Category Archives: The Environment

Looking at the impact of energy saving light bulbs on the environment plus other general green issues

The Light Bulb Ban- UK ahead of EU!

It has been over 100 years since Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb which orchestrated a step change in technology and peoples life styles. In fact the year was 1879 and this fabulous invention has really stood the test of time and is only now being superseded. But the Edison name will live on not only as the inventor, but will stay with the screw fitting light bulbs whose fittings are code names ES of SES ( Edison Screw or Small Edison Screw).
It is in fact the environmental pressure that has ultimately led to the demise of the incandescent bulb and the environmentalists have worked with the government, manufacturers and the EU to put in place the plan. The case is fairly water tight as eliminating the incandescent bulb will save between 2 and 5 million tonnes of C02 per year in the UK and in the region of 20 to 50 million tonnes per year across the EU.

Light Bulb Ban timing in the EU

From 1st September 2009

  • All 100W incandescent lamps must be a minimum of energy rating C
  • All frosted and pearl bulbs banned unless rated as A-Class

From 1st September 2010

  • All 75 W clear incandescent light bulbs phased out.
  • Phase-out of 60 W clear incandescent lamps.

From 1st September 2011

  • Phase-out of 60 W clear incandescent lamps.

From 1st September 2012

  • The rest of clear incandescent lamps phased out, that is, 40W and 25W.

From 1st September 2016

  • Retrofit light bulb minimum rating raised from energy rating C to B

Light Bulb Ban timing in the UK

Now interestingly in the UK the manufacturers have aligned with the environmentalist and the government to accelerate the transition to energy saving light bulbs . This has been agreed on a voluntary basis and as a result then the timing in the UK is around 1 year ahead of the EU. This means that retailers participating in this scheme will adhere to the following timing:-

1st January 2009

  • Retailing stopped for 75 and 100W bulbs

1st January 2010

  • Retailing stopped for 60W bulbs of the traditional GLS (A-shaped) Bulb

1st January 2011

  • Retailing stopped for 40W bulbs of the traditional GLS (A-shaped) Bulb

1st January 2012

  • Retailing stopped for 60W golf-ball and candle shaped bulbs
  • of the traditional GLS (A-shaped) Bulb

As to whether you think that this accelerated transition is a good thing will be dependant on your standpoint. Clearly the environmentalists are very much in favour but some people who still are living on the memory of the old energy saving light bulbs are still against. Can you remember those early CFL’s which took ages to get to full brightness and were really big and ugly? However,  thankfully the technology has advanced in leaps and bounds and the modern energy saving bulbs are really very good. Also clearly if you really need say that 40W incandescent bulb, because in your application the bulb must come on immediately, and the UK participating retailers have stopped selling them then you can seek out one of the retailers who are still working to the EU timing.

Now there is also one other interesting point which some people can view as a loop hole. Bulbs classified as rough service bulbs, at present are exempt from the ban. These are the bulbs which you would typically use in an extension light in a garage which if you used a standard light bulb would fail every time you gave it a small knock. These come in 60 and 100W sizes and the ruling for retailers is they must clearly be classified as rough service light bulbs and not intended for household use. So if you really need one or you have an application in the garage that suits then this could be a way forward. But first of all check that you cannot use a small full spiral CFL as good ones these days are pretty compact and certainly far more resilient than the traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Carbon Footprint- Putting energy saving light bulbs into perspective

In a previous post I reviewed the impact of changing from traditional filament incandescent light bulbs to energy saving light bulbs on the carbon footprint. In broad terms then if you use a 100 watt bulb for 4 hours a day then changing this single bulb to an energy saving light bulb will save around 100kg in C02 emissions!! Now you might quite correctly say; ” Is that significant? ” or indeed “Is that worth worrying about? ” or ” Well if I just start walking the children to school is that not better?” . Here I will try to put this into perspective so you can make an educated judgement yourself.

Carbon Footprint comparison for Transportation

The reason a light bulb has an effect on your carbon footprint is because electricity generation is normally gas or oil fired and this produces a significant amount of C02. So the obvious question is why do we not compare the C02 generated to private and public transportation which certainly for cars and planes results in the direct emissions of C02 into the atmosphere.

The Family Car
So lets say for example that you own a Ford Focus C-Max 1.8 (125PS) built in 2005, which is a fairly decent family car. You would need to drive this vehicle for approximately 330 miles for it to emit 100kg of C02 into the atmosphere. So comparing that to your single light bulb you would need to stop driving the car of the order of 1 mile per day.

The Train
Public transport is certainly a more efficient way to travel from an environmental perspective but the calculation is more complex because it clearly depends on how many people are on the train and the efficiency of that particular train. However accordingly to published statistics you would need to travel of the order of 1000 miles on the train for 100 kg of C02 to be created.

Travelling by Aeroplane
Planes certainly create a lot of C02 but they are a relatively efficient way of transport from a C02 perspective when they are full when compared to the passenger car. To create 100kg of C02 you would need to fly from London to Manchester and back.

Household Electrical Appliance Carbon Footprint Comparison

So that looks at the transportation comparison but you might say for example “Well should I stop using my dishwasher as often or certainly make sure that it is always full when I turn it on?” To look at this we need to compare the electricity consumption of these appliances to your electric light bulb.

The 100 watt light bulb when used for 4 hours per day will consume 146kW of electricity in a year which would cost £19, assuming you pay 13p/ kWhour for electricity.

A dishwaher will use around 2kW for each use so if you use it once every 5 days then this uses the same amount as your 100 watt light bulb.
A washing machine uses around 2.5kW for each use so in a similar way of you use this once every 6 days then it will use approximately the same amount  of electricity as your 100 watt light bulb.

Now this is quite stagering and really emphasises how much electicity traditional light bulbs use and whilst it does make sence to use your washing machine and dishwasher effectively you can make a far more significant impact by changing you light bulbs. When it comes to transprotation I will let you be the judge but hope this data should help you in making a more informed choice.

Has the mailing of free energy saving light bulbs to consumers worked?

In 2008 the government put in legislation so say that energy companies must put in measures to make consumers more energy efficiency and to assist people of low income in obtaining the necessary energy resources to heat and light their homes. The energy companies could address this matter in different ways to meet the targets that were set. The way most chose to adhere to the legislation was to send out thousands of low energy CFL bulbs. The plan here was to enable households to improve their energy efficiency and as a consequence to reduce the levels of CO2 created in the generation. This worked in part but there have been some flaws in the approach. Firstly, the supply of light bulbs exceeded demand and some 12 million were issued over the 2009 Christmas period and a lot were of low wattage and unsuitable for peoples requirements. As a result many light bulbs have remained in peoples draws and as a consequence will not contribute to energy efficiency and potentially have the adverse effect of increasing landfill !

Now energy experts say that there is a much better way than mailing out CFL light bulbs to address this situation to ensure that the environmental benefits are realised and that is to insulate peoples homes. This way it is assured that the CO2 emmisions will be saved and householder could then select the most appropriate light bulbs for their needs. To understand why this approach was not taken we need to look at the figures from the government.

A low energy bulb costing £2.97 will save 0.04 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime. Conversely insulating a typical 3 bedroom house costs £8760 and saves 18.08 tonnes of carbon. This means that the energy companies have been able to meet the criteria by mailing out 452 bulbs which has only cost them £1342 making them a huge saving in meeting the targets.

In addition energy companies have been able to put the energy saving light bulb costs on to consumers bills which is reported to have increased peoples annual electricity bills by around £100!

The Department of Energy and Climate Change have now picked up on this bad practise and thankfully banned the mailing of these light bulbs to achieve the carbon emmisions targets and have given the companies until mid 2010 to wind down the schemes.

So are we any the wiser for this initiative?

Well one thing is for sure. If you analyse the figures then they prove that the migration from traditional incandescent bulbs to CFL’s is a more cost effective way for consumers to reduce CO2 emissions than home insulation but only if it is approached in the correct way. So purchasing energy saving light bulbs is definitely the right thing to do, both to save money and the environment, but make sure that they are the correct specification for your needs and make sure that you use them.

How much CO2 does a light bulb create?

You might well be confused by all this talk about Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and light bulbs. Why do the government and environmental authorities say that the move to energy saving light bulbs is so important and why has legislation been put in place to progressively ban the incandescent light bulb. Some people say, a light bulbs is a sealed glass unit so how can it produce any CO2 anyway?
Well it is not the light bulb itself but it is the CO2 created in the generation of the electricity that the light bulb consumes. Now clearly the amount of C02 created will depend on the type and the efficiency of the power station which is worst for coal power stations but if your electricity is generated by wind power then your light bulb will not be responsible for creating any CO2 at all during its operation. But right now the majority of electricity is generated by coal powered stations so lets look at the figures for those.
Power Station Pollutants
The 3 main pollutants produced by a powers station are:-

  1. Sulphur Dioxide, which is responsible for acid rain, is produced at 20 tons per year for a 1 Mega Watt mini electricity generating station
  2. Nitrogen Oxide, which is responsible for smog, is produced at 20 tons for a 1 Mega Watt mini electricity generating station
  3. Carbon Dioxide CO2, which is thought to be responsible for global warning, is produced at 7500 tons for 1 Mega Watt mini electricity generating station

Now when you consider that a typical commercial electricity generating station would be 500 Mega Watt capacity then it is clear to see that the buring of coal produces massive amounts of pollutants.
Then looking at CO2 in more detail, if you had a 100 watt light bulb and left it on all year then the generating station would create 750kg of CO2 during that year. Now it is unlikely that you would have a light bulb on continuously by lets say you have the light bulb on for 4 hours each day then that is still responsible for the creation of 125kg of CO2. So that means that if you change your light bulb for an energy saving CFL which will only consume 80% of the energy then you will help save the environment by reducing CO2 emissions by 100kg every year.
Then to put this in perspective in 2007 around 19% of all electricity generated was used for lighting purposes which is a very significant proportion. This means that a reduction in energy consumption in lighting has a major impact on overall CO2 emissions.
The other key fact to put this into perspective is that electricity generation account for around 70% of the CO2 emissions for cars and three times the total emissions from aviation as quoted by the International Energy Association (IEA). Clearly with these statistics then the migration from the incandescent light bulb to the energy saving light bulb will be a major contributor in reducing CO2 and global warming.