Responding to my recent Design News blog coverage of incandescent bulbs versus compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), a reader with the handle Rhapsodyinglue wrote, “Unless a technology can provide both spot beams and dimming function, it will never be a full solution for lighting needs.”
This comment reminded me of troubles I encountered when I retrofitted my parents’ house with CLFs. The main dining room illumination was a hanging lamp fixture containing eight 100-watt incandescent bulbs. Sitting down for dinner under that fixture was an 800 watt affair. To make matters worse, the dinner table doubled as my father’s work desk, and he would sit under that electron-guzzling fixture late into the night preparing for the next day’s work.
While a hanging fixture with 8 bulbs was already terrible from a lighting efficacy standpoint, at least replacing the incandescent bulbs with 24-watt CFLs would have reduced the power consumption 76% from 800 watts to a more modest 192 watts.
However, it was not to be.
My mother apparently searched long and hard to find bulbs that perfectly fit the aesthetic requirements of our dinning room, both via the illumination color and the shapes of the bulbs themselves. She simply would not have her exceptional incandescent bulbs replaced with “ugly” CLFs; 800 watts be damned. So, the incandescent bulbs remained.
I hit a similar snag working at Nextek Power Systems, a company that participated in supermarket lighting retrofits. Store managers were happy to switch their old T-12 lamps for more efficient T-8’s. However, no matter how inefficient they were, the tracks lights illuminating the produce were not to be touched. Fresh fruits and vegetables had to be very brightly illuminated to assure quick sale, and no CLF was up to the task of spot lighting.
So, Rhapsodyinglue’s point is very well taken. No matter how good CFLs get, there will always be applications for which incandescent bulbs are better; including spot lighting, dimming, and (certainly) some architectural / artistic functions. In fact, the latest edition of Engineered Systems Magazine carried a short article entitled “Fluorescents Afoot” in which the author, Lindsay Audin, describes several situations where incandescent bulbs are superior to CFLs. These instances include track lighting, cold outdoor fixtures, when coupled with motion sensors, and in emergency lighting fixtures.
For more blog coverage on incandescent versus fluorescent lighting, visit my post, “GE High-Efficiency Incandescent Lamps May Replace CFLs One Day”. Also, check out recent posts by John Dodge on CLFs: “Nonsense of the day: Compact fluorescents are dangerous, says Junk Science's Milloy”, “Fluorescent lamp, CFL bulb recycling explained”, and “Energy Star CFLs superior to incandescent bulbs”.