Focus Corner

Reinventing the lightbulb

March 26th, 2009 by   (View Author Profile)
Vu1 stimulated electron bulb

Vu1 stimulated electron bulb

Like many people, I’m a wee bit sceptical about the forthcoming ban on the old incandescent lightbulb, and the switch to CFLs.

Call me old fashioned, but CFLs contain toxic mercury (albeit in small amounts, but here are the EPA guidelines on handling a broken CFL), and it seems to me we would simply be swopping one problem for another.  CFLs are also more complex to manufacture, and therefore start with a bigger eco-footprint than a conventional bulb.

Plus, improved LEDs (already in use for traffic lights and bicycle lamps) will soon be ready for domestic use, and could be a better option energy-wise than CFLs.

(I’m also posting this from deepest Canada, where calculations suggest that, in winter, switching from the warmer conventional bulb to a cooler CFL, will just mean people have to use more heating, and negate any energy savings from the lighting.)

So I was intrigued to read about a completely new energy-efficient lighting technology, invented by a Seattle company, Vu1 (‘view one’), that uses ‘stimulated electrons’ and which, they claim, contains no toxic or hazardous material, and is fully dimmable.

The company has just agreed a manufacturing arrangement, and could be on the market shortly, giving us yet another alternative lighting technology to choose from.

Since different rooms and tasks have different lighting needs, it may be that we need a variety of technologies — CFLs for rooms that are lit for long periods, for instance, and LEDs for rooms such as toilets that need to be lit only for a few minutes, and perhaps Vu1 bulbs for task lighting and ambience.

(c) Mary Mulvihill 2009

Mary’s new guide to easy, sustainable living is Drive Like a Woman, Shop Like a Man (2009).  Click here to suggest a tip, and be in with a chance to win a copy of the book.

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1 Response to “Reinventing the lightbulb”

  1. denis kelly says:

    just because something takes less energy to run, does not necessarily make it environmentally friendly—-as Mary points out the CFL bulb costs a lot more than an incandescant bulb. This is probably because it consumes a lot of energy to manufacture—this is known as embodied energy. Another aspect not considered, is the amount of resources that has to be consumed by the purchaser to earn the money with which to buy the product—-this is true whether the product is a lightbulb or a hybrid car. This is the fatal flaw in the so called new green economy that we are being asked to embrace. Denis Kelly

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