If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Wednesday 4 January 2012

My contribution to the revolution

I've been a bad boy. Really bad. I know I have a reputation as an easy-going, rather raffish gangster type, sort of Kray Twins with added charm and charisma, but this time I have done something really appalling. Even the criminal underworld which is my natural métier will be outraged and probably shun me for ever as an outcast, too dreadful even for their flexible morals.

If the thought of clubbing baby seals to death and raping the rain forest is too much for your sensitive Western mindset, then please unsubscribe from this blog immediately. Close this window and go to visit Casual Acquaintances Of The Earth or something.

I have purchased a product which, while not actually illegal (yet) is certainly disapproved of and deliberately unavailable through 'official' channels. Before long, buying it will be illegal and, soon afterwards, even owning one without a Government licence will bring fines and imprisonment, like firearms. It's going to make my life better, even though some will say that it will do so by making life for others far worse. All it took was a simple decision, and a visit to eBay, followed by a wait for the Christmas rush to die down and the postal service to return to normal.

Cocaine? Dynamite? Enriched plutonium? Nope. Here it is:

Genuine 100-watt light bulbs, bayonet fitting, clear, General Electric, dark spaces for the lighting of. Cheap as chips, four quid for ten plus postage. Should last me a few years.

I've had a couple of revelatory moments recently. The CFL bulb in the bathroom I use went phut (they seem to do this with depressing frequency, despite the 'long life' label) and all I had to replace it was an ancient 60W traditional bulb. The difference was astounding. Not only did it give a light you can easily read by (not that I ... never mind), but the light was instant. No more fumbling around in the semi-darkness until the bulb had reached its full, if modest, output. Just bright, cheerful light at the flick of a switch. Just how electricity ought to be, in fact.

Then the kitchen fitters smashed the 60W standard bulb that had been lighting my garage for the last ten years, and all I could find to replace it was a 100W version (amazing what you can find when you have to clear out the airing cupboard). Again, just 'wow'. All the dark and dingy corners of the garage are now lit up as if by searchlight. I have found tools I had forgotten I owned.

These bulbs are the way forward. I won't be using the 100W bulbs in many places, but my next move will be to buy several boxes of 60W ones. Then, as the current crop of CFL crap fails (as it will do, and with depressing rapidity), I am going to replace them with PROPER bulbs. If it puts a couple of pence on the electricity bill I will take the hit, although with the relatively short life of CFL bulbs I am not sure that the overall effect might not be a positive one. But we are children of the post-war era, and therefore pretty good at turning things off when we don't need them, so I don't feel particularly profligate about using a product that works well instead of one that works badly.

I will never buy a CFL bulb again. Traditional lightbulbs for the win!


  1. I'm surprised that they are not wrapped in brown paper!

  2. The 'benefits' of "energy saving" cfl lightbulbs have been vastly over-hyped.

    They're more energy-intensive to manufacture.

    Their alleged energy 'savings' are exaggerated by 20% - 25%.

    They're an environmental problem to dispose-of safely, when unbroken.

    They're an environmental nightmare to dispose-of safely, if broken.

    They constantly flicker at 50 cps, not a problem for the majority, but a huge problem for those few affected.

    To maximise their life, they should not be frequently switched-off. An unanswered paradox conflicting with their 'energy-saving' raison-d'etre.

    So, retain your clear conscience Richard.

  3. Or delivered by a whistling urchin on a bike, rather than a surly bloke in a rusty Transit ...

  4. "They constantly flicker at 50 cps"

    Sorry JP, but I have to disagree. They all use high frequency driver circuits, which typically run at tens of kilohertz. I've found they often cause problems with remote controlled appliances because of this!

    If you trace out the circuitry normally the incoming A/C is rectified and smoothed by a capacitor. (These are what usually blow up when they overheat). The resulting 320+ volts DC is used to run a switch-mode inverter to get the required voltage for the tube. That's how they can make the control gear small enough to fit inside the base. It's possible to run these lamps on DC (I've done it), something you certainly can't do with conventional wound ballasts.

    A conventional fluorescent fitting, on the other hand, does have a mains related flicker (but it's at 100hz - the lamp doesn't care whether the half cycle is positive or negative). Paint a white mark on a motor driven workshop device (such as a bench grinder) and watch the "strobe effect" under fluorescent strip lights...

    Here endeth the technical pedantry!

  5. That's tellin' yer!

    I think we will all bow to your obvious expertise on this one.

    I just think they are shit bulbs.

  6. MD

    In my defence, I consulted "Environment, Health and Safety Online" which stated:-

    The severity of the flicker depends on several factors such as:-

    How often and regularly the voltage fluctuates, which is typically 110 to 120 times per second in North America, 50 to 60 times per second in England and Europe.


  7. @ JP - Your article does mention electronic ballasts, and the typical frequency (as I suggested, over 20Khz), although, I grant you, that bit wasn't particularly obvious. It is possible that a really cheap and nasty CFL could exhibit some mains frequency flicker, however this would only occur if the reservoir capacitor was so small that it couldn't maintain a steady voltage between mains half cycles. But even this would only vary the intensity of the light at mains frequency, not make it stop completely with every change of polarity. You may notice with better quality CFL's that when you switch off, the light doesn't instantly stop, but fades over a fraction of a second. This indicates a good sized capacitor.

    It's possible to get high frequency ballasts for conventional fittings, and these can increase the life of the tubes, as well as removing the flicker. This can be a considerable benefit in the industrial environment, where the "strobe effect" I mentioned can be a serious safety issue with rotating machinery. Traditionally fluorescent fittings would be connected to different phases (where available) of the mains, so the flicker would be cancelled out. But in a single phase environment there have been many instances of workers putting their hands into a spinning lathe chuck etc, because it appeared to be stationary. Of course, this never happened when filament bulbs were commonplace.


  8. Filament bulbs. Warm, bright, instant-on, pleasant light, no flicker, cheap, low environmental impact, safe to handle with care, and the heat they produce is only wasted in hot weather.

    If they were a new invention, we would say they were fantastic. As people did in 1879.

    As you say, progress.

  9. Phwoar! Bulb porn..

    Hate those crap CFL dark bulbs, have you tried the halogen bulbs yet? I read they were the Germans way round the EU ban, don't know.

    I have quite a few proper bulbs stored away, got some on Freecycle from people going dark green.

  10. I have halogen bulbs in the kitchen, GU10 I think. They have failed at the rate of one every three weeks so far (there are 8 in all). Lovely and bright, but expensive and, at 50W each, not exactly economical either.

    Edison was the man.

  11. I am doing my best to go straight from incandescant bulbs to LED lighting. When I decorated the kitchen last year, I fitted dimmable LED downlighters and home-made LED under-unit lighting, and it's far more effective than the three conventional spotlights that were in the centre of the ceiling before.

    However, LEDs have a very limited range, so you need to scatter them around a large room to light it properly. Also, the light from commercially available bulbs are too white for other than kitchen or bathroom.

    I have not worked out how I want to convert the other rooms to LEDs (if ever), so have also stocked up on conventional bulbs. Enough to last for several years.

    Microdave: I used to use the strip lights in the workshop to calibrate a little hand-held tachometer. It's the only time I've been glad of them!

  12. Richard, all good bloggers provide proper basis to their work so that others can verify the claims that they make. Would you possibly mind emailing me a link to the source of these *alleged* bulbs so that I can ::[cough]:: make sure that they are all they are cracked up to be?

    patentlypatently at googlemail dot com :-)

  13. LEDs are the way to go - I replaced a 50W spot with a 1W LED equivalent in my shower - the light is a little clinical however but I mostly keep my eyes closed to stop the shampoo getting in my eyes.

    Don't Edison filament bulbs "flicker" at 50 Hz (or 100hz)??

  14. Patently - done.

    I think LEDs are a genuinely green alternative, unlike CFLs. I have LED lighting when I go camping, LED headtorches for work in the grounds of Nowhere Towers at night, and a superb LED torch for work. I'm a fan, but until they work out a way of making the light less cold I won't be in a hurry to replace them in the home (kitchen and bathroom excepted, I suppose). But in terms of low power consumption, they have everything over CFLs.

    One is tempted to wonder why the EU is so keen to force us to use CFLs when they are technically and environmentally less than ideal. Lobbying by Philips, perhaps?

  15. Nikos: Filament bulbs don't flicker because they can't cool down quickly enough. They effectively have enough thermal inertia to stay at a level. It would be 100Hz if they did.

    Richard: LEDs are between 4x and 10x more efficient than Mr Edisons triumph. The colour of the white LEDs is determined by the phosphor used - they are actually blue LEDs, and phosphor in front of the emitter effectively scatters the light frequency to give white. If they use a cheaper (or less) phosphor, more of the blue sneaks through giving that colder light.

    I had access to a quantity of LEDs used for a particular job, and these had been batch selected to be a decent warm yellow - around 2400K, if memory serves. I was in a position to blag enough spares to light that end of the kitchen, and the colour actually matches the 40W traditional bulbs in the cooker hood. The commercial LED bulbs I used in the downlights were made by Philips. Just don't believe them when they say "Warm Light".

  16. Thanks, Mick. Useful info. Sure enough, my torch has a bluish tinge (it's a Cree LED if that matters) but the Petzl headtorch is much warmer, almost like a 'proper' bulb. When I get round to redesigning the lighting plot for the homestead I will bear what you say in mind.

  17. @ Mick Anderson - I use the 4ft tube in the shed, along with a painted mark on the flywheel, to set the speed governor on our backup generator...

    As you say LED's are rather directional - I fitted some for a friend recently. But as you also mention the colour is not necessarily fixed, and many "warmer" variants are now emerging. But that also applies to any fluorescent light, whether conventional or compact. The traditional 3 choices have now been supplanted by a whole range of "Tri Phosphor" types, which can match almost any thing you want. Unfortunately most of these are confined to standard straight tubes, and you are unlikely to find them in cheap CFL lamps.

    The only other way that I'm aware of is semi-commercial fittings using detachable PL or 2D lamps. These obviously cost more than CFL's, but have the advantage of longer life, and not needing to throw the entire thing out when the tube fails...

  18. I recently bought some 12W Osram LED lamps which are a decent colour rendering (2,700K)and chuck out roughly the same lumens as a 60W lamp. The pack says 50W equivalent but all the light comes out downwards from a hemisphere so more light reaches the floor (table/walls but not ceiling).

    They are an absolute arm and a leg though, about £32 at B&Q and can be £40+ online.


    They are supposedly 25,000 hours so could well outlast me, but time will tell.

    They are quite heavy as they have a fair bit of metal in for heatsinking. They seem to get a fair bit hotter than venerable 15W pygmy lamps but the heat is nearly all out the back.

    When you turn them off they continue to glow dimly for a while so they must use phosphor coatings.

    You can get them in both Bayonet and Edison Screw Cap.

    I converted a 300W uplighter to 5x dimmable 23W CFL a year or two back and tried the LEDS in them recently but Wifey complained that there was too much glare from it but that the CFLs now seemed poor compared to the LEDs in the "big light" so I'm now back to the original linear Tungsten/Halogen lamp and the LEDs have been dispersed around the house.

  19. I can see there's fun to be had here. I post a little item about buying some light bulbs, and it's halfway for the comments record already (37, on a post about anti-gay Muslims in Tower Hamlets back in February 2011).

    Crack on, guys.

  20. And look what you've learned already!

  21. And there's more - I've found a link that has lots of technical info about CFL's. It should keep you quiet for a while.

    One of the pictures (Fig 8) shows the "guts" of a typical CFL. This bothers me because the capacitor visible is rated at 250 volts. This may seem OK, but life isn't that simple. If you rectify and smooth a sine wave (such as your domestic AC mains) you get 1.4 x the RMS (Root Mean Square) value, or about 322 volts DC. Even top quality components won't survive this excess for too long, and will eventually go bang.

    As some of the other shots show, this has the potential to cause a fire... A properly rated equivalent only costs a few pence more, but in a production run of millions makes a big difference to the manufacturers profits...

    I haven't pulled one apart (not at £40 each), but even LED's will have something similar to convert the mains down to a low voltage DC supply for driving the actual LED elements. I wonder if the claims of 25,000 hours will really be proven in practice?

  22. we can still get them in australia...no probem...i wont have cfc bulbs in the house at all...there dangerouse to your heath..




Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...