Not since Edison's 1879 incandescent electric lamp hit the market has there been such a hubbub about lighting. One can only wonder if the American population was concerned about the quality of light produced by the filament bulb when compared with the illumination from gas lamps. They probably loved the convenience.
Now, forced by Federal legislation to save energy, American consumers may again face a quantum change in the way their homes and offices are lighted. Beginning in 2012, all new light bulbs will be required under law to use 30 percent less energy to produce the same levels of light that we enjoy today. The winners of the shift, according to The New York Times, will probably be the manufacturers of compact fluorescent bulbs. The losers: the aesthetically conscious consumer.
Compact fluorescent bulbs on today's market are designed for use in kitchens, baths, and all the rooms between. They're said to operate on 70 percent less energy than the traditional bulb, and last as much as ten times longer under normal use. But so far, manufacturers are well beyond the curve in offering lighting fixtures designed to cast the fluorescent bulbs in the most-favorable light. Consumers Reluctant to Change Wal-Mart has sold compact fluorescent bulbs for three years and the new items make up less than 20 percent of their bulb sales. Consumers dislike the overall color effects of the bulbs and complain that some models give off a disturbing buzzing sound when in use.
On the other side of the aesthetic argument is the government's claim that 90 percent of the energy burned by incandescent bulbs is emitted as heat-not light. The energy drain has led Australian legislators to ban incandescent bulbs by next year.
In America, the Department of Energy supports the end of the incandescent era, claiming that 25 percent of our total home energy bill is generated by lighting. Compact fluorescent bulbs, reports the California Energy Commission, should not only reduce energy use by 75 percent, but should last 10,000 hours.
To consumers concerned about the quality of light produced by compact fluorescent bulbs, the Federal ENERGYSTAR team claims that newer models of compact fluorescents will come with "warm" colors to match the yellow tint of incandescent bulbs. The new bulbs will be offered along three settings in the Kelvin scale: yellow, white, and blue.
In the end, we may have to settle for some discomfort until manufacturers dial in the colors. But we'll probably be stuck with fluorescent bulbs.