Quality of Light, Quality of Life
William Schrider /
The soon-to-be-effective ban on traditional incandescent light bulbs creates more concerns than just the forceful shift of market shares; it also raises questions regarding individual freedom and even general well-being.
Howard Brandston is a renowned lighting designer who has over 50 years of experience and an impressive project record: To date, he has designed over 2,500 projects, one of which was the 1984 relighting of the Statue of Liberty. When Brandston makes a statement about the relative quality of the two types of light, as he did in The New York Times recently, it does well to listen:
I think the government’s use of lumens-per-watt as a metric is a mistake. It doesn’t follow lighting practice. It’s one tiny part of what lighting design is all about. And by using that one metric, you are limiting the choices of all lighting designers and not following good lighting practice…. It’s not even an accurate measure of efficiency because in order to make their case they are to some extent misrepresenting the value of these lamps that they’re suggesting, which are compact fluorescents to replace incandescents…. The quality of light from the compact fluorescent is about the worst of the major light sources manufactured today.
What this means is that, by being forced by law to purchase a specific type of light, consumers will see the quality of lighting available being limited.
Public safety is another concern. As The Heritage Foundation’s Diane Katz points out, the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended cleanup procedures in the case of a broken fluorescent bulb (which contains toxic mercury) are complicated, to say the least. Just expecting all households to recycle the bulbs in the first place, much less to rigorously follow these procedures in case of breakage, is unrealistic.
The complaints of compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) extend beyond the burdensome cleanup process. They do not give off heat, where incandescent bulbs do. Many consumers in homes with well-and-septic systems use the heat from incandescent bulbs to keep the water above freezing. Problems still exist with dimmer switches, while many simply dislike the light that CFLs give off.
At the same time, many consumers are willing to pay the higher price for CFLs because it saves them money on their electricity bill, illustrating that individuals have different tastes and preferences.
And that is why the ultimate decision should be left up to the consumer: to protect personal choice and freedom. The ban of the incandescent bulb is one of the most egregious examples of government intrusion into the marketplace and into our lives. As Brandston asserts in National Review:
Here we have the government entering all of our homes. Our homes are our castles…. Now they are telling us how to light our homes, and they are putting onerous burdens on us in terms of handling these toxic CFLs. The government should not enter our homes, tell us how to live, endanger our health, and ruin our quality of life.