Happy Bulbs To You

Lumens, Watts, Lumens / Watt, Lifetime

Lumens, Watts, Lumens / Watt, Lifetime

Original Image

Interesting side note. The Wiki on incandescent bulbs includes this bit of trivia. It may matter as it means that low voltage track lighting may be ‘available’ long after other incandescent lights are banned:

Lamps designed for different voltages have different luminous efficacy. For example, a 100-watt, 120-volt lamp will produce about 17.1 lumens per watt. A lamp with the same rated lifetime but designed for 230 V would produce only around 12.8 lumens per watt, and a similar lamp designed for 30 volts (train lighting) would produce as much as 19.8 lumens per watt. Lower voltage lamps have a thicker filament, for the same power rating. They can run hotter for the same lifetime before the filament evaporates.

Remember that 17.1 number, and that 19.8 number especially. We’ll see why they matter down below.

This implies that 12 VDC lighting is very efficient and very long lived…

Today has been an interesting day in Bulb Land.

First off, it’s not as bad as it first looked, at least if the Wiki can be believed. (Don’t know why, but it had not occurred to me that there would be a wiki on the Bulb Ban… but there is.)

Second, I got a variety of new bulbs to play with and have been ‘experimenting’.

As of now, per the wiki, there will be plenty of bulbs that will be ‘good enough’ for what I want, even after the Ban Begins.

What started me looking for more information was that I’d bought a variety of “odd bulbs” and was wondering how much I was just wasting money should these particular bulbs not be on the banned list. Which raised the question of what WAS the “list” or even “Is there a list? Or is it a Standard?”

Much to my surprise, there’s a wiki for that:


The very good news is “There are exceptions”. I love exceptions… I’ll be mostly listing the USA law and some California bits. I cover a bit for folks in Australia, the UK, and the EU. For elsewhere, you’ll want to do your own “looking up”. I expect you will find some similar exception to your liking. For most folks in Europe, this tid bit is probably the most important:

Switzerland banned the sale of all light bulbs of the Energy Efficiency Class F and G, which affects a few types of incandescent light bulbs. Most normal light bulbs are of Energy Efficiency Class E, and the Swiss regulation has exceptions for various kinds of special-purpose and decorative bulbs.

So a brief trip to Switzerland to turn some Euro’s into gold for your numbered account and you can pick up a suitcase of lightbulbs while you are at it. Nice.

Back at the USA:

United States

Individual State efforts

California will phase out the use of incandescent bulbs by 2018 as part of bill by California State Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-Santa Rosa) that was signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 12, 2007. The bill aims to establish a minimum standard of twenty-five lumens per watt by 2013 and sixty lumens per watt by 2018.
Federal legislation

In December 2007, many of these state efforts became moot when the federal government enacted the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires all general-purpose light bulbs that produce 310–2600 lumens of light be 30% more energy efficient (similar to current halogen lamps) than current incandescent bulbs by 2012 to 2014. The efficiency standards will start with 100-watt bulbs in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs in January 2014.

Light bulbs outside of this range are exempt from the restrictions (historically, less than 40 Watts or more than 150 Watts). Also exempt are several classes of specialty lights, including appliance lamps, rough service bulbs, 3-way, colored lamps, and plant lights.

By 2020, a second tier of restrictions would become effective, which requires all general-purpose bulbs to produce at least 45 lumens per watt (similar to current CFLs). Exemptions from the Act include reflector flood, 3-way, candelabra, colored, and other specialty bulbs.

OK, I can make a lot of that work. Worst case is I have to pick them up when in Nevada or on a Texas / Florida trip. The ‘3 way’ exception alone just means I pay more for a feature I don’t use, worst case.

For another option, today I picked up a “Sylvania 200 W Clear Utility” bulb just to see if running one of them at about 1/2 bright was acceptable on color temperature ( it is ). That bulb is 3880 Lumens, so outside the scope of this law until 2020. So for the next decade, I’ve got a solution I can buy at the store (though depending on what California does, it might take a trip to Vegas or Reno ;-). 200 W bulb, run dim. The 150W “utility clear” bulb is rated 2740 lumens so it, too, is ‘outside the scope’ for a decade. For comparison, I bought a GE Rough Service bulb in 150W that is 1580 Lumens (or about the same light output as the cheap 95 W bulbs, but at 15 times the price) but with a service life of 2600 hours (vs 750). It, too, is ‘outside the scope’. Running it, it’s fine at full power, but a bit redder than I like on partial power.

So what this says is that I’ve bought 3 bulbs that I didn’t need to buy, but will be fine to have ‘in storage’ anyway. Worth it for the information learned. More on that below. As these were $3.xx each, it’s not a big deal.

Just for grins, I also picked up a “Sylvania 300 W Clear Utility” bulb. That puppy is big. The box is a bit under 9 inches by 3 inches. It has a regular base, but will not fit between the lamp shade hoop in one of my lamps. It does fit in the reflector in the other room, though the end sticks out some. In a way it’s kind of ‘way cool’ as you can watch the filament ;-) On the dimmer it’s “way bright” at even 1/2 setting. At full on it’s nearly blinding :-) Specs? 5900 Lumens, 300 W, 750 hours. So run that puppy down to the 1000 to 2000 lumens range, it’s going to last forever…

I also picked up some Halogen GE “Edison” brand bulbs. The wiki led me to think I’d wasted that $20 as halogens ought to be efficient enough to ‘qualify’ for acceptance… but putting the bulb specs into my spread sheet said they were not nearly as efficient as the typical halogen. The 150 W, for example, is 2430 Lumens (so would fall within the law) and only makes 16.2 Lumens / Watt, thus would be banned as that is almost exactly the same as the regular incandescents. In fact, that 200W Utility bulb was cranking out 19 Lumens / Watt. All I can figure is that a clear glass helps more than expected and that the “Coated bulb reduces glare” on the GE Halogens is not a very efficient coating… Reading up on halogen bulbs, I also found out that the life extension on a dimmer is not nearly as straight forward, nor as much, as a regular incandescent. More on that below too…

BTW, that “plant bulbs” is a big deal. You can find all kinds of plants with particular spectrum requirements. Some need more blue, some more red, some need longer, some shorter. So, your local greenhouse supply store will be able to supply to you all kinds of interesting lights. There is a ‘black art’ of mixing incandescent with fluorescent to make various things bloom at different times. I think this is a great exception to have. I think I’ll put in a small Potting Shed Greenhouse with a “special bulb forcing fixture” that needs extra warmth and a nice yellow light ;-)

The Rugged Bulbs exception means I can hold off on buying that case of 20,000 hour bulbs until about 2016. Nice to have that in the hip pocket. And that 2600 Lumens cut off means that the bigger bulbs that will last longest on dimmers will be available for a while as well. All in all, a very workable set.

Oddly, if the wiki is to be believed, Australia has fewer ‘exceptions’ but a lower standard:


[…]The new minimum standard efficiency level is 15 lumens per watt (lm/W). In November 2008, the importation of non-compliant lighting (which includes some incandescent globes) into Australia was banned, and from November 2009, the retail sale of non-compliant lighting was banned.[30] According to the current proposal,[31] all regular light bulbs and some other kinds of light bulbs sold from October 2009 will have to meet the new minimum energy performance standards. Incandescent light bulbs that meet the new standards, for example high-efficiency halogen bulbs, will continue to be available.

So you ought to be able to get halogen bulbs and even some incandescents meet 15 Lumens / Watt. (Several of them in my spread sheet, including the Philips 100W at 16.2, the GE Halogens, the Sylvania 130 V at 17 though they are only 14.7 when run on 120 Vac, even the GE 95W Energy Saver Long Life is at 16.1 lumens / Watt. So unless Australia has some strange way of measuring L/Watt, they ought to be legal. Heck, that 200 W job is pumping out 19.4 L/W so it ought to be “In like Flint”… (The 150 W clear utility bulb is “only” 18.3 L/W ;-)

So if someone is saying “No More Incandescents”, try the specialty and industrial lighting store… and look for clear bulbs.

The UK entry just says they are banned, but the EU entry is more interesting:

European Union

The initial Europe wide ban only applies to general-purpose, non-directional incandescent bulbs, so does not affect any bulbs with reflective surfaces (e.g. spotlights and halogen down lighters) or special purpose bulbs including those used in ovens, fridges, traffic lights, infrared lamps etc. The sale of the most inefficient bulbs will be banned in a phased approach. The first types to go are non-clear (frosted) bulbs, which will be off the market by September 2009. Also from September 2009 clear bulbs over 100W must be made of more efficient types. This limit will be moved down to lower wattages, and the efficiency levels raised by the end of 2012.[12] Also, the EU has given the target of 2016 to phase out halogen bulbs, and any bulb available for purchase after the 2016 date must have at least a ‘B’ energy rating.[13] The Finnish parliament has been discussing banning sales of incandescent light bulbs by the beginning of 2011.[14]

So you folks ought to be able to buy Halogens for a few more years at least. After that, you ought to still be able to get “appliance bulbs” that as near as I can tell are indistinguishable from regular bulbs other than the shape of the glass… Oh, and that exception for “reflector bulbs” means a load of flood lights are or ought to be available. I found a GE Halogen Flood 95 W at Lowe’s here in the USA, with a 6000 hour life. For 2 of my ‘dimmers’, I can put a small flood in them and never notice the difference.

LED Land

I’ve made my first plunge into the land of LED home lighting. (I’ve already got it in my flashlights).

I bought a Sylvania “40W replacement” “Ultra High Performance Series LED” that uses 8 Watts. $22. Package says it’s 430 lumens, but it seems like more. Rated life: 50,000 hours.

First up, the bad news. It claims on the package to be “Dimmable”. It isn’t.

You can dim it a little bit, but at less than about 3/4 bright it starts to flicker. We’re talking major flicker at 1/2 power or less. Full off, then back on, kind of flicker. There may be some specialized kind of dimmer this works with, but it doesn’t work worth a damn with the ones in my wall switches. The good news is that it’s already dim enough so you don’t need to dim it 8-{

OK, it immediately left the bedroom in search of a place to be used. Most of my lamps and fixtures want at least a 60W incandescent level of light. More good news is that the “40W replacement” is conservative. The color is a very pleasing 3000 K, so just a touch more ‘white’ than your typical 2700 K incandescent or crappy CFL bulb. (Good CFLs are in the 3000K to 4000K range and look very crisp white). This has the side effect that the light seems brighter. Furthermore, while it’s packaged in a ’round bulb shape’ the light is preferentially emitted out the “top” 1/2. Not in a beam, but none wasted headed “down” toward the base.

I’ve put it into a lamp in the living room that is usually left on as “background” lighting. I also took out the “curly bulb” that was in that fixture. The lamp shade now sits nice and level as it can ‘grip’ the round globe of the LED nicely… no longer looking like a drunken sailor bumped into it… The “upward” direction of the bulb means more of the light goes out the top to hit the white wall and ceiling, thus more efficiently lighting the area. (NOT a feature for a reading lamp you would sit below…)

The light is smooth and even. None of the “mottle” that I get with the flashlight bulbs. It comes on instantly, and there is no detectable bad behaviours (though I am somewhat deaf, so a fine ear ought to listen to one and see if it really has NO hum…)

It is modestly heavy (about like a CFL) so any weight balanced light that has trouble with a CFL will likely also “drift” with one of these.

For general use, though, I’d rate it highly. For fixtures where the directionality is OK and for lamps that can hold the bulb pointed at the work area, it ought to be a stellar choice. Over the years, I’ll likely be replacing a couple of other lamps bulbs with these. The kitchen main fixture, too, if they ever get one that’s a “100 W replacement”. (The only ones like that at LOWE’S were spots and directional floods. Not what I need.)

OK, for my purposes, it will “work” in roughly 2 fixtures. (Where a low light level is OK). A higher power version “some day” may work in 3 more, possibly 5. The only lights it will be replacing are CFL bulbs. The fixtures with dimmers will be staying incandescents. MAYBE, I’ll put the time in to find out if there is some kind of special dimmer they take… in about a decade… I expect I’ll be buying roughly one per year. Maybe one every other year if the higher power ones don’t show up ‘soon’ and cheaper than the $50 price tag that was on the ‘spot’ bulbs.

At any rate, it’s nice for the “leave it on all the time” lamp in the living room, and I may even get a LOWER power one to replace the 7 w ‘curly bulb’ in the entry way lamp that’s “always on”. At near zero operating cost, I see no reason to power cycle them and stress the electronics.

Clear Utility Bulbs

These are marketed for use in things like yard lights and shop lights where aesthetics are not the main driver. The idea being that a frosted bulb is a smoother light, with less harsh shadows. But in a lamp with a shade, who cares? And, in fact, I’m finding the ‘sharper’ character of the light a benefit in clarity and focus. Things just look sharper to me. That they are also more efficient is just icing on the cake. How much more efficient? The 150 W is 18.3 Lumens / Watt, the 200 is 19.4 L/W and the 300 W is 19.7 L/W. Compare that with a “Rugged Service” bulb at 11.9 and you can see it’s close to a “double”. I’ll take 2 times the light for the same power any day. That the high efficiency and high lumens output keeps these available for a few more years is A Very Nice Thing.

The 150 W bulb puts out 2740 lumens. That’s like running two of the 100 Watt bulbs. (Sylvania or GE Reveal) That is a very nice economical tradeoff. At that point giving up a little bit of efficiency for a longer life by dimming a few percent will not hurt the light quality, quantity, or economics one bit.

I bought the 300 W Clear Utility Bulb just to see what light quality looked like when you dimmed it down to about 1000 lumens. (It is 5900 at full power – about the same as 7 generic 60 W bulbs). The light quality is significantly reddened. But it’s curiously interesting to look at the filament. It’s a comfortable brightness to look at and a color that reminds me of looking into a fire. Oddly interesting. Again, at all of $3.44 for the bulb, I’m not feeling like I wasted the money. I’ll most likely put it in a ‘flood enclosure’ I’ve got (metal conical lamp with a cord and big “clip” that grabs things) on a dimmer in my work room. Where I can turn it on Real Low for times of contemplation, or Real Bright if I want “daytime bright” for anything. It DOES get hot, though!

The main “takeaway” from this section is just that a visit to the local “industrial lighting store” is likely to be useful. Even without resorting to things like High Intensity Discharge or Metal Discharge lamps (that are nice color temperature and no flicker, but have minor issues like exploding ;-) so mostly used in industrial lighting…) you could benefit from the “industrial sized” clear bulbs. The industrial lighting store is on my list for next week some time. That, and a visit to the local hydroponics / greenhouse supply store to see what kind of lamps they have.

Halogen and Dimmers

FWIW, the wiki on Halogen lamps was instructive about operating these things on dimmers.

Because of their peculiar operating ‘feature’ of scavenging the tungsten, they want a certain heat profile to work right. Running them on a dimmer can disrupt that profile, so you don’t get as much life extension as you would for a regular incandescent.


Tungsten halogen lamps behave in a similar manner to other incandescent lamps when run on a different voltage. However the light output is reported as proportional to V^3, and the efficacy proportional to V^1.3. The normal relationship regarding the lifetime is that it is proportional to V^ − 14.

Got that? Volts to the MINUS 14 power. A little drop in voltage goes a long ways. Sure, output gets cut as a cube, but life extension… wow.

For example, a bulb operated at 5% higher than its design voltage would produce about 15% more light, and the efficacy would be about 6.5% higher, but would be expected to have only half the rated life.

Halogen lamps are manufactured with enough halogen to match the rate of tungsten evaporation at their design voltage. Increasing the applied voltage increases the rate of evaporation, so at some point there may be insufficient halogen and the lamp goes black. Over-voltage operation is not generally recommended. With a reduced voltage the evaporation is lower and there may be too much halogen, which can lead to abnormal failure. At much lower voltages, the bulb temperature may be too low to support the halogen cycle, but by this time the evaporation rate is too low for the bulb to blacken significantly. There are many situations where halogen lamps are dimmed successfully. However, lamp life may not be extended as much as predicted. The life span on dimming depends on lamp construction, the halogen additive used and whether dimming is normally expected for this type.

So stocking up on halogens for use with dimmers is probably not the best idea, unless they spend most of their life near full power. Occasional dimming? Ok. Run at 1/2 or 3/4 power their whole life? Probably not a good idea.

So store halogens for things that will not be dimmed (much). The GE ones I bought have a 3000 hour lifetime, so are a good choice for things expected to run ‘full on’ most of the time or only slightly dimmed. If you do run them on dimmers often, run them up to full power for a while from time to time to extend their life.

In Conclusion

At this point I’ve got 1/2 dozen Halogen bulbs in 95W and 150 W that will be ‘deep archive’. Don’t need them right now, but will want them for some future time for rooms that are dimmed, but not often. I expect that a more efficient version will make the hurdle and be available after 2012.

I’ve got a 200 W clear incandescent “utility” bulb in the lamp of this room (and I’m LOVING It… very clean light. I can light up the whole room for things like detail work and cleaning, yet it’s a nice “kerosene lamp” ambiance when turned waaayy down low, with ‘very useful and pleasant’ at medium power settings. I’ve also turned the room heater down a notch, so I’m saving on my heating bill ;-) I also like the idea that at 19+ Lumens / Watt it’s very much more efficient than the lower power bulbs for full room lighting. I think I’ll be getting a couple more of these over the next decade. At $3.22 each, they are not cheap; but the lighting quality and range of luminosity settings and ambiance settings available are just a dream. The only ‘drawback’ is that it casts a strange shadow on the ceiling over the lamp. The “support wires” and screw on top … but even that is kind of interesting… This is now my “standard bulb”.

I’ll not be buying any more of the “rough service” bulbs for the next couple of years. Just don’t see the need. About 2016 I’ll buy a case lot of them “for the children” 8-) but until then, the (expected) continued availability of the 200 W (and even the 150 W) “utility” bulbs make them an inefficient and anaesthetic alternative.

On LEDs, slow additions as they make sense. Still waiting to find something that actually works well on dimmers. Still looking for a 100W “equivalent” with even luminosity downward from a lamp.

Finally, I’m going to spend a couple of days investigating “Low Voltage Track Lighting”. The bulbs are Very Small so easy to store, and it looks like they meet the efficiency hurdle such that they stay available for many years (at least in the USA) while having good dimming and long life to the bulbs. Hard to beat that combination.

With that, I think I’m nearing the end of The Great Bulb Adventure. I really do wish my government would just leave me alone so I could do things that are more valuable, but they don’t. Oh Well. FWIW, I’ve also learned enough about bulb construction that if I really needed to so so, I could make my own bulbs. Strange thought, that. Perhaps there will be boutique business in making “luminescent art” ;-) Just try to suppress me 1st Amendment freedom of expression ;-)

One passing note. There is a very curious kind of incandescent light. It is an antique kind, but needs no vacuum, no sealed bulb, and no special gasses. I’m tempted to make one just to play with it. They use a glowing bit of ceramic. It would be very easy to make in a home shop. Read and enjoy:


The Nernst Lamp with Ceramic Element

The Nernst Lamp with Ceramic Element

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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25 Responses to Happy Bulbs To You

  1. Peter Czerna says:

    You have one of the most interesting, thought-provoking and thoughtful websites that I know, so I’m a frequent visitor. BUT:

    Could you please do your readers a favour and reduce images offline before putting them on the home page?
    I had to do an especially large amount of finger drumming this morning. At the time of writing 07:00 CET your home page was serving up at least 14MB of images (I gave up counting halfway down).

    When you tell your HTML that the chromium image, for example, should be 500x298px, the browser still downloads the 5MB image and re-renders it on the fly locally – and badly at that. You don’t need a link to the original image – you’ve already served it up, along with the cannabis plant (5.5MB) and the ice fair (1.5MB).

    You need to cut your poor readers some slack here…

    Happy New Year!

  2. P.G. Sharrow says:

    I have the same problem with band width. The Willie Nelson post almost strangled my computer system. I have low level Hughes sat. connection. On the twisted pair we used to use that would have killed me. pg

  3. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Very informative on lighting. I use mostly CFLs so they can run on the UPS if the PG&E fails. LEDs would be my first choice if they get cheaper. Still wonder about the life of the electronics. The CFLs have a very long life – if you don’t turn them off and on – but last very few cycles, so I leave them on. I have a few spaces that we turn on and off once a day and are hard to change out as they are high up and hard to get to. A directed light LED would work well there if it would stand a couple thousand cycles. Might be worth the 20 bucks to escape the hassle of changing it. pg

  4. E.M.Smith says:


    It looks to me like a Nernst type lamp could be made, but without the heater and such, by using an electrically conductive ceramic.


    is a solid up to 3500 K so you could make a decent 2700 K element out of it. It is prone to oxidation over 1100 C, so one would need a glass envelope filled with inert gas, like, oh, argon, or maybe nitrogen… though that might try to make a titanium nitride…

    At any rate, glass bulb, wires, argon, chunk of titanium diboride… Looks easy enough to make. Wonder where you can buy very thin rods of the stuff ;-)

    Hardest part is probably finding a mount to hold it that makes electrical contact but doesn’t melt ;-)

    Ah, the joys of making what you want from what you have…


    Per bandwidth: Sorry! I’ve moved onto DSL and am no longer as sensitive as I once was to sizes…. A year ago I was on 56 K most of the time. I’ll be more careful…

    Per the “link to original” that is partly documentary. I usually link to the page that includes both the image AND the legal stuff like acceptable usage and requirements for attribution (that I think is met by the ‘original image’ link).

    So what I’ll do is leave the big one in the Original link and see if I can find smaller ones for the embedding…

    I do still remember the days of cursing at 20 minute images…


    OK, I’ve gone back and “shrunk” the sizes of things from the last half dozen or so postings. Is it OK now? More to do?

  5. Peter Czerna says:

    Really cool images on this site: goes like a rocket – Thanks!

    “So a brief trip to Switzerland to turn some Euro’s into gold for your numbered account and you can pick up a suitcase of lightbulbs while you are at it. Nice.”

    Switzerland: That’s where I am. Saw plenty in our local shop yesterday. I can do special orders. Orders over $100 get a free Cuban cigar thrown in.

    Er, did I mention the price?

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, decided to try the LED bulb in a different lamp. One of the ones by the “couch” where folks often read. Nominally these are ‘3-way’ lamps and in the past I’ve run them with 50-100-150 bulbs. Mostly on the 100 W setting or the 50 W setting for “mood lighting”. Presently, they have a 23 W “curly bulb” in them that is about the same as a 100 W incandescent.

    Fair enough, I swap the LED bulb (nominaly a 40 W replacer) and find that it’s ALMOST but not quite bright enough. Going to need larger output to be worth the swap.


    In the process I discover that the base of that LED bulb is quite hot. Uncomfortable to the touch to the extent I turned it off and let it cool before swapping bulbs.

    Didn’t have to do that with the CFLs, I’m thinking…

    How can it be consuming 1/3 the power and end up hotter?

    So a little bit of digging lands me at this page:


    To make a long story short, it looks to me like the LED folks are getting a “Pass” on the power wasted in the ballast / power supply in how folks think about the bulb. The numbers tell a different story.

    Why do I say this? The nice little chart that makes a distinction between “Overall Luminous Efficacy in L/W” and “Overall Luminous Efficiency” in percent. That second one includes all the power…

    The main difference between the luminous efficacy of radiation and the luminous efficacy of a source is that the latter accounts for input energy that is lost as heat or otherwise exits the source as something other than electromagnetic radiation.

    So, looking at Incandescent of about 100 W I find a “Efficiency” of about 2.5% (with 12 V halogen at 3.5%)

    “Curly Bulbs” are at 8% to 12%

    So the first surprise is that, overall, a curly bulb is about 3 x an incandescent, not 4. Some heat is leaving in the ballast that is not being well accounted…

    LEDs are about… 8% to 12% …

    that hot base is telling me that I may have a very efficient LED element in that device, but a lot of heat is being dumped from the electronics. So much so that the overall efficiency is about the same as a CFL.

    there is no money savings and no power savings from an LED over a CFL bulb. They both turn the same percentage of input power into light.

    You do, per the packaging, get a 5 x longer life. It is free of mercury. It does have ‘instant on’. (And it might even be dimmable on some special kinds of dimmers…) but it is NOT a great power saver.

    Furthermore, that cost of $20 may be 5 x a $4 CFL price, but at Walmart they have PG&E subsidized CFLs for 97 Cents each. At that price point, I’m not seeing a lot of reason to buy another LED lamp.

    So in the next few days I’m going to hit Walmart and buy a dozen or so of the subsidy bulbs. Why? Once the incandescents are illegal, do you really think PG&E will see any reason to subsidize CFLs? To price compete with what, exactly? So I expect them to jump up in price to about $5 to $9 each as soon as the competition is banned.

    May as well stock up on them, too, while the ‘getting is good’. Market distortions, gotta love ’em!

    Oh, and found an answer to the “Flickers instead of dims” issue:


    seems you need ‘special’ dimmers…

    So maybe, someday, if they ever make a reasonably priced 100W replacer LED bulb I might, maybe, replace one of my dimmers with a new “special” dimmer and see if it works worth a damn. Maybe in about 10 years, or if one of the dimmers dies before then.

    Interesting ‘issues’ the guy in the story had. Run the microwave, LED flickers. Change the dim in one room, another room changed…. I think I’ll stick with the regular bulbs for a while until they work some of those kinks out…

  7. mrpkw says:

    Sorry if I missed this in your post about Halogens, but there are Halogen dimmer bulbs.

    We put a number of halogens in our attic/bedroom 10 years ago mostly because of the amount of crisp,sharp light.(I HATE dimly lit areas )

    They were like installing flame throwers as far as heat output and the failure rate was astronomical (including the “ballasts” in the fixtures. ($#@*& Chinese crap)

    I had a dimmer halogen in my office area.

    As an FYI, I have replaced as many incandescent bulbs (by my CHOICE, not government mandate) as I can and I did see a noticeable drop in my electrical use. We are are a plan here in Illinois in which the rate I pay for electricity is based on the time of day, not a flat rate and it was only after I replaced the bulbs with the curly ones did I actually start saving on that plan.

  8. pyromancer76 says:

    Glad to be back in town. Happy New Year, E.M. Smith, and to your family, cats, and bunnies. (Had to give up cats due to allergies. So very, very sad. Will have bunnies, and maybe a few chicks, next year for the grandkids.)

    Thanks for your blog lighting up our days and all this information on the bulbs. I am about ready to give up on CFLs. Don’t see any aesthetic or energy reason to keep them, especially since we need more heat! We also seem to have all the energy resources that we will need for far into the future. I am hoping the TeaParty reps will put an end to this nonsense and give us choices. I am fine with “persuasion” and “education”; just don’t make it a law!

    I also like the usefulness of dimmers and am adding a number of them. My computer table light is a halogen and it has run for about 12 years, but on the low setting. Very bright, and hot. On to buying my supply of incandescents.

  9. mrpkw says:


    Not to get too political, it’s amazing how apoplectic Liberals went for 8 years with every faux civil rights violation (national security) but they are sooooooooooooooooooooo willing give up soooooooooooooooo much in the name of environmentalism.

  10. Jeff Alberts says:

    “So what I’ll do is leave the big one in the Original link and see if I can find smaller ones for the embedding…”

    There’s a free application called Gimp which can do just about any image manipulation that you need. You could use it to re-size the original image for use directly on your site.

  11. dearieme says:

    I sat contemplatively in my study this morning with the window open (we’ve returned to an ordinary British December here) and thought “tell the chiefio”. So; I popped into our local newsagent this morning and saw that he had a few dozen 100W pearlised bulbs for sale, of the sort that’s been absent from the supermarkets for a year or more. There must be ways around the EU regs. Still, we’ve got a stock that’ll see me out.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jeff Alberts:

    I get “free space” on WordPress, but it is limited. It’s worth it to me to use an external link where possible. Delays the time I have to pay for space… Most images I use are from Wikimedia, and they have had smaller sizes (sometimes only the “thumbnail” that THEY display..) for most images. The thumbnails have moved location once or twice so I’ve tended to just use the main image. Except… Before I got the DSL line my own 56 kb connection informed me of when it was a problem, and I’d go searching.

    I figured I was the last one on earth to have left dial-up behind (other than ‘on the road’ and ’emergencies’ and ‘need to fix DSL’ ;-) Oh, and mutating my IP number sometimes…) and just got complacent. Where I had been lmiting myself to one image / post, I slowly added more. Then an embedded video, then a big image instead of rooting around to find a smaller one. Nobody seemed to notice, so I just figured I was last one off the boat…

    Now that it’s clear someone does care, it’s easy enough for me to “pay attention”. If I need to learn GIMP, ok, not a big deal. I’ll probably use that for image captures of things like the weather maps (where there is no small version).

    Basically this is just a long winded way of saying: I just figured it didn’t matter to anyone else anymore and I’m glad to see I wasn’t the last person using 56 kb…. means all that time I complained to other folks about “page weight” I wasn’t just being cheap, I was champion for others ;-) Frankly, as I’m planing to be “on the road” a few times this year (at 56 kb for some of it) I’d rather start making the pages ‘low speed friendly’ now, rather than find that my 2 hours rest stop is taken up with loading one page and I’ve got no time left to fix it then!


    Yes, I’ve noticed that hypocracy too. For them, “Civil Rights” ends at their pet project and “liberty” is a statue in NYC Harbor…

    Oh, and on Halogens: It’s not that they can not be dimmed, it’s that you have to think about how much, how often, what kind of bulb. It’s not a simple “any bulb in any dimmer will do, and slide down that graph to the lifetime you want” as for simple incandescents. It just means you have to think more, read more, and maybe buy special versions of the bulb with matched dimmers that don’t put them in ‘the bad zone’…

    One thing I’ve learned in life is that while I’m willing to take on complexity and detail to learn how to do all sorts of things better: Most folks want the least thinking, least time, least anything path to something that works without paying attention to the details. ( Thus our present crop of politicians… grrr…) So I’ve become sensitive to that and let folks know “It can do this, but you have to watch the details”. That way they can self-sort into detail and “leave me alone” behaviour groups ….


    The annoying thing to me is that I was a champion of CFLs very early on. I want the better efficiency available to me. I bought them very early at very high prices. Back when it was ‘put a magnetic ballast “rat on a rope” in the power cord to the lamp, then a bulb adapter in the lamp, then the PL-13 bulb in the adapter’. Still have them in the garage cupboard… Cost me about $25 too. I rapidly went through about a dozen makes and models. The “rejects” went out in the garage or “under the eaves” as yard lights. ( I have 5 exterior fixtures under the eaves for lighting up the whole yard).

    If they hummed too much, or took too long to warm up, or had a truely sickning color – To The Yard!

    The early GE Circle Light adapters that take a 6 inch or 9 inch circular bulb? They barely fit in a large table lamp and not in any of my built in fixtures. Used them in the “couch lamps” for several years, then got smaller CFLs that had a more esthetic look (no ‘white stripe’ mid-lampshade) and the slow start ‘flicker at start’ of the GE Magnetic balast was gone too… Yup, “To the Yard!”… where it is still running to this day, about a decade and a half later.

    The Garage tended to be best at ‘eating up’ the lousy ones. Even put them in the garage door opener. Up, down, up, down, up, down. Usually about 2 years and they would be gone. The ones it it now have been a bit more extraordinary on life (4 years? 5?) but had a very crummy light quality.

    Slowly over the years I got “ones that worked ok” with decent CRI, no flicker, electronic ballast, no hum, good warm up time, etc. into all the fixtures and lamps where they ‘would work’ reasonably well.

    Frankly, it was the sheer quantity of work and trial and error involved (finding out what bulbs were crap) that led me to the strong conviction that if “Granny” or of the friend in a wheelchair who can’t spend hours running to the store and back just wanted to “buy what works and be happy” in one run that ought to be their choice.

    Then the flood of Cheap Chinese Bulbs began.

    Now the CRI (that had generally improved… there were some OSRAM from prior to thier merger with Sylvania that were just perfect color temp and CRI) has gone to hell again. Where old bulbs usually took a minimum of 2-3 years to fail (and in the garage opener at that) were now failing in months. Some were even DOA or died in hours. Bulbs would “flicker” right out of the box.

    A giant step backwards. OK, time passed and I guess enough complaints piled up (or I just havn’t bought any for a while and infant mortality has left me with a working batch…) but it looks like quality is back up… some.

    The point?

    I really do understand folks who want to “give up” on CFL bulbs. I’ve “given up” on dozens of them.

    But… I also have them in about 75% of my light fixtures and lamps. Because you CAN find good ones. It just takes some work… I hade a 5000k PL type automatic yard light for several years and it worked perfectly. 13 W lit up the place very well, year in, year out. When that bulb died I changed it to a 4200 K that I like better (less ‘harsh’, so more friendly yet still a decent secuity light) but the fixture is still going fine. I’ve got a “High Pressure Sodium” main security light on the front of the house. It’s yellow color is just not as effective at the “security” function even though it’s very much more efficient. I’ve been waiting about 8 years for it to die so I can replace it with a CFL ;-)

    So I think it’s OK to “give up” if they don’t suit your tastes or your wants. (Some folks REALLY don’t want mercury over the dinner table!) But at the same time, with some significant effort, you can make them work. Mostly it’s a matter of learning about CRI, Color Temperature, and finding a reliable brand… (Harder now that OSRAM has become an appendage of someone else. For years they were my ‘go to’ brand.)

    In closing:

    That technical insight about the ABSOLUTE voltage dependent behaviour of incandescents is very important and interesting.

    It means you can have much more efficiency, much longer bulb life, and good clean quality light.

    So I’d suggest that you spend some time investigating low voltage track lighting. It looks like a real winner to me.

  13. Jason Calley says:

    I had never heard of a Nerst light before. Cool! Errr, hot. Hot and still cool!

    I was reminded of Tesla, and his carbon bulb light. Tesla heated a small knob of carbon (or ruby, or ceramic) by using a high frequency, high voltage current. Because of the high frequency, Tesla only need to run a single wire to the lights.


  14. John F. Hultquist says:

    This is good:
    Got DSL in the fall of 2008. Should have done so much sooner as doing anything on line with 56K is so last century. It was taking me 2.5 hours to download security software. But until the phone Co. ran new lines out into the country we had no choice.

    Happy New Year

  15. Eric Fithian says:

    If anyone wants to generate CO2 like the Chinese, I have 3 Old-Skool monsters: mogul-base (big screw) 1000-watt, 130-volt incandescent bulbs. From an old gymnasium in Julesburg, Colorado where we redid the lighting this past summer; they are simply too ornate to just crunch into the trash…. At 120 volts, each should draw about 900 watts.
    Bright enough to keep your chickens warm, while you read your dead-tree newspaper all the way across the yard…!
    Concerning the Nernst concept: aside from the relative lack of efficiency, what happens when a big, wet bug hits that hot ceramic element? ? Better keep that glass globe on!
    My lighting has been 100% straight-lamp fluorescent since the mid-’90s: 5000-Kelvin color, T-8s, running on electronic ballasts: 100 lumens per watt, instant-on, and 20,000+ hours lifetime each lamp. I’m happy.
    With a 2008 Christmas LED bulb in the fridge (whitest fridge in Denver!), there is one (1) incandescent lamp left here: inside the microwave…..

  16. Steve Inhof says:

    Just as an aside on your lightbulb blog, I have some observations.
    I have owned a travel trailer in Wisconsin for about 19 years, and it was 9 years old when I bought it. Granted, I only use it 2 weekends a month mostly, but when I do, all the lights get used a lot.
    In the 19 years I’ve used it, I’ve had to replace 3 bulbs in 21 fixtures! I think the replacement bulb I had was almost 12 years old before I had to use it! My voltage converter probably uses 10 times the current idling that the bulbs use in an average season. Anyone know of a converter that is more efficient? I needs to supply about 500 watts@ 12 vdc.

  17. Ian Beale says:


    I also had problems on the videos etc. We started with HRCS (a radio based phone system) which was slower than molasses in July (January to you) and now satellite (Hughes) which is somewhat faster. You work OK now.

    On lights – we are 240 volt, mostly bayonet base with a late intrusion of ESB. Have found that halogen bulbs are very fragile in workshop trouble lights.

    Definitely O/T. A friend your side saw flood photos in the Denver Post. We’re OK but a hell of a lot of Queensland isn’t.

  18. Jim says:

    Hey, I appreciate your contributions here and elsewhere. If you haven’t already, check out the external induction lamp. It is supposed to be efficient, long life, and the bulb should be replaceable. I am thinking you could rig up a way to use burned out fluorescent tubes with this technique.


  19. Jim says:

    Oh, also, check out the globar. It is a bar made of silicon carbide and conducts at room temp. Used as furnace ignitors, but with more current might make a good incandescent – or not.

  20. DirkH says:

    The EU kommissars are also abolishing Halogen lamps, piecemeal. I have yet to find out the details.
    “Wie sieht es mit Halogenlampen aus, sind die auch ab 01. September 2009 verboten?
    Nein, Halogenlampen sind ab dem 01.September 2009 nicht generell verboten. Ausgenommen von der EU-Richtlinie sind alle Niedervolt-Halogenreflektorlampen. Hingegen werden Halogenlampen, die dem Energielevel D entsprechen, ähnlich der Glühlampe entsprechend ihrer Watt- und Lumenzahlen von 2009 bis 2012 Schritt für Schritt aussortiert”

    About GISS station move adjustments – this might be of interest to you.

  21. Jim says:

    Here is a good write-up on external induction lamps. Apparently, this solution is going overlooked.

    • Long lifespan due to the lack of electrodes – between 65,000 and 100,000 hours depending on the
    lamp type and model;
    • Very high energy conversion efficiency of between 62 and 82 Lumens/watt [higher wattage lamps
    are more energy efficient];
    • Low power factor due to the high frequency electronic ballasts which are 98% efficient;
    • Minimal Lumen depreciation (declining light output with age) compared to other lamp types (see
    Lumen maintenance comparison graph);
    • Instant-on and hot re-strike, unlike most conventional HID (high intensity discharge) lamps


  22. E.M.Smith says:


    Very interesting light technology. Not sure I like the idea of a microwave driven lightbulb over the dinner table, though ;-)

    (I assume they have some way of making sure the microwaves don’t leak out… but I’d be more inclined to the kHz models…)

    Does give me a couple of ideas, though… but they need more pondering before they are ready for sharing.

    @Dirk H:

    I’ve noticed that the EU seems to be driving this boat, with th UK running out ahead from time to time. Then some “coordinative agent” spills it over in to the USA and Australia.

    The GE home use retail Halogens in the USA don’t quite make the lumens / Watt hurdle, but the Philips do. I expect we’ll see an improved efficiency (worse light quality) lamp from GE. Then in 2018 Halogens just won’t survive.

    Why politicians think they can make better economic decisions than the customer is beyond me. Governments regularly screw it up. (Largely, IMHO, as the “regulatory bodies” become captive to the industry major players and turn it into an oligopoly paradise… customer be damned.)

    Per that GISS link: Very Nice….

  23. Jim says:

    EMS – nice efficient light and food warmer … what more could you want? :)

  24. tckev says:

    Many thank for very illuminating piece. :)

    Now I have the information as to why my old faithful 150W Halogen bulbs (not available anymore) were just the right at about 70-90% of nominal voltage.
    You have also given me plenty to chew over with all the other replacement types when I get back home.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    One minor note:

    I’ve just replaced the CFL bulbs in the “3 way” lamps in the living room with regular 3 way incandescents.


    First off, it’s winter. The ‘added heat’ is a feature. Next summer I may (if it’s hot enough) buy a ‘3 way’ LED or CFL, but for now, the Incandescent is just fine.

    But wait, there’s more…

    One of the lamps is visible as a reflection in the TV, so we decided we really wanted that ‘diminished capacity’ setting at the low end of the bulb range. This means that the lamps will typically be running on ‘low’.

    When the “low” filament burns out, the ‘main’ filiment remains. Now that’s no longer a ‘problem’ of a 1/2 burned out bulb, it’s a ‘feature’…. That 50-100-150 W (or 30-100-130, or..) threeway becomes a “100 W” incandescent… that works fine in regular fixtures.

    So I’m cutting over to using the old IC 3-ways (for 3/4 of the year) and getting back the 3-way feature while at the same time “making” my own supply of 100 W bulbs for longer term. Nice.

    (The 3-way bulbs stay available for a few years…)

    I’ve tried a 3-way CFL and wasn’t impressed… They are expensive and not very effective, at least last I felt like blowing $15… Oh, and it died in short order too. It’s a Sylvania 12/19/28W CF28EL/3way/Twist and basically blinks sporadically on the lower power settings. One dead, one blinker… In days. Maybe someday. At any rate, that’s why I think IC 3-ways stayed “available” in the law making… If anyone knows of a “really works, and well” CFL 3-way, I’d love to avoid the search costs…)

    Also, in picking up some 50 cents each CFL subsidy bulbs, I noticed they were ‘low temp’ in that they would work down to -15 C. Nice. But… Elsewhere on the package it states “Reliable use from -5 F to 120 F” so I sure hope you don’t expect them to work inside any warm fixtures…

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