Archive for Compact flourescent lights

Coloradans Can now recycle CFLs

This from Geenprint Denver:

Coloradans can now drop off used compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and mercury-containing thermostats for free recycling at any Ace Hardware store in the state. The spiral shaped bulbs contain a small amount of mercury and should not be thrown away in the trash. CFLs are also accepted in Denver’s Household Hazardous Waste collection program.

Comments off

How to Sell Energy Efficiency

In my Alt Energy Stocks column this week, I take a look at what business needs to do to sell energy efficiency to the consumer. I look at the examples of the Prius’s sucess, despite only marginally imporved economics over non-hybrid vehicles, the CFL’s slow path to acceptance, and difficulties in selling geothermal heat pumps. I conclude that the economics of an energy efficiency measure have very little to do about how well it sells. To find out what does, you can read more here.

Comments off

Popular Mechanics: CFLs give better overall light quality.

(Via EcoGeek)
Popular Mechanics did a head-to-head test of one traditional incandescant bulb with 7 different types of Compact Fluorescents, with a lot of emphasis on light quality (both in terms of reading and recongnizing faces.)

Contrary to popular wisdom, the CFLs stomped. The incandescent Sylvania Double White Soft Light had the lowest quality light of those tested, it was “Much warmer” than the others, but yellow colors “appeared greenish,” while the Compact Fluorecscnts generally appeared to have higher light quality.

Go figure. It is easy being green… but you’re more likely to look green under an incandescent.

Full story at Popular Mechanics.

Comments off

Wal-Mart pushes CFLs: Update

A month ago I wrote about Wal-Mart’s plan to sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs) in 2007.  Yesterday, there was an excellent article in the NYTimes with some updates about their plans and early efforts. 

My favorite parts:

  • In 2005, Wal-Mart sold 40 Million CFLs.  Sales in August 2006 were 3.94 million in 2006 vs. 1.65 million in 2005, so if the 40 million/ per year grew at the same ratio as August sales, total CFL sales at Wal-Mart in 2006 were 95 million.  I’ll guess that 2006 sales were more likely around 80 million, because the August month was probably chosen for the press because the growth rate was the most impressive.  However, that still makes 2007 sales of 100 million not a stretch, as the article implies.  My prediction: Wal-Mart will sell around 130-150 million CFLs in 2007, and they’ll be able to make another big PR splash by greatly exceeding their goal.  (I didn’t have these numbers when I wrote the other entry)
  • A GE exec was quoted anonymously as having said “Don’t go too fast. We have all these plants that produce traditional bulbs.” (This was in 2005, likely before GE’s touted EcoMaginationpush under Jeffrey Immelt)
  • The GE story also underlines Wal-Mart’s market power… GE will probably go along in the end, or Wal-Mart will just get their CFLs elsewhere, and undermine GEs sales of incandescents anyway.
  • Wal-Mart’s market power is also shown in the fact the Phillips, simply because WM requested it, renamed their line fo CFLs from “Marathon” to “Energy Saver.”  This involves a real sacrifice for Phillips, because they have probably invested millions of dollars in the Marathon brand, as well as having to change their packaging.

Thanks to Stephen McNally for forwarding me the NYT article.

Comments off

LED lamps still need work

A study from the Department of Energy compared the claims of LED downlights from four undisclosed manufacturers.  (See article in EERE Network News)  Although there is no question that individual LEDs perform better in terms of light emitted per watt, these downlights which incorporated them actually performed worse than fluorescents.

 LEDs are one aspect of energy efficiency that I think has a ton of potential, mainly because people aren’t nearly as excited about them as they are about renewable energy.  I think LEDs are much closer to being truly economic without subsidies than is PV, and the fact that they don’t get nearly as many subsidies, and have to stand on their own makes for much healthier companies.

In combination with photovoltaics, they are already economic in off grid outdoor lighting applications such as those solar garden lights we started seeing a few years ago.  They are also in use in many bus and train shelters… as well as flashlights, traffic signs, and stoplights(which are on so much they don’t have to be off-grid.  They also take advantage of the fact that LEDs are much better for color than white light.) 

 And, ‘Tis the season, so we shouldn’t forget about LED Christmas lights!

 But even in the most economic sectors, there are always hiccups when developing new technology, and it’s often the problems no one thought to anticipate.  That’s why it’s important to diversify, and only invest cautiously in new technology.   There are at least ten public companies I know of working on LEDs in one form or another… and some will inevitably fail, either in commercialization, or in cut-throat competition.  China is producing a lot of cheap LEDs now, which has caused problems for a lot of domestic LED companies.

In short, while I’m as bullish about LEDs as any other clean energy technology I can think of, it’s worth using the opportunity of studies like this one out of DOE to remind ourselves that there will be inevitable bumps along the way.

—-

1/4/7: I just ran across a very interesting survey on Treehugger (via EcoGeek) on the lumens/watt of all sorts of electrical lighting.   Turns out that the best light depends on your application, and neither CFLs nor LEDs are the most energy efficient forms of lighting out there… they’re not even second.  I won’t  spoil it, take the quiz, and read some intersting comments after.

Comments off

Wal-Mart pushes CFLs

A few months ago I blogged about Wal-Mart‘s energy efficiency push.  I predicted that Wal-Mart would be one of the first mass distributors of E85 ethanol, and I have since noted that compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) have been given increasingly prominent displays in their stores, and that they have an excellent selection of styles.  (When I moved into an new office a couple months ago, one of the first things I did was tell my landlord about how much money he could save by switching to CFLs (about $25 a month for a $70 investment in this case.)  He later asked me where he could find the candelabra bulbs (the ones with the tiny bases shaped like a flame,) and I immediately told him: Wal-Mart.  He’s an employment lawyer, and does not shop at Wal-Mart as a matter of principle… He still has not replaced the candelabra bulbs, so I’m going to give him a pack for Christmas (bought somewhere else.)

 Since I wrote the blog, Wal-Mart has announced that they’re exploring selling E85 (admittedly not the greenest renewable fuel, when made from corn, but rolling out distribution for E85 will make cellulosic ethanol easier to introduce.)

Now they’ve annouced that they are going to try to sell 100 Million CFLs in 2007.  Considering that replacing wasteful incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs is the best financial investment I know (the money saved on electricity pays for the bulbs many (as much as 25) times over), as well as being the most effective way most people can reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (#2 is using energy efficient transport), I sincerely hope they beat their goal.

I’m particularly pleased by the fact that they will be introducing interactive displays and educating employees about how to choose.  The number of types and wattages (as well as color temperatures) of CFLs can be baffling to the unitiated, and people should be guided towards buying Energy Star bulbs for their greater reliability (If you have ever had anyone tell you that they tried CFLs but then switched them out because they stopped working, you can be almost certain that they weren’t using Energy Star bulbs.)

So it sounds like great news.  How great?  It’s hard to know because they’re not saying how many CFLs they were selling before.

 Thanks to Phil van Hake for sending me this article.

Comments (1)

Net Zero Electricity for less than $700

A few months ago, I wrote a blog comparing the number of negawatts you could produce by giving away Compact fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs) to the amount of electricity you can produce with a rooftop photovoltaic system.  The CFLs had photovoltaics beat six ways from Sunday, and I concluded that you could do better by putting the money you were considering investing in a PV system in a Bank CD, and using the interest to give away CFLs.  Since I actually believe my own calculations, I set out to do just that.

 

I offered a $2 a bulb rebate (up to $5) for anyone who bought CFLs and sent me a receipt.  Apparently, $5 is not enough money to get most people off the couch, and I did not get a single receipt sent to me (the offer is still on, by the way.)  However, I also give away CFLs (usually something interesting like an outdoor spot or a candelabra bulb… most of my prospects have already replaced everything they can with the twisty type) to potential clients who come by my office, and the blog started making the rounds of the internet, eventually making it to Marc Dreyfors, who is on the board of the Environmental Educators of North Carolina (EENC).  EENC was planning their annual conference, and they usually offset the carbon from their conference by giving away CFLs, and Marc had the bright idea of asking me to fund it.

 

They calculated (with the help of Clean Air Community Trust) of
Asheville, that they needed to replace 51 60-watt incandescents with CFLs to offset the 16.7 tons of Carbon their conference was expected to produce.  My thought was: “we need to think bigger than that!” because I wanted to offset some of my own carbon as well.  They were fine with that, they just didn’t want to be greedy.

 

In the end, I funded the replacement of 320 60-watt bulbs (with 11w CFLs) and 80 100-watt bulbs (with 25w CFLs).  After the tax deduction, that cost me about $600, and EENC was able to use my grant to persuade Progress Energy (their local utility) to stump up a $500 donation to expand the program further.

 

I arbitrarily decided that EENC would get half the carbon offsets from my donation for their work, and I’d get the other half for coming up with the cash.  Assuming the bulbs we gave away are used just 1 hour a day, that means that all my CFL giveaways are saving someone over 12 kWh of electricity each and every day, which is more than my wife and I use.   With the help of a programmer-friend, I’m tracking the progress on my website. (on the right hand side.)  Note that the offsets cost only about half a cent per kWh over the lifetime of the bulbs, about a third of the cost of buying green tags from someone like Sterling Planet.   If I tried to produce 12kWh a day with a PV system here in Colorado, it would cost about $12,000 after all the rebates, and I’d save about $170 a year on my electricity bill.

Now I just have to do the calculations to figure out how many bulbs I need to give away to offset my use of natural gas, gasoline for my wife’s Prius, and biodiesel for my Jeep. 

Comments (5)

National (and Colorado) Tour of Solar Homes, October 6

Note: This post was originally for the 2006 Tour. The 2007 Tour of Solar Homes will be on October 6, 2007. See the original post after the break.

———————Info about 2007 Tour of Solar homes————————

Colorado Solar Tour link
Colorado Tour of Solar Home Flyer
For Southwest Colorado, there’s some info on the SWCRES website.
For Fort Collins area tour, see NCRES Website
For other states, go to the National Solar Tour link

———————Info about 2006 Tour————————
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (1)

To PV, or not to PV, that is the question.

Are you thinking about installing a photovoltaic (PV) system on your house?  Do you think to yourself, “It will be great to have my meter run backwards and have the electric company pay me for a change”?  “And I’ll be doing something to save our environment.”

The statement above that really bothers me is the part about doing something to save our environment.  My problem with it is the number of resources required: you’re going to have to give something up to buy that PV system, and the thing you are giving up could easily do a whole heck of a lot more good for the environment.  

Suppose you buy a PV system for $20,000 (rebates may halve the price of this, but you’ll see that that won’t make much difference in my argument.)  There’s a lot of argument over the precise numbers, but that system will produce 3,000 kWh (price $9/watt installed, 15% capacity factor) to 4,500 kWh a year ($7 per watt, 18% capacity factor.)   For electricity prices at a balmy Hawaiian $.24 per kWh, that system will then pay for itself (before maintenance) in a minimum of 18.5 years, and generate 83 MWh over that time, or around 150 MWh over the life of the system (30 years.)

Before anyone starts arguing about rising energy prices, let’s compare that PV system to something else we can do with the same money, at the same electricity prices. Suppose we take that same $20,000 and invest it in a 1 year CD at 5%.  After a year, we will get $1,000 in interest, which we will use to buy 500 25watt compact fluorescent light bulbs (in bulk) at $2 each.  We give these away to people who are currently using 100w incandescents.  Over the next several years, those CFLs will save a total of 300,000 kWh (8000h bulb life x 75w per hour saved x 500 bulbs). 

After only a year, we still have $20,000 so we can still buy a PV system if we want to (and take advantage of any rebates we missed out on the year before), we have avoided someone using over 300 MWh of electricity, which is about twice as much as the PV system will generate in its rated 30 year life (and don’t forget the cost of maintenance.)  Plus, most of the energy savings from the CFLs will happen over the next 8 years, rather than the 30 years it will take the PV system to generate half as much.  Most importantly, we have our initial investment of $20,000 back after one year, even though we are giving the CFLs away, while it will take over 18 years to get our money back from the PV system. 

 Because I believe in putting my money where my mouth is, anyone who mails me a receipt for the purchase of CFLs, I will PayPal them up to $5 or $2 per bulb, whichever is less (no more than once per person.)  Household LED bulbs also qualify for the same rebate.  I’ve uploaded a form to fill out, and plan to keep track of the number of bulbs, and the Negawatts generated on my website (as soon as my web guys get to it.)   This will be good for up to $1000 of total payments, or until December 31, 2006 (postmark), whichever comes first.  

Please note: I have withdrawn this offer as of 7/16/07. I have given out about $1,500 worth of rebates for over 750 CFLs, saving approximately 44 kWh per day.

For comparison, a PV system to offset the same amount of power on a daily basis would have to be over 7.5 kW, and would cost about $67,500, or 45 times as much (although it would last about 6 times as long as the CFLs, and it might only cost 20 times as much after rebates.)

Comments (8)