Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Turning Off the Light Bulb

Obama and Gang Green are trying to keep Americans in the dark, literally and figuratively. By Jan. 31st of next year, you will no longer be able to buy incandescent light bulbs on the open market. The last light bulb manufacturer in the United States is closing its doors – and moving to China.

My family has used fluorescent bulbs in our kitchens for decades. They were great energy savers and as we were poor, this was a great thing. My grandfather installed a fluorescent light fixture in the ceiling and above the kitchen sink for my mother.

As they were quite well fixed in place, there was no danger of them breaking. They were easy to remove and easy to dispose of, if my mother had wanted to. There were no environmental regulations as far as I know in 1962. But she knew they had mercury in them and as she was a stay-at-home mom, she didn’t mind driving down the hill to the town dump to get rid of them.

As we got older, my older brother, ever keen on saving electricity and thereby money, loved the new fluorescent compact bulbs. They were expensive, he said, but would save a greater amount of money in the long run.

But, there were problems with the bulbs besides expense. You couldn’t simply throw them in the garbage, and then if they broke, well, chaos would ensue. One night my brother was visiting, the bulb in the lamp somehow broke, and all chaos broke out.

“Open the windows!”

“Turn off the air conditioner!” (It was April; it was my birthday and he had given me the bulbs as a present)

“Put the cats in the bedroom!”

“Get the vacuum cleaner!”

“Get a plastic garbage bag!”

“A bucket of water, no soap, just warm water! Hurry!”

My mother and I watched, appalled, as my brother anxiously cleaned up the hazardous spill. He’s a facilities manager so he knew from fluorescent bulbs and what one had to do. When he was through, everything went into the plastic bag – the broken bulb, the rags and paper towels, the sponge, the contents of the vacuum cleaner.

“That’s the only problem with these bulbs,” he said, finally. “They’re great. But you’ve got to be really careful with them.”

I’ve never put another one of those things in my lamps since. The bulbs are in a box in my basement and will never see the light of day again. They’re hidden away, somewhat like the ark in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

No matter how you look at it, this whole light bulb business is a boondoggle. First, and worst, we’ll be forced into buying an expensive light bulb that doesn’t last as long as they claim. My fluorescent didn’t last any longer than the incandescent bulbs did. Then, whether they break or just burn out, you have to dispose of them. In case of breakage, the clean-up is a major project and you can be sure that the government will institute more regulations to force people into calling a special clean-up company to dispose of the remains. More money.

If you want to save money on electricity, turn off the lights when you’re not in the room. If you’re the forgetful type (I am), there are new switches that turn the lights off automatically when the devices senses there’s no one in the room (it also has a manual switch as an option). This gadget won’t “burn out” and won’t spill mercury all over your carpet, causing a five-alarm hazmet catastrophe. Whatever the price, at least it will last the lifetime of your house, rather than a fluorescent bulb outlasting an incandescent by a few months.

Meanwhile, stock up on your incandescents while you can. I have a secret cache of them hidden away in a remote location waiting for the embargo on incandescent light bulbs.


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