Light Bulb Regulation – President Fails Elementary Math

Posted on Thu 07/02/2009 by


Compact Fluorescent Light Globes.

Compact Fluorescent Light Globes.

This post in a direct response to the post directly below this one, this earlier post from CEI regarding how President Obama has said that replacing existing light globes in your home will result in huge energy savings, specifically this claim:

(If consumers switch to Compact Fluorescent Lighting, The President) says consumers will save up to $4 billion annually in energy costs.

This is something that can be calculated quite definitely, so when you see the figures I have here, be aware this is not something I have just ‘made up’ in an effort to score a political point.

I have gone to great lengths to explain that by replacing existing globes with these new Compact Fluorescent Light globes (CFL), any savings are not only minimal, but in fact are miniscule. This is one link to an explanatory post and this is a second link, but let’s do the math again, and for that I’ll use the same chart as I always have, from the Government’s own website, The Energy Information Administration, that chart at the right here, and it can be opened in a new and larger window by clicking on the image.home-use-pie-chart

As you can see, residential lighting consumes only 8.8% of all the power you use in your home.

With household lighting, the light most used is the kitchen light, the first turned on, and usually the last turned off. This light is already a high intensity fluorescent light as housing construction convention mandates that this is a work area and requires bright lighting, and the brightest are those fluorescent lights. This one light alone consumes 60% of all the lighting power usage requirements for your house. For the remainder, most garages already have a fluoro light in there, as do most bathrooms. A lot of main bedrooms now have those small bright down lights installed flush with the ceiling.

So that leaves the rest of the lights in your house to replace with these new CFL’s. Second and third bedrooms, the laundry, bathroom, toilet, bedside lights etc.

Having said that the kitchen light alone makes up 60% of all lighting, and with current existing fluorescent lights and down lights, then that leaves around 25% of your household lighting remaining. These new CFL’s only consume one quarter to one fifth of the power that old style incandescent light bulbs use, so now the savings actually can be calculated.

Lighting makes 8.8% of the total power consumption. 25% is what is left to replace, and the saving is 75%. So that is 8.8% X 25% X 75%, or a grand total of 1.65%. The average power bill for the U.S. is $100 per month, so the saving amounts to $1.65 per month, or just on 40 cents a week, or $20 a year.

Further extrapolated out across the whole U.S. there are a certain number of consumers. Some have 2 houses, but at any one time, they can only live in one house or another, using the lighting at that house they are in at the time. So, for the 100 million consumers, that makes the whole savings across the U.S. to be $2 billion, and most definitely not the $4 Billion quoted by the President.

However, those savings are also illusory. To achieve this, you need to replace all the globes in your house. Never mind that some of those lights are very rarely used, and some for only minutes a day, and some not at all, you are looking at replacing up to 8 of those globes in your house, conservatively.

Go to any retail outlet’s web site and check out the cost of those globes. The link to this page is from Lowe’s Hardware. They retail from $9 to $12 each. You can get some of the cheaper ones but the same applies when getting cheap anything. They won’t last as long as the name brands. I have four of these globes in my own home, replacing them as the old incandescent ones ‘blow’. One of those new CFL’s has already blown, and I only had it for 8 weeks.

The ones designed best to last the distance cost that price I quoted.

So, replacing 8 globes at the average price of $10.50, you’re looking at $84. So those projected savings of $20 per year will not kick in until they pay for themselves, and that’s after 4 years.

So, any savings won’t start to kick in until half way through the President’s second term, dependent upon if he wins that second term that is.

At the same time, he’s pushing through this Cap and Trade Bill, a Bill that will raise your electrical energy costs by hundreds of dollars a year, and that will start straight away.

Great. Increase costs to consumers by hundreds and then tell them they can save a measly twenty bucks a year on those costs, and that won’t kick in for years.

Don’t you just love Voodoo Economics.

Also you might even think there will be savings in electrical power generation costs, and a resultant cutback in CO2 emissions. Also not true.

You see, here’s where people have the wrong idea about electrical power generation. They equate it with a situation similar to driving a car. As you drive that car, you consume fuel. Not so with electrical power generation.

The savings by converting to these CFL’s may ‘seem’ quite large, but in actual fact they are spread across every power plant in the Country, amounting to the tiniest of all reduction, one barely even discernible at all.

These projected savings are extrapolated out on paper for a projected total, when in actual fact, absolutely nothing will change, because all of this is on paper only, in much the same manner as those who tout Solar power say that the power will supply X number of houses. The power is supplied to the grid only, and the power is calculated as being the same as what those X number of houses might use.

The same applies here. They calculate on paper the savings and then extrapolate that out over the whole of the U.S.

However, unlike a car that uses fuel as it goes. electrical power is not like that.

The power is generated to an amount that is carefully calculated to be there at all times, plus a certain percentage. Then, as you connect to the power it is there, ready for you to use. You don’t turn on power, (or a whole bunch of people turn on their power), and then a whole range of plants run up to speed to provide that power.


That power is always there, and as you connect, then you draw it down.

So, any savings on generated power are also illusory, and carefully quoted to distract you from what is actually happening.

As a separate ‘paper’ exercise, the amount of power saved if every single household residence in the U.S. converted every globe to one of these new CFL’s, and did it right now, the amount of power saved would be the equivalent power produced from just one of those large coal fired power plants, like Bruce Mansfield, with a Nameplate capacity of 2740MW. Again, that seems a lot, when quoted as being for one plant alone, but as I said, this is spread across every plant in the whole of the U.S.

Some might actually say that a statement like this is not really the fault of the President, as he only says what his advisers tell him, and does not really understand electrical power generation, but really, it can be called his fault, because, as the President, then he should be getting his facts absolutely right, not just giving us ‘spin’ to agree with a viewpoint he wishes to pursue. Also, by not actually checking, he gives the ‘impression’ that he thinks of us as idiots who can’t actually work something like this out for ourselves. I did it.

If he makes errors like this, and this is just on a tiny scale, then heaven help us for the really big decisions.