Opinion

Cannan: Higher efficiency light bulbs worth the extra cost

As innovators go, Thomas Edison can be counted as one of the greatest.

He developed many devices that have impacted life as we know it, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera and a commercially viable incandescent light bulb.

Then as now, that kind of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit continues to generate new ideas and bring them to market: The phonograph made way for the iPod; film has been digitized; and the incandescent light bulb has made way for the halogen bulb, LEDs and compact fluorescents (CFLs).

Innovation in lighting has prompted our federal and B.C. provincial government to work toward the standardization of more energy efficient lighting sources.

Canada is now one of 18 countries implementing minimum energy performance standards for light bulbs, along with Australia, Mexico and the United States.

If you have purchased a new appliance in recent years, you are probably familiar with the Energy Star rating system and know the cost savings that can be found in buying more efficient appliances.

Now that standard is being applied to the light bulb.

Consumers will be able to choose from more energy efficient bulbs in various shapes and sizes, light outputs (brightness) and light appearances (colour temperatures).

Despite these innovations however, the new regulatory standards for residential light bulbs have sparked some resistance, prompting a few constituents to protest “banning” the old fashioned incandescent.

I’ll admit some nostalgia kicked in for me. My uncle farmed on the Prairies and used light bulbs in the barn to keep the animals warm and prevent the ice from freezing in the feed trough.

And I can remember those cold winter nights when we didn’t have a block heater and would place an incandescent light bulb under the hood of the car to keep the oil from freezing.

Today’s reality though is that lighting accounts for approximately 10 per cent of a home’s electricity use making energy-efficient bulbs desirable.

According to Carol Suhan at FortisBC, the new Energy Star light bulbs will last longer and result in up to 75 per cent energy savings.

Overall, the expected reduction in household energy use will provide a cumulative net benefit to Canadian consumers of more than $750 million by 2025.

And while efficient light bulbs cost a bit more to buy (not unusual when new products come on the market—think big screen TVs) their energy savings pay for any incremental purchase cost and more over their lifetime.

As for the new standards and the current availability of regular incandescent light bulbs, new standards for 75- and 100-watt replacement bulbs apply to bulbs manufactured on or after Jan. 1, 2014.

For 40- and 60-watt bulbs, the new standards apply to replacement bulbs manufactured on or after Dec. 31, 2014.

These dates mean that although we will eventually see a change in the availability of this old technology, there will be inventory in distribution channels for a while.

In fact, incandescent bulbs won’t disappear entirely—incandescent bulbs will still be available for applications including oven lights, decorative lamps, appliance bulbs, three-way fixtures, chandeliers and rough service/utility bulbs, as well as bulbs used in agriculture, industrial and heritage applications.

A list of exemptions and more information on the improved standards can be found at www.nrcan.gc.ca, where you will also find information on the most energy efficient Energy Star products available on the market, from TVs to windows to appliances.

In order for manufacturers to use the Energy Star label they must have their product tested and proven to meet higher standards for lifetime and performance.

For B.C. residents and businesses, more information on energy saving tips, rebates and how to recycle CFLs safely can be found at www.fortisbc.com/energysavinglighting .

Experience tells us that innovative technology, with our support, can make life easier and better.

New light bulb technology is providing energy efficiency and cost savings for all of us.  No doubt Edison would be impressed with how far his innovation has come.

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