Saturday, April 07, 2007

Unintended Consequences: Banning the Incandescent Lightbulb

As the political will to ban incandescent lightbulbs has picked up steam over the last several months, a number of smart thinkers out there have begun to think of the unintended consequences of such acts. The American Thinker has an article up which nicely outlines a number of these unintended consequences, from the increase of mercury waste to increased energy prices in off-peak hours with no reduction in coal plant numbers. I strongly suggest that everyone read it before legislation enacting these bans pick up much more momentum.

On top of the most commonly mentioned side effects of the bans, I have another that I've been thinking about since late this winter. On one particularly cold evening, I was sitting at my computer in my darkened living room, freezing my butt off. The furnace was running almost non-stop to keep the house at 65 degrees. I finally got up an turned on all of the incandescent lights in the living room. After a few minutes, the room felt warmer and the furnace, while still running frequently, took longer breaks in between cycles on. You see, the heat that many view as energy that is wasted by incandescent bulbs actually contributes to the warmth of a house in a colder climate. If we swap out our incandescents for flourescent bulbs, are we going to see a small but significant increase in the use of natural gas and heating oil as furnaces compensate for that lost heat? Most likely, and that little bit of extra burning of fossil fuels is going to eat into savings produced by the switch from incandescents to flourescents.

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