Edison lives to fight another day

July 6th, 2009  |  Tags: , ,  |  2 Comments

As you may recall, the venerable incandescent light bulb was due to be illegal by 2012 due to more stringent efficiency requirements. (I snarked about this earlier here.) This is unfortunate for a variety of reasons: fluorescent lights often look terrible, are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, contain mercury, and are — in my experience — of wildly variable quality and durability.

Fortunately, a new wave of incandescent bulbs is emerging that have vastly superior energy-efficiency characteristics. Unfortunately, the nature of engineering dictates that these suffer from tradeoffs, just like everything else:

The first bulbs to emerge from this push, Philips Lighting’s Halogena Energy Savers, are expensive compared with older incandescents. They sell for $5 apiece and more, compared with as little as 25 cents for standard bulbs.

But they are also 30 percent more efficient than older bulbs. Philips says that a 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb and lasts about three times as long, eventually paying for itself.

I’m sure these bulbs are great, and I’m almost inclined to buy some right now to replace the ugly and slow CFLs that have turned my basement into a futuristic gray dystopia. Furthermore, their prices will almost surely come down with competition, with improved manufacturing, and as the companies involved recoup their research costs. But did we really need an energy bill that mandates that we spend twenty times as much on a commodity product to improve its energy efficiency by less than a third?