Julia Hailes MBE

Sustainability Pioneer


Changing lightbulbs (Feb08)

First a confession. I have spotlights in both my kitchen and living room, which are adjoining – and not all of them are energy efficient.

When the spotlights were first installed I made sure that they would take energy efficient bulbs. I then ordered the 100 watt replacements, which were 23 watts each. But when I put them in I discovered that they stuck out like bulbous eyes and the light was achingly white – they weren’t nearly as nice as the energy guzzling alternative.

So I rang the manufacturer – GE – and asked their advice. They suggested trying the 11 watt energy efficient bulbs thinking they might be better – and they were. Not perfect but an improvement on the large 23 watt bulbs. I replaced all the bulbs in my kitchen – 10 in total – and so use a total of 110 watts when they’re on as opposed to 1000 watts with the normal spotlights.

But I’ve been a bit reluctant to make the same switch in my living room. The light isn’t as nice and this seems to be more important there. But I’ve been spring cleaning and decided to bite the bullet – so now 16 of my 18 spotlights are energy efficient – I didn’t quite have enough. The two standard spotlight bulbs serve as a reminder of what the light should be like – they’re a warm light that are exactly the right shape for the fitting.

So why haven’t the energy efficient bulbs got the colour right yet. I can’t believe that it’s technically impossible. This is such a barrier to people making a switch – in my view even more than the fact that they take a while to warm up.

But I have to point out that when I first put in the energy efficient bulbs in my kitchen I agonised over the difference. Now I don’t notice it. And I think it’s a relatively small price to pay for the energy and cost savings. The problem is that most of us want to be greener but aren’t prepared to compromise on performance.

My next target is dimmable candle bulbs. What I’ve discovered so far is that it’s now possible to get dimmable ones but that they’re not as nice as the non-dimmable energy-efficient bulbs, which in turn are not as nice as the incandescent ones…… But once they’re in I wonder if I’ll go on noticing…..

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