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Monday, April 30, 2007

The battle of the bulbs

The Washington Post has an interesting video story (and print story) on one of the main challenges to the spread of compact fluorescent bulbs in the United States: the "wife test." Energy-savvy husbands purchase efficient CFLs for the home, forgetting to clear the lighting change with their partner or sometimes surreptitiously replacing incandescent bulbs without warning. And the wife is not always pleased.

Despite (or because of?) the occasional marital discord sparked by bulb replacements, the United States clearly lags behind the developed world in adopting more efficient lighting. Japan's lights are 80% CFL, Germany's 50%, and even the UK has 20% of its lights replaced by CFLs. The United States has only switched 6%. This interesting tidbit suggests that female shoppers are less enthused about the bulbs whose history involved humming, flickers, long warm-ups, and steep bulb prices:
In groceries and drugstores, where 70 percent to 90 percent of light bulbs historically have been sold and where women usually have been the ones doing the buying, CFLs have not taken off nearly as fast as they have in home-improvement stores such as Home Depot and Lowe's, where men do much of the shopping.
I'd really like to see a scientific study on whether women are more likely than men to discern the difference in light cast by the two types of bulbs or if women have greater sensitivity to light color and quality. Because with over 100 billion kilowatt-hours (kW-hrs) used for lighting each year (and CFLs using a quarter of an incandescent) that's a lot of potential energy savings.

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