Too quick out of the gate

When in 2007 then environment minister Malcolm Turnbull put in place a phase out of incandescent light bulbs in favour of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFCs) he was applauded by the greens and the environment lobby.

This cost many households a significant sum as they moved to expensive, mercury laden CFCs that never seemed to last as long as claimed. Meanwhile other households had halogen lights which ran very hot and had been known to cause fires. The CFCs were never that bright and took a good deal of time to reach maximum brightness.

The whole scheme has been a tragic and expensive farce. Because along comes LED lights that turn instantly on, last more than 40 years and consume 3 to 5 watts each. They come in a variety of colours and forms and run cool.

The growth of LED lights, which continue to fall in price, had nothing to do with Turnbull’s lightbulb ban. It was simply the private sector innovating a new technology which was attractive to consumers.

The ban simply caused people to throw away money, increased Commonwealth spending on administration and staffing and achieved no benefits.

Surely yet another lesson for the petty bureaucrats trying to run our lives?

About J

J has an economics background and is a part-time consultant
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64 Responses to Too quick out of the gate

  1. Motelier

    Both Motels have over 500 light bulbs.
    Yes it is in our best interest to change over, but we do it as the need occurs. Blown CFC bulb to be replaced by LED bulb.

    Given the current rate of failure of CFC bulbs this will not take long.

  2. H B Bear

    Compact fluorescent lights are basically bloody useless things masquerading as something they aren’t.

    Remind you of anyone?

  3. Ed

    Surely yet another lesson for the petty bureaucrats trying to run our lives?

    Oh yes, they learned their lesson this time.
    They’ll never, ever do it again.
    Promise.

  4. JLC

    I bought two LED lights for my house. They cost $70 each and were supposed to last for decades.

    One lasted about two years. The other lasted about three years.

    BTW, the phasing out of incandescent bulbs was what finally turned me against all greenies. I decided I had had enough of self-righteous interfering busybodies telling me how to live my life. I wonder how many other people reacted as I did?

  5. Percy

    Surely yet another lesson for the petty bureaucrats trying to run our lives?

    Not likely, however I appreciate your optimism.

  6. Gab

    Blown CFC bulb to be replaced by LED bulb.

    Motelier do the LED bulbs cost more to run than the CFC bulbs?

  7. Myrddin Seren

    Surely yet another lesson for the petty bureaucrats trying to run our lives?

    Yup – continue to strive for a totally planned and regulated economy, so their Grand Designs can’t be outflanked and embarrassed by, you know, genuine innovation.

  8. JC

    I bought two LED lights for my house. They cost $70 each and were supposed to last for decades.

    I actually made some decent dosh on a LED stock when that crap was all the rage back in 09- 10. The stock’s is Cree. Got to take a look to see what’s going on with it. It’s at 57 bucks now.

    We put some into a room we renovated in the house and to be honest they’re not great. They just aren’t bright enough.

  9. Ubique

    When the imbecile Turnbull announced the phasing out of incandescents, we went out and bought a gross of them. Our reserves are holding up very well thanks.

  10. Snoopy

    Visited the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon last year. Discarded CFC bulbs floating around are sadly all too common.

  11. Steve D

    The LEDs should be slightly cheaper to run than the CFLs, once installed.

    As for reliability, I’m not sure sure what the final outcome shall be. In their favour, incandescent bulbs have simplicity on their side. A CFL requires a starter circuit to be crammed in that space at the base. The LED also has a circuit in the base to convert AC into the DC that an LED needs. In both cases, the limiting factor of the reliability may well be the components within these circuits.

    LEDs are also very sensitive to heat, hence the elaborate bits of metal that most LED globes have. They are not as hot as a halogen but no LED can afford to be too hot.

  12. Gab

    Thanks, Steve D.

    but no LED can afford to be too hot.

    So that would mean they can’t be left on for too long, I’m guessing.

    Think I’ll stick with the halogen bulbs – until I can locate Ubique’s stash :twisted:

  13. johanna

    Yep, I’ve got a large stash of incandescents as well. By the time they run out, hopefully LEDs will have significantly come down in price.

    A couple of weeks ago I was staying in a large hotel and two of the twisty bulbs in my room failed in two days. I asked the guy who came to replace them if it was true that they lasted for years. He was too polite to give me a straight answer, but his embarrassed demeanour said it all.

    What a dud technology.

  14. Squirrel

    “JLC

    #1180400, posted on February 6, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    I bought two LED lights for my house. They cost $70 each and were supposed to last for decades.

    One lasted about two years. The other lasted about three years.

    BTW, the phasing out of incandescent bulbs was what finally turned me against all greenies. I decided I had had enough of self-righteous interfering busybodies telling me how to live my life. I wonder how many other people reacted as I did?”

    In my naivety, I remember being surprised and dismayed that such a thing would be done by a Coalition Government, but like Ubique, stashed some incandescents away while my holier-than-thou friends and acquaintances burbled on about the wonderful schemes where someone from the local government would come around and replace all your nasty incandescents with lovely new clean, green bulbs. Before long, some of these people were dropping less than subtle hints about whether I’d like to share my stash of incandescents – to which I would respond by smiling sweetly and changing the subject.

    I suppose we should be grateful that there’s not (yet) been a federally mandated plastic bag ban.

  15. Steve D

    Not necessarily, Gab, it means the shape of the light fitting can’t be ignored. Make sure there’s a bit of space around them to dissipate the heat. Fully enclosed light fittings would be the worst case. Having said that, if the power is not too high they should be okay. I’ve got a handful (Aldi ones) that are doing fine so far. One is an enclosed fitting with a relatively-low power LED and the others are open at at least one end.

  16. Art Vandelay

    At the time, we asked the bureaucrats in the environment department who were pushing the ban this simple question:

    “If CFLs are so great, why do you have to force consumers to buy them?”

    They couldn’t answer it.

  17. Gab

    I’ve got a handful (Aldi ones) that are doing fine so far.

    Good to know for future. In the meantime, I’ll stick with the halogen ones as I hate the light thrown off by the CFLs.

  18. Habib

    How hard would it be for these cretins to admit they were wrong, and that safe, cheap, proven incandescent lightbulbs, which still light most of the world, are back on the market.

    We were dickheads, and we apologise for inflicting inefficient and expensive light sources on the public, because of our misguided zealotry.

    I’d give 55/1, and collect now.

  19. Gab

    who were pushing the ban

    You have no idea how much I detest Turnbull for this. Nothing wrong with having the choice of alternative products, but to ban the incandescent ones is just the biggest insult from government treating people like children and to what end? By how much did the banning of these bulbs reduce our Co2 emissions? Stuff all. Never mind that the CO2 scare was nothing more than a scam. So many decisions based on this glowbull warmening scam it infuriates me.

  20. Pete of Perth

    Just ordered these: Brightgreen DR700

    Almost $50 each but should see me out on this planet.

  21. Pete of Perth

    When visiting the Canberra bunker – should accidentally drop a CFL in the great hall, then ring MT to clean it up.

    And will I am at it, how hard is it to topple a wind tower Macgyver style?

  22. Percy

    how hard is it to topple a wind tower Macgyver style

    A piece of chewy and a paper clip should do it

  23. Oh come on

    I read that CFLs have a greatly reduced lifespan (ie. nowhere near what they claim on the pack, and less than an incandescent) if they’re being switched off and on regularly (ie bathroom, toilet etc). Which is annoying, because these rooms are the only places I’d tolerate the harsh light they throw.

    You get the best lifespan out of them if they are switched on and left on for long periods of time (ie living rooms etc).

    The halogen bulbs are crap. They’re a bit more energy efficient, but an incandescent outlasts them. And halogens are more expensive than incandescents.

    And LED bulbs…cmon, they’re like $20 a pop. They say they last 20 years, but we were told CFLs were more cost effective in the long run due to their longevity, but that turned out to be a load of shit. Knowing what I know now, I’d stick with Edison’s bulbs….if I could.

  24. OTOH a CFL will draw less watts to produce far more light than any incandescent was ever rated to produce. There’s one here on sale in Canada that draws, I think, 60W for a 200W equivalent, and 130W equivalent was quite common in Australia before I left. I could live with the warming-up time.

    At the end of the day, I replaced my incandescents because less wattage = $$$$ on the bill.

  25. Greg

    There is also the fact that traditional incandescent bulbs are 100% efficient if the room you’re lighting is also a room you’re trying to warm up.

    The energy saving by having a more “efficient” light source (more light & less heat for the same amount of electricity) is simply lost when your heater has to work harder.

    The return of the 100 watt incandescent will mark the end of the global warming scam.

  26. And he joined the so called “Liberal” party? More like the American defiition of Liberal! Sick and sad that we’ve submitted and surrendered ourselves to this!

  27. Yohan

    The first lot of LED bulbs were crap, but now they come in warm white to mimic the warm light of a incandescent, and the 12w version is equivalent to 100W globe, so they are nice and bright. Once they get under $10 each it will be cost effective to fit your whole house out with them.

  28. samuel j

    Yohan – Bunnings are selling 4 LED bulbs for $36.

  29. Rabz

    I’ve got twenty halogen spotlights throughout the house. Replacing them with LED’s would have cost $400, with a small discount for buying them all at once. I’ll wait a bit longer until the technology improves and they drop a lot more in price, thanks.

  30. MT Isa Miner

    Gab

    #1180476, posted on February 7, 2014 at 1:32 am

    who were pushing the ban

    You have no idea how much I detest Turnbull for this. Nothing wrong with having the choice of alternative products, but to ban the incandescent ones is just the biggest insult from government treating people like children and to what end? By how much did the banning of these bulbs reduce our Co2 emissions? Stuff all. Never mind that the CO2 scare was nothing more than a scam. So many decisions based on this glowbull warmening scam it infuriates me.

    YOu and me both. While I wait for the bulb to warm up in the early mornings, I curse him every time.

    Friends- admittedly greenish- outfitted their whole new house with expensive CFL down lights with the help of n “energy consutltant” and had to REPLACE most of them when they moved in because their 50yo eyes couldn’t friggen see in the lower light.

    JLC

    #1180400, posted on February 6, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    BTW, the phasing out of incandescent bulbs was what finally turned me against all greenies. I decided I had had enough of self-righteous interfering busybodies telling me how to live my life. I wonder how many other people reacted as I did?

    I did. It wasn’t the money for me , it was the control. This was the start of my foaming mad dog Green hater years.

  31. Clive Hamiltonian

    Just like you fascists to prefer earth killing – and therefore baby killing – ancient ‘technology’.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter. When I’ve suspended democratic processes, we won’t have any need for lightbulbs cos there won’t be any electricity to power them.

    But just to make sure, we’ll hunt down anyone stupid enough to hold out for the return of coal-powered energy.

    Ubique, say your prayers pal, you’re as screwed as your screw in bulbs.

    In fact you’re all screwed. I know where you all live. Only a matter of time.

  32. entropy

    In the kitchen, hitch needs to be bright, we have two sets of triple floodlights with those little GU10 bulbs. Originally incandescent, each 50w bulb was bright, but totalled 300w.
    With GFC equivalents the big transformers in their base made them stick out, they too a while to warm up, were never bright enough but the power consumption dropped to about 18w each. Oh, and they wouldn’t last very long, maybe even less than the old incandescents.
    When the first LED GU10s came out, they also protruded, but a 4W bulb was brighter than those GFC crap. One of thes started flickering about six months ago, and got bad enough to replace just yesterday. I would say it was the transformer that croaked it, rather than the bulb. Not that it matters, it wasn’t 50,000 hrs.
    I now have 7W ones that actually fit in the floodlight like the old incandescent ones, and hopefully as a Phillips bulb will be more reliable.

  33. jupes

    How hard would it be for these cretins to admit they were wrong, and that safe, cheap, proven incandescent lightbulbs, which still light most of the world, are back on the market.

    It will never happen. John Howard in his memoir describes the utterly moronic light bulb ban as ‘good policy’.

    What an alternate universe Canberra is.

  34. Rabz

    Looks like the Hammburglar’s found himself a new sock puppet.

  35. Bons

    I replaced my downlights and spotlights with LED bought on the web – poor choice, I think one is still going, the rest failed in days.
    I gradually replaced them with Bunnings and Aldi numbers when they were on special. All goes well, good light and do not appear to be overly hot in the downlight shroud. Hopefully that is the end of my light bulb buying except in the workshop where incandescent still rules and I have a stash.

  36. Craig Mc

    It was reason enough for me to never vote for Turnbull, and to let every local member know that.

  37. Craig Mc

    I recently replaced a bunch of incandescents in my kitchen with LEDs as part of a renovation. They’re certainly bright. Too bright in places away from the kitchen benches for my taste.

    You can dim them, but what you won’t be told is that they don’t dim anywhere near as far as incandescents/halogens. About 30% of maximum brightness, so be careful about how many lumens you install and where you put them.

    They don’t play well with resistive dimmers either. They may appear to work, but you’re shortening the life of the transformers. You need to replace the resistive dimmers with time division models.

  38. Brian

    Ikea have LED downlights for $7 each. I purchased two 4W units to replace two 240V halogen downlights. They give as bright a light as the halogens they replaced. It is not always possible to substitute 12V LED lights for 12 V halogen bulbs, as the transformers may not be compatible with the LED bulbs. http://www.ledbenchmark.com/faq/Transformers-Output-and-Compatibility.html

  39. Alfonso

    The perfect solution for the Statists is rule by judicial bureaucrat, sets the system in stone and lets parliament shrug ‘sorry mate, like to help, nothing we can do’. A nice little harmless Constitutional preamble, anyone?
    A calculation of the released mercury dust in the multi million used shattered Turnbull globes would be amusing.

  40. Bruce of Bananaland

    I have a 1000 lumens bike headlight. It runs off a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack. It cost $110 three years ago. On flash it runs for days, on super-bright it runs three hours. The battery charges fully in less than one hour.

    For those that think LEDs are dim this thing is so bright it can easily be seen at one kilometre and lights up forest tracks on the darkest nights. It is rugged to take the hammering of a mountain bike and is close to indestructible. Vastly better technology than incandescent bulbs or those stupid curly things that fail in a few hours despite them, “Lasting for years and years”.

  41. Leo G

    Compact fluorescents can be very useful but never were a suitable replacement for incandescents in many applications.
    CFLs have much higher probability of failure during warmup than during normal operation, so CFLs that are used frequently but which are only on for short periods are more likely to fail early. In fact, in most such applications they don’t last as long as an incandescent- worse in outdoor situations or in colder climes. The CFLs lower luminance during warmup makes most of them unsafe for use over steps and stairways.
    Moreover, like many electronic appliances, CFLs have components with limited shelf life.

  42. rickw

    Lets not forget that:

    - I think Phillips got a huge wad of cash from the US Government for winning their CFC’s competition, I think they’d actually had the technology on the shelf for some time but had never done anything with it because there was no market for it before Government stepped in.
    - The environmental impact in China of producing CFC’s.

    “how hard is it to topple a wind tower Macgyver style”

    You need a large socket set and breaking bar, remove 75% of the hold down bolts and wait for a windy day!

  43. Craig Mc

    CFLs are also much more likely to take out the socket when they occasionally explode. Whatever you’d save on electricity, you’d as likely spend more on light fittings.

  44. Walter Plinge

    I don’t like compact fluorescents because of the slow start and poor cold weather performance. Turnbull stands condemned for his unecessary and pointless intereference in the market.

    However LED globes aren’t all that flash either. They are far too expensive at present and the light output is inadequate for normal domestic use. OK for a reading light or a torch but not much else (unless you use dozens of them I suppose).

    And they’re not all that efficient either. The luminous efficacy of a compact fluourescent is between 46 and 75 lumens/watt. For a 7w LED it’s 60 lumens/watt. Why bother, given the expense? Needs several years to mature as a technology.

    Round the house I use T8 or T5 traditional fluoros with electronic ballasts and tri- or quad-phosphor tubes. Ample light and a luminous efficacy of 80-100 lumens/watt with instant on, no flicker.

  45. Fleeced

    I used the “mercury laden” ones before they were mandated. Despite complaints that they don’t last as long as advertised (which they don’t), they last a lot longer than the old incandescents used to… I don’t know if I just kept getting shitty stock, but I was replacing those constantly – much more than I remembered having to do a couple decades previous – so I switched out of frustration.

    The worst feature of CFCs is the warm up time. Some brands don’t have that problem (at least not to the same extent), so it’s trial and error. You also need to over-spec the brightness by a level or two – disregarding what it says it’s equivalent to on the packet. And finally, their was the white colour which a lot of people hated (but which being in the minority, I actually liked), but which comes in “soft yellow” now as well. Of course, it didn’t need a mandate, and I still preferred using the old bulbs in some rooms (not to mention lamps).

    LEDs aren’t problem free and don’t last as long as promised either… well, technically, the LEDs do – but the circuitry behind them fizzes out somewhat earlier. They’re getting better though, and I’ll prob be making the switch soon.

    Yes, the whole banning lightbulbs thing annoyed me greatly, and for what? What has actually been achieved through this change? Turnbull doesn’t really believe this helps “save the planet” from AGW does he? So it was this massive change, just for political bullshit? It shits me most of all that this great inconvenience and cost to millions of Australian “mere mortals” was for something so trivial. We were all just tools for political reasons – not some grand political ambition, mind you – just a lame political point with a few greenies (which didn’t even last)

    I’ve mocked carbon tax supporters for acting as though the tax could save the planet, but honestly, that whole concept is only fractionally as idiotic as Turnbull banning lightbulbs for the same (alleged) reason. (and to think Samuel and JC wanted Turnbull as leader prior to the last election)

  46. Steve D

    Perhaps it’s where you live, Fleeced. If your voltage is a little over specification, then that would certainly reduce the life of an incandescent bulb.

  47. Wayne

    My aged Uncle asked me to change over a 40w light bulb, in 2003. He said ….I don’t know what went wrong with it , I put it in when I got the keys to the house in 1953….its a good thing I had a few spares.!

  48. Woderick the Wobber

    I actually wrote to Turnbull, although he’s not my local member, a few years ago after yet another one of his greenie-mandated curly globes exploded in my hand as I changed it after a few hours of use. Of course, I never got a response. What the hell the government thinks it has to do with telling us what sort of globes we can use, or how much light we can have in our homes I never understood.

    Like a few others I stacked up on different sizes of incandescents before sales stopped – cleaned out my local Bunnings of the candle-shaped ones on many occasions due to the style of light fittings in our house. I reckon I’ve got about 200 left still – will see us out and whoever buys the house after us!

  49. Grey Old Dufus

    Motelier: Blown CFC bulb to be replaced by LED bulb.

    Yes, all my bulbs will eventually be LED.

    I don’t mind CFL but they certainly don’t last anywhere near as long as claimed. Halogen are okay but LED are better. I’ve had a LED torches for years: none broken; batteries last for ever.

  50. Andrew

    I love CFLs. Used them voluntarily. I’m now using 11W instead of 2,000W.

    The mistake was that the NSW ETS paid AGL $100s to give me free CFLs – the greatest rort since, well, every other carbon abatement scam in the world. I now have a lifetimes supply. I’ve never missed Edison globes.

  51. Paul

    The original CFC bulbs were hideously expensive and lasted forever. We had some in an off-grid house we owned that were still going ten years later when we moved. German made of course. Globalization-era 2nd and 3rd world mass production saw them collapse in quality.

  52. Gab

    I love incandescents. Used them voluntarily. Oh wait, I can’t. That choice was taken away by the government. Imagine if a few years ago the government decreed all coal-powered stations were to be shut down and only wind/solar were to be used to produce electricity? You could choose electricity supply to be either wind or solar to power those wonderful CFLs. Think of the planet and the children!!11!!

  53. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    Fancy LED lights over our kitchen benchtops were the latest thing when they were installed. They are just not bright enough. OK though for when you burn things you’ve cooked. You can’t really pick up on the black bits. Keep the lights low in the dining room and you are half-way home in the disguise stakes. Lee and Perrins can do the rest and smother the taste too.

  54. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    We have heaps of halogen downlights across a few properties. Can they really be usefully replaced with LED’s? I do worry about fire with halogens in downlights, as they sometimes burn into the base of the fixture and you can’t get the damn things out to change the globe and then have to call the electrician. I’m thinking we should get rid of them all, but what a tedious hassle that would be.

  55. Pedro

    LEDs also don’t attract bugs. They do emit heat, but they don’t project it like a halogen. A good LED has a heat sink or cooling fins or something.

    It’s only been the last year or so that domestic LEDs have been up to scratch, I’ve started swapping over and the good ones are a big improvement on halogens. A bunch of the cheap ones also works well and still will be low wattage.

  56. Squirrel

    “Wayne

    #1180742, posted on February 7, 2014 at 11:19 am

    My aged Uncle asked me to change over a 40w light bulb, in 2003. He said ….I don’t know what went wrong with it , I put it in when I got the keys to the house in 1953….its a good thing I had a few spares.!”

    Can’t quite match that, but the incandescent in my laundry dates back at least to the previous millenium(!)and even high user bulbs (e.g. bedside table lamp) typically last a few years. Traditional neon tubes (18W) in their 1960s fittings are still going well, too.

  57. Roger

    Used to have one lamp in the lounge room with an incandescent bulb, now have to have three with CFLs so I don’t tread on the cat or trip over something the kids have left on the floor. Nice one, Malcolm.

  58. Oh come on

    How could you replace 2000w of incandescent with 11w of CFL? Any money you save on power would be spent several times over on medical bills for all the broken bones incurred tripping over things in the dark.

  59. Empire Strikes Back

    Anyone who doubts the future of LED lighting ought to do themselves a favour and check out this puppy. It would be fine accessory for the V8 Chainshaw (was it CL who linked this a few months back?).

    Done right, there is no contest. LED is the future for domestic illumination.

  60. Oh come on

    You’re probably right, ESB. Still, you need to be careful pronouncing such things, even when it does look like a dead cert. 8-10 years ago lots of people were saying VOIP was going to kill all other forms of telephony, and that looked like a pretty sure bet at the time, too.

    Regardless, let the market decide. Banning incandescents was stupid, and what we were told about CFLs being more cost-effective in the long run was a pack of horseshit, for the most part.

  61. Sparkx

    Thankfully things have greatly improved with CFLs and LED lighting recently. Philips latest generation of CFLs are performing well. Instant start, almost instant full brightness, a range of colour temperatures, and I haven’t had one fail yet.

    The first LEDs I installed rendered an eerie bluish light, not at all pleasant. They are now available in a range of types – warm white, white and the original bluish colour.

    The one thing I find difficult to stomach is the price of LED lighting in Australia. I have bought them overseas (online) for a fraction of what they cost here.

  62. Grumbles

    Thought I would comment as I work with the design, manufacture and sale of LED lights.

    - They are plummeting in cost
    - They are more efficient than Halogen and CFL there are plenty of Cree’s with 100Lpw and Luminous LED’s (more expensive) that run at 120Lpw.
    - There is no heat/fire hazard, most LEDs run Prime Drives which effectively turn the light on and off faster than the eyes can see and prevents heat build up.
    - A 10W Luminous LED in your Kitchen with a spread lens would offer 1200 Lumens, it would be like Daytime. If you had 3 of these 2 spread and one spot over the cook top it would be brighter than day.

  63. Grumbles, most of what you said is not true.

    >There is no heat…

    Not true. Typically LED lights run at case temperatures of 50C to 100C

    > Luminous LED’s (more expensive) that run at 120Lpw…

    All LEDs are luminous, by definition. There is not a special category of LEDs that are luminous.

    > most LEDs run Prime Drives….

    I think you must have just made this term up. There is no such thing as a Prime Drive in regards to LED lighting.

    > which effectively turn the light on and off
    > faster than the eyes can see

    This is also not true. Very few LEDs are turned on and off at high speed. Most are constant current regulated DC.

    > A 10W Luminous LED in your Kitchen with a spread
    > lens would offer 1200 Lumens

    There is no downlight on the market that even gets close to this performance at the moment. There are losses in the lens, the reflector, the power supply and heat. Typical real world performance is about 700 Lumens from 10W.

    > If you had 3 of these 2 spread and one spot over the
    > cook top it would be brighter than day.

    In this case it is Lux that matters not lumens. At 2.5meter distance a typical downlight would produce about 300 Lux on a cooktop. Even with 3 overlapping it would only be mere 900 Lux. On the other hand direct sunlight is about 90,000 Lux. So you are out in your calculations by about 2 orders of magnitude.

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