Saturday, March 17, 2007

fluorescent lights and why it's worth saving resources

A common criticism of fluorescent lights is the inability to use dimmers, as mentioned in Julien Goodwin's blog.

However with some thought at the time the lights are installed this problem can be solved. The first thing to keep in mind is that an infinite number of levels of illumination (analogue scale) is not really required. In most cases two or three levels should do.

If you have two compact fluorescent lights that use 5W and 10W then you have the options of 5W, 10W, and 15W. If you have a large room to light (such as a lounge room) which needs 30W of fluorescent lighting for full illumination then you could have six 5W globes dispersed and have anything from one to six of them turned on to give different levels of illumination.

Of course if you don't plan electrical work then it's easiest to just use incandescent lights in those areas. As long as the areas that use the most light for the longest time have fluorescent lighting it shouldn't make too much difference.

In response to a post on Planete Beranger, saving energy DOES matter. Sure you saving a few KWh isn't going to make much difference on it's own, but when a million other people do the same it all adds up.

The lack of public transport in the US causes more problems for the country than just environmental damage. It hurts the economy by making it more difficult for people to get to work. It will hurt the defence forces in the (unlikely) event of an invasion (trains are the best way of moving large numbers of troops, heavy weapons, and military supplies. It also hurts the national interest in decreasing the ability to react to civil emergencies. For example the entire population of New Orleans could have been evacuated in time using a single platform of a European station. If every city had multiple stations that had a reasonable number of platforms and multiple redundant train lines then evacuating civilians and bringing in emergency equipment and workers would be very easy. In the Netherlands train lines often run on top of dikes, this means that the dikes are very strong (if they can sustain the weight of a freight train then they aren't going to be washed away by a wave) and that trains can still operate while flood waters are rising. If New Orleans is to be rebuilt to it's former glory then the Americans should consider a similar design.

Large cars are a temporary issue. As fuel prices rise people will choose smaller cars. Also hopefully people will start to realise that 4WD and SUV vehicles are actually less safe than cars and stop buying them for perceived safety.

The Chinese government doesn't worry about the same environmental issues, however they have more agressive targets for renewable energy use than most countries. It's not a matter of being nice (they aren't), but of looking out for their own self interest. It's a pity that the governments of the US, Australia, and EU countries have not yet done the same - but it will happen eventually.

As for supermarkets using open fridges, if the vent the heat outside the building then it will be just part of the building air-conditioning system. Every adult dissipates about 100W of heat when at rest, when shopping it would be more than 100W. Get 100 people in a supermarket (not the peak business time) and 10KW would have to be removed by the A/C system without counting heat from lights (fluorescent lights dissipate about half their energy as heat, they are much more efficient than incandescent lights but much less than LEDs),
and heat from other machinery.

Finally, if you want to see changes in government policy then join your local Green party!


Scott said...

The USA actually has one of the most extensive freight rail systems in the world. UPS even ships their ground shipments between sort stations on semi trailers that ride on rail flatbed cars. We just have crazy safety rules (compared to Europe) that make passenger cars expensive (they have to be certified for overengineered crush ratings). We also have braindead policy that supports roads and air over rail. We spend a crazy amount of money on roads compared to passenger rail services.

Some cities have reasonable mass transit -- many have suburb to core commuter services, but not much else.

In the USA IIHS (insurance companies, essentially) has flatly shown that larger vehicles are safer, and only because larger vehicles can withstand impacts from larger vehicles better. People buy large vehicles because their safer from the other guys large vehicle because of it. Arugh.

Agreed on CFLs though, if its possible to use a CFL in the application, do it. Watch out for these 'new' daylight CFLs though, they have a lot less lumen output in exchange for color temperature. The 60W equiv. difference was between 900 lumens and 600 lumens or less for some bulbs I saw.

etbe said...

There is no reason why the US couldn't have a great inter-city train system as well. Trains provide faster transport than cars, for example the Dutch metro (sneltram) runs at 120KM/h or more and often overtake cars on freeways, and the real trains run faster than that. A passenger train network that operates correctly will provide a regular service, if you miss a train then you get the next one 10 minutes later - much better than arriving an hour early for a plane.

In what ways are the US safety rules better than the European ones? In what ways are crush ratings over-engineered? The pictures of wreckage of Ford and GM cars on Australian roads doesn't suggest that they are over-engineered.

Maybe when the US runs out of money they will spend less on roads.

Larger vehicles are more likely to roll, and rollover crashes have very high incidences of serious injury and fatality. The above URL has some information on the dangers that SUVs pose to their owners.

Anonymous said...

Fluorescent light bulbs are dimmable. only the ballasts are in most cases not. there are however electrical ballasts available which are dimmable. if you change these you only need a pushbutton to dimm the light. (Tridonic is one of the manufacturers of these. for industrial usage there is a seperate bus which makes them dimmable. there are also energy saving bublbs which are dimmable too. like Megaman Dimmable Light bulps
Tridonic Dimmable Ballasts

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that those fluorescent lights, are not as easy as the regular ones to recycle. Are we sure that the energy we save in using them is not going to be spent in recycling them ?

Anonymous said...

While I love the idea of CFL bulbs, I don't feel the US gov't/retailers are doing nearly enough to ensure that consumers will recycle these bulbs instead of just tossing them and sending them to the landfill. The recycling is important. The bulbs have mercury inside of them.