Saturday, July 12, 2014
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More lightbulb conniptions, from Congressional rider to baby birds

While Congress seeks to block enforcement of efficiency standards, An Ottawa wild bird rehab center puts out a call for more heat-emitting bulbs.

More lightbulb conniptions, from Congressional rider to baby birds

One of the most clear slgns of the inefficiency of the traditional incandescent bulb is in the heat it puts off.

Researchers say that only about five percent of the energy that the bulbs consume goes into producing light; the other 95 percent produces heat.

Put a bulb in with a baby bird, and it will stay warm.

So we might have predicted this would happen: A wildlife rehab center in Canada, which also enacted lightbulb efficiency standards similar to those passed in the U.S. in 2007, recently put out a call for incandescent light bulb donations.

Boy, did they get them!

Ottawa's Wild Bird Care Centre received more than 600 incandescent light bulbs in two days, CBC news reported. Those bulbs will provide warmth for injured and recovering birds for more than 15 years, the news agency said.

My own hens are the beneficiary of some leftover incandescent bulbs. Although I'm deeply into CFLs and LEDs,  I brought them home when a relative moved from an apartment to assisted living, and the bulbs have languished on a basement shelf for more than a year.

But in the recent cold snap, I was worried the chickens would suffer.  I didn't have a heat lamp, so out came the bulbs.  I put one 100-watt bulb and two 75s out in the coop and watched the temperature rise. (Yes, I have a thermometer with a remote sensor out in the coop, so I can stand in the warmth of my kitchen and monitor what's going on across the back yard.)

In a six-by-eight-foot coop -- one of those traditional sheds you see everywhere -- the three bulbs kept the temperature roughly 10 degrees warmer than outside on the coldest nights we had. In the morning, when the temperature outdoors was two degrees, the temperature inside the coop was 12.

Now that's some heat!

Meanwhile,  the omnibus appropriations bill that was announced by House and Senate leaders on Monday night contained an odd rider.

It would block the Department of Energy from enforcing the light bulb efficiency standards that have been rolling out over the past few years.

Passed during the Bush administration, the standards were designed not to ban the incandescent, as some keep insisting, but to increase its efficiency. Indeed, that's happened.  Manufacturers found that by adding halogen to the bulb, the filament that's integral to the incandescent bulb operates more efficiently. 

Republicans have long criticized the legislation, and this is their way to thwart it.

As Steven Nadel, executive director of the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy. points out, however, the rider could cost American jobs.

"Manufacturers have invested in U.S. factories to make the compliant halogen incandescent light bulbs. Since the rider prohibits enforcement of the standards, it opens the door to foreign lighting factories and importers that would seek to sell substandard, energy-wasting bulbs, threatening US manufacturing and domestic jobs," he said in a press release.

"The light bulb standards have been a success, providing energy reductions and cost savings for consumers," he said. "The rider could turn that success into a train wreck for U.S. manufacturers."

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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