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This article was originally published in the January/February 1997 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.

 

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Home Energy Magazine Online January/February 1997


EDITORIAL

Carrying the Torch for Energy-Efficient Lighting

About every two years, I write an editorial about lighting. I say that significant advances in technology have occurred, and that the latest generation of compact fluorescents (CFLs) will surely replace incandescents if only consumers take the trouble to investigate the opportunities. In the past two years, however, there have not been any significant advances. There have been all sorts of small improvements, such as three-way CFLs and CFLs that work on existing dimmers, but nothing that unequivocally tips the balance away from the inefficient, but cheap, incandescent.

Indeed, there has been a major setback to energy-efficient lighting. The 40 million halogen torchieres now operating in American homes represent a shift to lower-efficacy lighting. In fact, these lights now waste more energy than is being saved by all the CFLs installed so far. The torchieres are actually 300W-600W ceiling heaters that just happen to produce light. Worse, these lamps are a fire hazard, with the higher-wattage models producing enough heat to fry an egg! These heat sources are often unprotected and are frequently just inches from drapes and curtains. So it is with some relief that the article Bright Prospects for CFL Torchieres (p. 13) introduces an energy-efficient, less incendiary torchiere.

There has been progress on the lighting front in the area of information gathering. Shedding Light on Home Lighting Use (p. 15) describes the largest attempt so far to accurately measure the amount of electricity consumed by lights in homes. This kind of study is essential if we are to estimate potential energy savings, and if manufacturers are to determine what lighting improvements are needed. Also, the first government estimate of residential lighting energy use was just published by the Energy Information Administration. In the report, the authors felt obliged to explain why their estimate (obtained from self-reporting by residents) differed from an earlier one that appeared in Home Energy (see Of Sockets, Housecalls, and Hardware, Nov/Dec '91, p. 25). If the government takes Home Energy seriously, so should you!

It is easy to estimate the power savings that result when an incandescent is replaced with a CFL, but how much can truly be saved with a major lighting retrofit? In the past, everybody relied on crude estimates because monitoring technologies were simply not capable of collecting this information nonintrusively. That's changed, and the article by Danny Parker and Lynn Schrum (p. 21) describes a total lighting retrofit of a house and the resulting measured savings. Studies like this one--especially since it was conducted in sunny Miami--build credibility and serve as a reminder that 50% energy savings are more than just technically feasible; they are practical.

I look forward to writing another lighting editorial in two years. Here's a list of significant technological advances that I would like to write about: a CFL to replace the 150W kitchen light, a CFL that fits every place an incandescent does now, and a low-cost electronic ballast for retrofitting existing magnetically ballasted fixtures.


 

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