Markowitz: Resolve to ‘be the change you want to see’

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Markowitz, the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.

Last month, I met with a group of high school students who were thinking about what they could do in their schools and communities to help combat climate change. One of them asked whether what we do in Vermont to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions matters since climate change is a problem on a global scale. This caused another student to shout out the Mahatma Gandhi adage that we must “be the change we want to see in the world.”

Both of their points were excellent. Vermont is a small state and the challenge of climate change is global, but, as we saw with Tropical Storm Irene and the half dozen significant flood events we experienced since then, we are not immune from the impacts of climate change. If we are going to prevent further damage to Vermont (and to the rest of the world), each one of us has an obligation to reduce our contribution to the problem.

Protecting our traditional land use patterns with walkable, livable village centers surrounded by a working landscape and forested mountains may be the single most important contribution we can make to both reduce our contributions to climate change and prepare Vermont for the changes that are already here.

 

The good news is that we are making some headway. Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions decreased in 2010 and again in 2011 to an amount equal to our 1990 levels even though, back in 1990, Vermont’s population was about 10 percent smaller (60,000 people fewer) than it is today. This means our investments in energy efficiency, adoption of stronger motor vehicle emissions standards, and renewable energy policies are working. But we need to do more. Our emissions will not continue to decline without a concerted effort.

In that spirit, I challenge you to join me in resolving to reduce our greenhouse gas contributions in the coming year.

At the personal level:

• Set aside one day a week for an alternate commute — by carpool, bus, walking or teleworking. Check out GoVermontwww.connectingcommuters.org/ for some options.

• Consider buying your next car with better fuel economy, or make the pledge that your next car will be an electric vehicle. Look at www.fueleconomy.gov and www.DriveElectricVT.com before you buy.

• Keep your thermostat set a few degrees lower this winter, and put on a sweater. Do a home energy audit and weatherize to make your home more efficient and comfortable. Check out www.efficiencyvermont.com and www.energysmartvt.com/ for more information.

• Replace traditional incandescent light bulbs with much more efficient and longer-lived compact fluorescent or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.

• Compost your food waste. Check out ANR’s website at www.anr.state.vt.us or go to the Composting Association of Vermont’s site at www.compostingvermont.org/index.htm for more information.

At the community level:

• Join your neighbors on the local energy committee. Visit the Vermont Energy and Climate Action Network (www.vecan.net) to find the committee in your community.

• If you move, relocate to a downtown or village center where you can walk or bicycle to work or shop.

• Encourage the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in your community. Low interest loans are available from the Vermont State Infrastructure Bank. Visit www.veda.org for more information.

• Get involved in local land use decisions — protecting our traditional land use patterns with walkable, livable village centers surrounded by a working landscape and forested mountains may be the single most important contribution we can make to both reduce our contributions to climate change and prepare Vermont for the changes that are already here.

Please join me in resolving to work together in 2014 and beyond to do our part to meet Vermont’s goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. By continuing to work toward this goal, we can help ensure that Vermont maintains a livable climate with many “Happy New Years” to come.

Comments

  1. sandra bettis :

    and stop unnecessary idling.

  2. Don Peterson :

    How about clawbacks of federal tax preferences for gas guzzlers trucks?

    Ever cosmetic surgeon in the state would complain that his wife’s horse hauler is costing too much, but we could use the funds to replant forests devasted by ridgeline development.

    • Ethan Rogers :

      How many acres of forest do you own, Don?

      • Don Peterson :

        Glad you asked. I bought 12 acres of burnt out pasture land 40 years ago and added 20 acres more neglected land 5 years ago.

        I supported that purchase ( a very bad one) by working as a carpenter all this time.

        I have managed that land for the whole time for reforestation so that by now i can make a little maple syrup on what was once “native pasture”. I hope to hand it over to a young family at the end of my life with 200 taps and 15 acres of restored fields.

        What sustains me the most is to see that the dream of being self sufficient I had as a youngster is now within reach for a younger generation. In 1970 farmers competed with supermarkets for the sale of heads of lettuce and lost. Now people recognize the value of locally produced food and are willing to pay for it.

        Sustainability and the attendant local economies are the only rational way out of the impending climate change that is on us.

        Bromides from bureaucrats about “being all you can be” are a waste of good electrons.

  3. George Plumb :

    Thanks Deb for this good editorial. I realize that as a political appointee you have to be careful what you say, and even the environmental leaders of our npo’s can’t speak the whole truth, but the situation is much more serious than you state. Fortunately we have vtdigger posts where some of us every day citizens can tell the bigger story. Go to this article in the Nation, of all magazines, to see how dire the situation really is:
    The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency’
    How will climate change affect the future of the planet? Scientists predict it will be nothing short of a nightmare.
    See: http://www.thenation.com/article/177614/coming-instant-planetary-emergency#
    We need to think about every gallon of fuel we use and that includes everything from mowing our huge lawns to flying by jet plane around the world for pure pleasure.

  4. Kelly Stettner :

    If we are so worried about gas-guzzling trucks, maintaining our forests, and greenhouse gases, how about an honest look at biomass burning for electrical generation? Want to talk about inefficiency? Biomass burning is far less efficient than even coal. Want to talk engine exhaust and fuel consumption? Dozens of 18-wheelers every single day will be spewing exhaust, brake dust, and more through many small communities and town centers, wearing down infrastructure and snarling traffic, lowering air quality and adding to town budgets. Want to talk dependence on fuel? The biomass boiler will require a full diesel backup generator…the list goes on. Forest loss, transport of invasive species, erosion from logging, lower water quality in our rivers and streams, potential fouling of town drinking water supplies, to name a few. Let’s hold biomass developers’ feet to the fire and not look the other way when they apply for a “certificate of ‘public good.’”

  5. Kim Fried :

    Thank you Deb for a great article and the very important personal and community level recommendations which will certainly result in an improved environment. If we are going to truly have an impact State wide it’s going to be through individual citizen and community efforts and responsibilities as we’ve seen in Vermont over the past decades.
    Your last recommendation on the community level I think is the most importand and critical-”protecting our traditional land use patterns…..” As Secretary of our most important state agency-the Agency of Natural Resourses, I trust and hope you will lobby and work hard to convince and PSB and your boss Govenor Shumlin that replacing the failed hugh corporate energy model of Exxon, Mobil and BP with the hugh corporate model of ridge line industrial wind power of First Wind, Iberdrole and Seneca Mountain Wind will only increase the damage to our environment in the future.

    • Kathy Nelson :

      Kim, as much as you are trying to be politically correct here you are failing to put a proper label on Mrs. Markowitz’ history. She, and her agency, do not practice what she preaches. While calling for the preservation of forests she issues a totally ignorant clearance for a ridgeline wind project in a national forest at Deerfield. The same ignorance and indifference as occurred at Lowell. You must understand that this woman has no understanding of the natural world and is little more than a tool for the corporate permit clearinghouse called the PSB. Nothing Markwitz says in this commentary is of any value whatsoever, and now there is no value to the agency she has dragged into the sewer. My pity is for the employees, the ones who do care about Vermont, who are trapped under the suffocating blanket of political hypocrisy.

  6. Curtis Sinclair :

    According to The Union of Concerned Scientists:
    “Palm oil is used in thousands of products that many people use every day, from baked goods and ice cream to household cleaning products and shampoo—and can even be found in fuel tanks.

    Unfortunately, palm oil is responsible for large-scale forest conversion in the tropics and extensive carbon emissions, contributing to global warming.
    Palm oil and global warming
    Indonesia and Malaysia, nations with large tropical forests, are the dominant producers of palm oil on the world market today. Their forests are being cleared to make room for new palm oil plantations.

    When these forests are lost, carbon is released into the atmosphere, driving global warming.”

    So it would be a good idea to look for products that are free of palm oil.

  7. Matt Fisken :

    Dear Secretary Markowitz,

    It has been known for nearly a decade now that compact fluorescent lightbulbs are not an wise choice of lighting. Billed as “global climate change fighters,” these bulbs are dramatically changing the climate in the homes and buildings they are installed.

    They are more prone to catching fire, sometimes after a slow smoldering burn that can last months as the cheaply built ballast gradually fails under extreme heat. The toxic fumes that are released may not be noticeable, but are nonetheless harmful. Have you inspected your CFLs for signs of melting and browning where the tube meets the ballast?

    They emit a completely unnatural spectrum of light, with high levels of UVA and UVC that is carcinogenic if unshielded. As these bulbs age, more UV is emitted as the phosphor coating breaks down. Many swap out all their light bulbs for CFLs to save a dollar or two a month, only to find their skin health deteriorate rapidly afterwards.

    They generate electromagnetic fields that are much higher than incandescent bulbs due to the ballasts. Certainly a bad thing if it is in a lamp used for reading or hung close overhead. Placed in a recessed lighting, these fields can couple with people’s bodies who are walking or have their feet on the floor above.

    They have poor power factor, which means that even if they save customers a little money on their bills, more power than the rating must be generated and transmitted for it to run. These line losses must be paid for by all ratepayers, including those who don’t use CFLs.

    They add high frequency transients/harmonics onto 60Hz AC wiring which has a negative effect on other electronics and biology nearby. These “intermediary” frequencies in the 300 Hz- 10,000,000 Hz (10 Mhz) range, also known as “dirty electricity” can cause or exacerbate ailments such as migraines, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, ADD, and asthma. These frequencies are injected onto the grid, so even if you aren’t concerned or notice the ill effects, your neighbor is getting exposed “second-hand.”

    Most people know by now that CFLs contain mercury, but how many know the proper haz-mat procedure if one breaks in their home, especially if they have pets or children?

    The subsidization and promotion of CFLs by Efficiency Vermont is funded by all Vermont ratepayers through a 1¢/kWh surcharge on your bill.

    Please watch these news segments on the real risks of these bulbs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CVLa_tRslY

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH6ZcyCq50Q

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0x3rbHFwQU

    Dr. Sam Milham has written a concise book called “Dirty Electricity: Electrification and the Diseases of Civilization” that I can recommend, as well as “Zapped” by Ann Louise Gittleman.

    LEDs are certainly a better choice, but they have their issues too. Specifically, the EMF can be high and light spectrum is often “too blue” which affects melatonin production, which is well known to result in all sorts of health problems.

    I am 100% for reducing energy usage through conservation. This can still be done by using 25-40 watt incandescents, LEDs in certain locations, or halogen bulbs which do save 25% over incandescents, without all the nasty side-effects. 39 watt PAR (parabolic alluminized reflector) halogen bulbs are a great choice for recessed and other down-facing fixtures.

    If you believe you have been injured by electromagnetic fields (or if you have any health problem, especially insomnia), one of the first things I would recommend is to purchase a few amber incandescent bulbs which will promote melatonin production when used before bed. Essentially, they simulate a sunset and tell our bodies, “okay, time to go to bed and recover from the stresses of your day.” Light that is blue/white in the spectrum tells, us, “it’s time to wake up! Get moving!”

    A Graham-Stetzer meter is a relatively inexpensive way to monitor the power quality in your home or work place to better understand your risk of being made sick.

    Because Efficiency Vermont has been hawking these “progress traps” for so many years, and they are no doubt proud of the fact that they are finally similarly priced with incandescents, I have no doubt that they will continue their promotion for fear of liability and appearing slow to respond. The psychology of previous investment is simply too strong.

    Make no mistake, it is up to us as informed citizens to educate ourselves and be weary of snake-oil salesmen pushing curly-cue beacons of blight.

    Have a Happy and Healthy New Year,

    Matt Fisken
    Upper Valley Electrosmog Awareness
    UVESAware@gmail.com

    • Matt Fisken :

      I forgot to mention that thanks to the “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007,” the manufacture and importation of 40-60 watt incandescent bulbs will cease on January 1, 2014. These are still the two most popular bulbs on the market, so if you enjoy their pleasant light and and lack of health problems, now might be a good time to buy a few extra boxes. Once stores and warehouses run out of their current stock, “th-th-that’s all folks!”

  8. Kathy Nelson :

    Matt, I share your sentiments entirely on the CFL nasty bulbs and I offer you this hope. A manufacturer of “rough use” incandescent bulbs has found a way around the expiration law and has bulbs of various sizes ready for purchase now and for as long as they continue to manufacture. Here is a link. The prices are good so stock up.
    http://www.newcandescent.com/

    • Matt Fisken :

      Kathy, Thanks for sharing that link.

      I’m aware of a few loopholes to the law, including 3-way (50-100-150W) bulbs, heat lamps, plant lights, and candle/chandelier bulbs.

      So, I’m hopeful that there will continue to be options for people who seek them, but many will go for the cheapest “100 watt equivalent” bulbs available without realizing they are falling for a dangerous bait and switch.

      Even though we no longer use any bulbs higher than 50 watts in our home, I recently picked up a 16 pack of 60 watt bulbs for $6 at our local big-box store for nostalgia’s sake.

  9. George Plumb :

    Deb,

    How about a response to all these interesting posts by Saturday?

  10. Don Peterson :

    My fellow posters:

    Dangers of electric lighting aside, (James Thurber’s grandmother famously thought the electricity leaked out at night when she was sleeping), none of us noticed that one of Ms. Markowitz’s bullet points essentially says:

    Don’t buy light bulbs that aren’t available for sale anymore in the United States.

    What does she do at her day job exactly?

  11. Steve Comeau :

    I think that Deb Markowitz is right in many ways in this article. All the different choices we make such as the car we drive, where we live, and how much we work and play locally, make a very big difference on our energy use. Often overlooked is whether you live alone or with someone else; which means two houses or one. The big life choices are typically long term choices which don’t change to often, so these changes will be slow.

    The “model” for energy use should not be the big home in the country with solar panels. The real model needs to be the couple living in the city, who walk or ride a bike to work frequently, live in a small efficient home, and don’t travel too much. Good, safe, livable cities are needed in a future with prosperity and low energy use.

    There is way to much attention given to light bulbs and lights off, which just happens to be the most visual. The waste off the light bulb is heat, which for indoor lighting during half the year is the heat you want anyway. The really big energy use happens when we go out and start the car and light up the driveway with the energy equivalent of a couple thousand light bulbs.

  12. John Greenberg :

    Matt Fisken — and others — have made a lot of claims here about compact fluorescent light bulbs, with little by way of documentation for them.

    Specifically, I’d like to see some support for these statements of Matt’s:

    – “They are more prone to catching fire…” More prone than what? Incandescents? halogens? How prone? Statistics please.

    – “They emit a completely unnatural spectrum of light ….” There are a variety of CFLs available on the market, and the light spectrums they produce is not even close to identical. This is a claim which I’ve seen repeatedly, yet after some fairly diligent research (roughly 11 years ago when I used to sell CFLs), I have been completely unable to find any support for it, despite searching through fair amount of literature from manufacturers. Bulbs are rated by manufacturers using an index which compares the light to natural daylight (CRI = color rendering index). Most CFLs (unlike many other fluourescents) score quite high on the CRI. Again, please document this statement.

    – “They have poor power factor, which means that even if they save customers a little money on their bills, more power than the rating must be generated and transmitted for it to run. ” More than the incandescents they replace? Again, some statistics are in order.

    Fisken’s claim the virtues of incandescents doesn’t hold up to scrutiny either. The uncontested fact is this: CLFs produce 4+ times as much light per watt consumed as incandescent bulbs. Replacing them with 25-40 watt incandescents either means more bulbs or less light. And Steve Comeau’s comment that the waste heat from incandescents is desirable “half the year” ignores the costs of controlling that heat in the other half.

    I won’t bother asking about Fisken’s claims concerning electromagnetic fields and a variety of illnesses. We’ve been there before.

    • Steve Comeau :

      John,
      I did not state say that “waste heat from incandescents is desirable for half the year”. All electric lamps (incandescent, halogen, CFL, LED) produce waste heat, which is not much of an issue during the time of the year that you want heat in the house anyway. During the part of the year when it is warm and that heat would be truly wasted, the lights are used much less anyway. Actually I have many LED lamps, thanks in part to the Efficiency Vermont rebates. They work great, turn on fast at full output, and produce very nice uniform light.
      I am not saying that indoor lighting conservation and efficiency is pointless. It just gets to much attention relative to the benefits.

    • Matt Fisken :

      John,

      You are clearly a smart fellow, so I have to scratch my head when you demand easily accessible information, writing as though I’ve created fairy tales out of thin air.

      Did you watch any of the videos I posted?

      Would you be willing to share of your “fairly diligent research”?

      — Regarding the combustibility and chemical off gassing of CFLs, a simple Google search for “CFL fire” will provide you with a great deal of information, including:

      “An incandescent bulb typically ends its life when the wire filament, which glows to produce light when electricity passes through it, burns out and breaks. Fires from this are almost nonexistent. … When a CFL can no longer produce light, the electronics in its base will still try to function, sometimes leading to overheating, smoke and fire.”

      This is consistent with statements made by Underwriters Laboratory, which has stated “distinct odors” and “smoke” are a normal part of CFL’s “end-of-life mechanism.” However relieved one might be to read that this is normal, melted and aerosoled “fire resistant” plastic and circuitry are not good for us, period.

      Please watch or read this news report: http://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/consumerwatch-cfl-bulb-safety-1.1210152 featuring a fire chief who has seen multiple fires from the new bulbs.

      Fire risk is always the result of many factors, including using products as directed. The fact is that entities (such as Efficiency Vermont) have encouraged us to replace all the bulbs in our house with CFLs while ignoring the instructions for proper use:

      • Don’t use them in track lighting
      • Don’t use them in recessed fixtures
      • Don’t use them in enclosed fixtures
      • Don’t use them outside unenclosed
      • Don’t use them with dimmer switches

      With no plastic or circuitry, incandescent bulbs are safer as the heat they generate is much diffuse throughout the glass of the bulb (instead of being focused at the base/ballast)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thermal_image_of_an_incandescent_light.jpg

      The only serious fire risk of halogen bulbs comes from using the now illegal “torchiere” lamps which employed upward facing 500 watt bulbs which were catching curtains on fire. The bulb itself does not combust, it only creates a great deal of heat. To be clear, I recommend 50 watt or lower halogen bulbs. 29 and 39 watt halogen bulbs will continue to be available/legal until 2020.

      — Regarding the light spectrum of CFLs, as compared to incandescents, please refer to: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/tests/incandescent-vs-compact-fluorescent-vs-led-ultimate-light-bulb-test

      — Regarding power factor, an incandescent light bulb on a normal (non-dimmer) switch will always have a power factor of 1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb#Power

      CFLs often have power factors closer to 0.5.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_fluorescent_lamp#Signal_effects

      http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/powersource/4307781/Utilities-suffer-from-CFLs-8217-poor-power-factor

      Could this fact have something to do with the recent statement by GMP’s Mary Powell that the utility’s line losses were around 30%?

      John’s claim that “CLFs produce 4+ times as much light per watt consumed as incandescent bulbs” is untrue. If he had added, “as measured at the customer’s electromechanical electric meter” I would agree, however, I cannot guarantee that newer, digital, “smart” meters which employ current transformers and circuit boards to measure usage do not correct for reduced power factors. The fact that a 13 watt CFL will often require 26 watts of power to be generated and wasted in transmission is provable with a very inexpensive kill-o-watt meter. I’ll take a 25 watt monofilament, thank you very much.

      What this boils down to is that the lumen:watt ratio, which is at the heart of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, is far too narrow of a consideration when it comes to lighting, just as miles per gallon or calories per dollar are not the only important factors when buying a car or food, respectively.

      It’s no mystery that corporations have successfully convinced most of us that quantity is more important than quality, but it is very sad to see this dogma being ruthlessly enforced by governments, local, state and federal.

      Lastly, I think the title of this piece is interesting. In a comment I wrote on December 27, in response to another comment, in response to a commentary I wrote on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields (specifically radio frequencies), I wrote “No one in the world wants to feel threatened, physically, emotionally, or intellectually. We all would prefer to see what we WANT TO SEE, as long as we can.” (emphasis added)

      My question is, how can we reconcile our personal preferences, biases, dreams and self-centerednesses with the inconvenient realities in life and overlooked externalities of “progress” which cannot be imagined away?

      • John Greenberg :

        Matt:

        At the moment I am in Italy using public computers, so I have no access to computer videos, and I don’t have as much time as I do at home to provide research, etc.

        I did however follow your link to the story about fires in Winnipeg. It ends with the statement: “Since the beginning of 2012 Health Canada has received 18 reports regarding CFLs. Under the authority of the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), Health Canada requires mandatory reporting of consumer product-related incidents by industry.”

        That works out to 9 fires a year for how many light bulbs in use in Canada? On a percentage basis, I’d be willing to wager we’re talking VERY small figures.

        On the other hand, halogen torchiere lights DO cause fires — some significant, as do incandescent light bulbs. A quick google search turned up this, for example: “We have investigated several fires where the cause was determined to be radiated heat from a light bulb. In one case tumbling mats from a high school gym were stored under wooden bleachers while the gym floor was being resurfaced. The mats were piled in such a way as to contact an incandescent light bulb. The resulting fire caused enough damage that the gym required demolition.” http://www.firewiseconsulting.com/firewatch/light-bulb-fires The simple fact is that incandescents produce light by producing heat. That’s WHY they’re inefficient, and why, until you produce better evidence than you have, I would guess that they cause more, not fewer, fires.

        As to full spectrum, the Popular Mechanics article chooses a few compacts and compares them on the very basis I mentioned: namely, the CRI. At least one of the incandescents tested LOWER than ANY of the CFLS, though to be fair, most were higher. The Kelvin index has a HUGE impact on how one perceives the light emitted, and while most CFLs have a Kelvin of about 2700, many are in the 4000-5000 range just like most incandescents.

        You haven’t documented your statements about power factor, you’ve repeated and embellished them

        • Matt Fisken :

          John,

          I’ve lead you to the water, but obviously I can’t make you drink or prevent you from splashing it in my face as you claim it’s not water.

          The link you provided which you purport to be proof that incandescent bulbs pose a fire risk clearly states:

          “In reality the heat generated from an incandescent light bulb usually dissipates rapidly as long as there is adequate clearance from surrounding materials. If an incandescent bulb does not have adequate clearance for the heat to dissipate a fire can result from radiant heat.

          Tests we have conducted indicate that paper wrapped around a 100 watt incandescent bulb will ignite in about 6 minutes. A 60 watt bulb will take longer; around 20 minutes while a 40 watt bulb will take up to an hour or more”

          I stand by my advice that lower wattage incandescent bulbs are entirely safe as long as they are not near or touching flammable objects. Such user error resulting in a fire is no fault of the bulb.

          I won’t belabor the incendiary nature of CFLs. Check your older ones for browning where the ballast meets the tube or try smelling one that has been on for a couple hours.

          Light quality: If you read the PM article , it’s all spelled out on the first page:

          “The color temperature of a light, measured in kelvins, is its most noticeable characteristic. A candle, at 1900 K, appears orange. Daylight, at 5500 K, is much whiter and bluer. A 5500-K bulb, however, will not necessarily produce the same light as the sun; for the full nature of a light source, ONE MUST LOOK TO ITS SPECTRAL POWER DISTRIBUTION (SPD) CURVE, WHICH DESCRIBES ITS IRRADIANCE ACROSS THE ENTIRE VISIBLE SPECTRUM. (emphasis added) An incandescent bulb achieves its temperature by emitting light over a smooth curve, with the balance tilted toward yellow and red. A CFL, and to a lesser extent an LED, mimics incandescents using a different mixture of light, with spikes and troughs of power strategically positioned across the spectrum to create a correlated—or averaged—color temperature. This results in less faithful reproduction of colors, expressed as a diminished color rendering index (CRI).”

          The graphic on the first page also illustrates the concept that the SPD of all CFLs is completely unnatural.

          “You haven’t documented your statements about power factor, you’ve repeated and embellished them”

          Now I know you’re just trolling.

          • John Greenberg :

            Matt:
            Here’s a clear statement rom the National Fire Prevention Association: “Halogen lights have a higher risk of fire than incandescent bulbs,which have a HIGHER risk of fire than fluorescent lights. Compact fluorescent bulbs now account for more than two thirds of all fluorescent lights in residential usage.” http://www.npfa.org/research/reports-and-statistics/fire-causes/electrical

          • Matt Fisken :

            John, the statement above says nothing about wattages or external factors (user error). Please provide evidence showing that a properly installed low wattage (<50) halogen/incandescent bulb is more likely than a ballasted CFL to create a fire or smoke hazard during its normal end-of-life.

            The fact is that no incandescent bulbs have been recalled in the past 10 years due to fire or electrocution risk, which cannot be said for either CFLs or LEDs.

            I am curious, why did you stop selling CFLs?

            Do you ever follow up with your customers to see how the bulbs have worked out?

          • John Greenberg :

            Matt,
            While I have a bit of computer time with a much easier keyboard, I’ll respond briefly to your points about the spectrum of lights.

            Here’s what I — a layman — observed in looking at spectral graphs for various kinds of lighting: they’re all different. That includes incandescents, which are quite different from daylight if you look at the graphs of the spectrums of each.

            I would guess — though it’s pure speculation — that even daylight would look different in a graph depending on whether you did the spectrum outside or through a window. And taking my speculation a step further, I would also guess that different windows (with different thickness and qualities of glass) would give you different graphs as well.

            This suggests that, unless experts can show us something I’m missing in these graphs, we’re really down to looking at the stuff your quoted paragraph mentions, and which I mentioned as well: namely, Kelvin numbers and CRIs. And as I pointed out above, SOME CFLs (not all) actually score better on the CRI than some incandescents, and in any case, much of this is a matter of subjective preference.

            When I sold CFLs, we sold a variety of them, including some that were touted as “full spectrum.” (They did have a VERY high CRI, in the mid 90s as I recall). Personally, they were my LEAST preferred light, but some customers loved them.

            Turning to power factor, I confess again to having a very simplistic knowledge of the subject, but I know enough to recognize that your simplistic math is misleading.

            Here’s a simple statement from the first thing that came up on a Google search: “For an 11W CFL purchased at Ikea (a 40W-equivalent bulb), I measured a real power of 9W, an apparent power of 14VA, and a power factor of 0.65.

            So what does this mean? It means that almost 50% more current is drawn from the grid to light up this bulb than it can convert into light and heat. But you don’t pay for this extra power, because it is not consumed. It oscillates back and forth between the generator and the (inductive) load. The apparent power causes distribution losses, but because there are so many different loads on the electric grid at any given time, the effect gets lost in the grand scheme of things, and even for a single residence the overall power factor is likely to be close to 1, despite a few CFL bulbs. If every residential customer in the country replaced all incandescent bulbs with CFLs at once, this situation could change. Electric utilities, sensing an opportunity for a new revenue streams, may begin to charge residential customers for apparent power at some point in the future.

            The fact that CFLs have a power factor that is substantially smaller than 1 does not take away from the fact that they are a better choice than incandescent bulbs. Despite the fact that many a cradle-to-crave environmental impact analysis for CFLs on the web is based on assumptions of dubious origin, there is no doubt that their overall energy balance is superior to incandenscent light.” http://cdonner.com/power-factor-and-compact-fluorescent-bulbs-cfl.htm

            Long story short, I stand my all 3 of my objections to your statements.

      • Matt Fisken :

        “The fact that a 13 watt CFL will often require 26 watts of power to be generated and wasted in transmission is provable with a very inexpensive kill-o-watt meter.”

        I’m correcting my previous statement:

        “The fact that a 13 watt CFL will often require 26 watts of power to be generated and transmitted, wasting 13 watts, is provable with a very inexpensive kill-o-watt meter.”

        • John Greenberg :

          Matt:
          First, you’re the one making the assertions about fires. You should provide the statistics to back them up, rather than jut modifying them when confronted with adverse evidence.

          I stopped selling CFLs because I decided to close the business of which bulb sales were a part. I sold that part of the business to a woman from NY, but I have no idea how she did with it.

          I was in frequent contact with many customers for the 10 years I was in business, and I have been using CFLs myself for right around 30 years. Have I seen blackened bulbs? Sure. I’ve also seen plenty of blackened incandescents.

          The fact, assuming it is one, that some CFLs have been recalled demonstrates nothing at all apposite. Should we stop using cars because some have been recalled?

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