Friday, January 4, 2013

Design or The Design of a Bill of Goods?

We returned from a trip to visit out daughter yesterday. One of the first things we noticed was that the lights in the main kitchen ceiling fixture didn't work. Now in the back of my mind, I remembered putting in two CFL bulbs to replace the 75 watt bulbs that were put in when the kitchen was remodeled in 2008. They wore out about two years later, sometime in 2010 and I felt that I was doing a good deed being "green" by using less power AND saving money. We have been told over the past few years that while the bulbs were more costly they used less energy and would last for years...I've heard figures of up to 15 years. When I changed them this morning, sure enough the two CFL's had burned out. I replaced them with two GE Reveal 75 watt bulbs. They work just fine, thank you very much.

This isn't the first time the CFL bulbs have failed to live up to their billing. I use them in my office and especially when I was running my own graphics design business they would be on for many hours a day. Sadly, in comparing one regular bulb and the CFL bulb I discovered that they burned out at about the same time. The incandescent cost what a buck or two at most? The CFL anywhere up to about $10. Not, as they say in the business world, much of a ROI (return on investment).

In the infinite wisdom of our government, we have been told that CFL's are the way to go so 100 watt and now 75 watt incandescent bulbs will no longer be available. The drive to get us to use CFL or anything but incandescent bulbs in the name of saving energy is on. But is it? It seems to me that its in the interest of the manufacturers who sell them for a whole lot more than they ever got for the lowly Edison type bulb, NOT the American people.

At an MacWorld conference a few years ago I took a seminar on responsible design. It sounded interesting and clients are always looking for a way to save money, and appear green to their clients.

One of the more surprising questions was after showing us photos of a Prius, a Hummer, a diesel truck and a regular car, the speaker asked us which of these vehicles was the worst ecological design. Of course, MacWorld was in San Francisco so everyones response was the Hummer. It may have been a gas guzzler but ecologically, the worst vehicle was the Prius. I called that out and the room was silent. The speaker looked at me and then finally said, yes, you are right. The batteries are an environmental disaster in the making. Just about every part of a Hummer can be recycled. There was more than a moment of silence.

I have no doubt that the CFL lights that are long tubes are quite efficient and last longer and are brighter than what we can get from incandescents, but the jury, at least in my mind, is still out for the ugly, twisted and curled things we are being forced to use in our lamps. Lamps I might add that often use a bulb that has no equivalent in CFL. Have you ever had the experience when you go to Home Depot or Target to buy a replacement bulb for one of these new lights? The choices are so many and so confusing that you often have to make several trips to find and replace the right bulb.

Ah, for the days when every bulb had the same threaded screw on the bottom. That was the day when design triumphed and it was cheap to buy to boot!

Happy New Year! Be sure to check out my store at!


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