“Green” Compact Flourescent Light Bulbs Not Living Up to Hype

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">Compact fluorescent light bulbs, much loved by environmentalist for their purported energy-saving qualities, might not be “all that.” The compact fluorescent bulbs are supposed to burn for years. But according to several media reports, users are finding that they often burn out much, much earlier. As a result, the bulbs probably aren’t offering the energy savings that was promised.

Makers of these spiral-shaped bulbs claim they offer an energy savings of 75 percent over traditional incandescent light bulbs. According to The New York Times, the bulbs are supposed to last 10 times longer as the traditional variety, save as much as $5.40 a bulb each year in electricity, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from burning coal in power plants.

Because of their supposed green qualities, millions have been spent on these bulbs. According to a Wall Street Journal report, in California, where sale of traditional incandescent bulbs are being phased out, utilities are spending $548 million over seven years to subsidize consumer purchases of new bulbs. The World Bank has helped dozens of mostly poor nations begin the switch to the bulbs to make electric lighting more affordable.

To justify the use of ratepayer funds to foot the bill for the new compact fluorescent bulbs, California’s utility regulators have devoted millions of dollars in the past three years for evaluation reports and field studies, the Journal said. And they’re finding it’s hard to accurately predict and tricky to measure energy savings. For instance, energy savings for PG&E’s 2006-2008 bulb rebate program turned out to be 73 percent less than the 1.7 billion kilowatt hours projected

A big reason for the shortfall was the bulb’s burnout rate, the Journal said. When PG&E began its 2006-2008 program, it figured the useful life of each bulb would be 9.4 years. Now, with experience, it has cut the estimate to 6.3 years, which limits the energy savings. According to the Journal, field tests show higher burnout rates in certain locations, such as bathrooms and in recessed lighting. Turning them on and off a lot also appears to impair longevity.

According to The New York Times, some experts say the federal government’s push to lower the price of the bulbs (they once sold for around $30 apiece, but now can be had for as little as $1) in order to make them more attractive to consumers has resulted in lower quality. In short, manufacturers started using cheaper – and lower quality – components. Not surprisingly, many of those cheaper components are being sourced from China.

Consumers are supposed to be able to protect themselves by buying bulbs certified under the government’s Energy Star program. But experts and some environmental groups complain that Energy Star standards are weak, the Times said, and permit the sale of low-quality bulbs with high levels of mercury.

According to the Times, tests conducted by the Program for the Evaluation and Analysis of Residential Lighting at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to see if the bulbs were meeting Energy Star standards were less than encouraging. In the 2007-2008 tests, five of 29 models failed to meet specifications for such categories as lifespan, luminosity and on-off cycling and were removed from Energy Star’s list of qualified products.

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