesn’t allow me to read properly. Surly if they fixed the fossel fuel in our power stations I could still have light and if they brought in rules on fuels in service stations I could drive what ever car I want but not pollute.
Why don’t they do something really smart by changing the packaging laws so this chrsitmas I won’t be filling a huge landfill site with tags and screws from the kids presents.

The truth is no one in politics will make the real decisions so they just push it on the ordinary man and try to tell you – every one helps the power of one blah blah.

I agree lets see them decimated in the next election but remember we didn’t vote them in for this one.

Ernestas (profile) says:

GoodBye incandescent lamp ?

There are cases when incandescent lamp can’t be replaced with fluorescent bulb. It is even writen in “user manual” of fluorescent bulb.

1) Then your equipment does not supplies stable voltage: e.g. “gradient swiches”.
2) “Do not use fluorescent bulb in emergency equipment” (Why?)
3) It is not recommended to use them where it is “frequently” switched.
4) Not all popular shapes are available (especially small one)
5) Very shor range of power: 10W up to 25W – 85W (very bulky) not usable for small powerfull lighting equipment (e.g. Professional movie making, photography lighting equipment )
6) Slow “startup” sometimes
7) Each BAN creates base for “black” economy (France, UK, Lithuania will start to export more incandescent lamps to Ireland 🙂 ).

So fluorescent bulb is not Silver Bullet – in some (maybe most) cases it can replace incandescent lamps, but still there are cases when it can’t.

May be LED has wider range of usability but also not 100% and costly.

Haywood says:

I had one go up in flames

A Phillips I believe, Crackled a few times and then the internal ballast went woof & smoke filled the dining room. At this point we are on a program of only running them when we are present to contain the damage. Would the government be liable if they forced you to use these overly complicated and apparently dangerous bulbs?

Erik Jan says:

Too many reasons not to do a sensible thing...

It;s amazing how many reasons people can come up with not to do a sensible thing. It just saves energy that is otherwise wasted as heat. And greater demand will help drive down the price. And for certain applications they are not that great but then we have another wonderful technology, LED lights, much better than obsolescent incandescents. And stop moaning about the government that interferes, and taxing the small man and nonsense like that. It is perfectly reasonable for governments to act for the grater good in cases like this because people & markets will not solve the issue. take a look at what happened when we moved form CRT monitor to electricity guzzling flatscreens. Will your life be any different when you use CFl’s? Will it change dramatically when governments act to impose regulations to bring down energy waste? I guess not.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Too many reasons not to do a sensible thing...

“Too few reasons to do a sensible thing”

Let’s compare the pros and cons

Saves money in the long run
Better for the environment in that it uses less electricity
Can any one think of anything else?

Costs less now (talking dollars now over pennies every month)
Better for you if you break it
Doesn’t have to be “Properly disposed of”
Comes in all the shapes and sizes to fit your lights
Less likely to explode (according to Haywood)
Better lighting (according to AC near the end)
In reality not many people will properly dispose of them so all those small amounts of mercury will add up.

It’s like the debate over gas vs E85. If I find out that E85 is better in my car but causes more damage just to get it there than it’s not greener. Plus I don’t have the money to get a flexy fuel car. Damn, those hippies must be rich.

Vincent Clement says:

Politicians Are Reactive

Politicians notice that people are switching to more efficient lighting. So they decide to ‘ban’ inefficient lighting in order to look ‘green’ to the public while knowing that the ban will impact fewer people as more people switch to efficient lighting.

The politicians will take credit for ‘helping the environment’, when it really was market forces that helped the environment.

I’m not in favour of bans. Introduce efficiency standards and add a tax to those lights that fall below those efficiency 1standards. Let the consumer decide.

Just Me says:


They’ve done the same sort of thing here in Canada – we have until X date (don’t recall offhand) before they stop selling them.
At first I was a little miffed about the gov. regulation but from a logical standpoint I sort of agree with the ban in principle. Most people will not do the right thing until they’re forced to (and some not even then).

Hopefully the increased use will drive down the price of CFL’s but for now they have too many limitations to have an outright ban.

When you can look at every con related to these bulbs and say that there is an alternative better then incandescents then I’ll be in favour of the ban.
To add to the list above most of the lights I’ve seen also have a limitation to being right-side up and are not to be used in contained areas that don’t have free-flowing air (Like almost every damn light fixture in my house!).

Yes, ban the bad ones but not until you can overcome the limitations of the CFL’s in a more cost effective manner.

dualboot says:

It's the concept...

It’s a good idea in concept. It sounds like they’re not forcing you to discard your old bulbs, but just saying that when you replace them, they must be replaced with CFL’s. I’ve already been transitioning my house over for about a year as the bulbs blow simply because they’re a lower draw on the current, which is driving up my electrical bill… PLUS, they’re white light instead of yellow light, and it makes it much easier on my eyes when I read and do work with tiny components on my computer and other equipment. I actually switched to CFL for my worklight several years ago when they were still high priced, because it reduced my eye strain. They really don’t cost much more than regular bulbs anymore, and the little extra they do cost gets made up in the life of the bulb.

About someone’s comment about how they only come in low wattages, and they will hurt your eyes: TRY ONE!! I know a bit about current, and the Watts are the amount of power they draw in order to light up… NOT the brightness. Most people don’t know, but Lumens is the measure of brightness, and a 23 Watt CFL bulb is actually brighter than the 100-Watt Incandescents I used to use. People joke with me that they could land an airplane using my front-porch light as a guide because it’s SO BRIGHT. So don’t use brightness as an excuse not to help the environment.

There are down sides, though. And someone already mentioned them. Some applications need a specific sized bulb, and even though I found CFL’s that are only 1cm (little less than 1/2 inch) longer than a standard bulb, some lighting fixtures literally don’t have that little bit of extra space.

So the theory of banning their sale might be a good concept, but my main concern is that the unavailability of CFL’s in exact sizes needed may force some people to make house renovations that they cannot afford in the current economy, or just go without light… or find a black market. I think a much better incentive is to limit the price on CFL’s to within a certain range of incandescent so that people will just buy them on their own, instead of being forced to buy them. Our government does this with farm crops all the time (in case you’re like most people, and don’t know it), so why not do it with the light bulb. Better yet, give individuals a tax rebate of X dollars if they purchase X number of CFL bulbs to replace their existing ones… basically reimburse people for the difference… more people will buy, and the price will eventually equalize because they will be selling enough to step-up manufacturing, reducing front-end costs.

My general summary: TRY THE BULB BEFORE YOU SAY IT’S GOING TO HARM YOUR ABILITY TO SEE! And give people a reason to WANT to buy the bulb instead of legislating it. There are some applications where it is simply not feasible to use CFLs so unless the government is going to produce them in specialty sizes, they should not ban incandescent sales… but people need to realize that they can save money in a relatively short time when their light power consumption is cut down to 25-25% of their original usage. It’s better for your electric bill, better for your eyes, and better for the environment.

Overcast says:

I have a small outbuilding that contains a water faucet. A 75 Watt incandescent bulb keeps it just warm enough to prevent freezing …

Just go ahead and put an energy saving lightbulb in there and then add a space heater. lol

Yes, it’s true – people actually want to save money on energy costs… I have been moving to mostly energy efficient bulbs. However, not all light bulbs are the same size or shape.

I think it’s fine, still – as long as EVERYONE has to stick to the law – including fine chandeliers in rich homes, sports parks, and the like.

Yeah… light that field up with fluorescent and not halogen… try.. 🙂

darrylxxx says:


Great to see the Irish government being so much more progressive than the British government – AGAIN. They introduced a ban on smoking in public places, outlawed plastic bags at supermarkets (well, incurring a charge which had that effect), joined the Euro with the rest of Europe and have invested heavily in a modern public transport system (light railway in Dublin, port tunnel to take heavy traffic of Dublin streets going to the port etc). And now light bulbs. Terrific! The UK, despite the hype of the Labour government, is decidedly reactionary in comparison. Wake up, smell the Guinness!

Anonymous Coward says:

I mostly agree with dual-boot’s comments. I just want to add that the shape and size constraints are an issue. Just go to your local Walmart and look at the selection of fluorescent bulbs compared to the traditional ones. There is simply no current replacement for all the special sizes of utility bulbs.

Furthermore, sometimes the ones that are available don’t fit either. If you’ll notice, the traditional bulbs are narrow at the base and slowly expand out as they go up. The fluorescent bulbs are bulky right at the base. That has prevented me from installing one in the better of my two floor lamps (ones that project light up towards the ceiling) because the hole where the bulb goes is far too narrow around the base to accept such a bulb.

Despite that, I have replaced the bulbs in almost all the other light fixtures in my apartment, most with the daylight type of fluorescent bulbs. Those give off a much nicer white light, as opposed to the dimmer, ugly yellow light. Granted, they are a bit spendier, but worth it IMO.

Witty Nickname says:

Flourescent bulbs

I love my CFLs, I have them on my porch, my living room, bedroom, bathroom, nursery, even my outdoor tool shed. Wish I could have them everywhere. I have tried 4 kinds of CFLs in my garage door opener and my refrigerator. They just don’t work. Wish they did, I see the impact on my electric bill of having installed them. A ban would hurt.

sdafasdfsada says:

the snopes article is quite amusing.....

I enjoyed the part where they say that CFL’s don’t pose a “grave danger” to the average household, yet then spend the rest of the article detailing quite intricate and specific steps an average homeowner must go through to mitigate any mercury exposure.

How many of your average homeowners will follow those steps to clean up a broken CFL? Considering that a minority of homeowners are probably even aware that there is Hg in CFL’s, the first thing most homeowners will do is pull out the vacuum cleaner. Even without a vacuum cleaner, if the bulb broke on carpet, the area can remain “hot” for up to a week after the bulb broke. Again, I doubt it’s much of problem with adults, however young children and pets can be exposed to several times the amount due to their close proximity to the ground. The same thing occurred with thermostat switches. Of course, those contained much, much more elemental Hg in them than CFL’s, however I’ve seen houses that were still emanating Hg fumes from a broken Hg switch YEARS after it happened.

Then there’s the recycling angle. How many will realistically end up in the landfills due to either the ignorance or laziness of a homeowner? 10%? 20%? We have the potential of seriously contaminating our landfills and perhaps our groundwater with Hg. Keep in mind how many millions of more bulbs will be out there compared to now. Probably a good comparison would be batteries. What percentage of household batteries are actually recycled vs. going into the landfill?

Bottom line, we’ve been trying for years to bring less Hazardous materials into our houses. No more lead based paint, eco-friendly cleaners, etc. Yet now we are willing to throw all that out the window and start bringing in hazardous materials into our house in the name of energy savings?

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