Tuesday, December 31, 2013

One Size Does Not Fit All

I’ve lamented on this blog frequently about the need to decentralize government more than we currently do.  The reasons behind this, I’ve delved into on other occasions, but suffice it to say that it should be obvious to anyone with more than one brain cell that one size fits all does not work for a country as varied and diverse as the United States.  Don’t tell me that a guy living in the mountains outside of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has the same needs as a guy living in Manhattan in a modified broom closet that someone turned into a studio apartment.  Go to the link, there’s more.

One of the “one size fits all” standards that I dislike is the banning of incandescent light bulbs.  The general consensus is that incandescent bulbs are wasteful. From energystar.gov:

Incandescent Lamps are “standard” electric light bulbs that were introduced for residential
use more than 125 years ago by Thomas Edison. They have the lowest initial cost and good
color rendering. They typically have short life spans and use significantly more watts than
CFLs and halogen lamps do to produce the same lumens, or light output. Incandescent
technology produces light by heating up a metal filament enclosed within the lamp’s glass.
More than ninety percent of the energy used by an incandescent light bulb escapes as heat,
with less than 10% producing light. Incandescents are the most commonly found bulbs in
American homes

That’s pretty damning for incandescent bulbs, right there, am I right? 

I don’t think so.  At least in certain cases.  Hear me out. 

In northern latitudes, in interior applications, I would argue that overall, a household using incandescent bulbs will use exactly the same amount of energy as a household not using them.  Northern latitudes mean that it is cold in the winter, and not dark in the summer.  This means that interior light bulb use during the summer will be next to non-existent (it is in my house, anyway) and in the winter, the interior bulbs help heat the house. 

If you took away the incandescent bulbs and replaced them with more efficient bulbs, you would just have to duty cycle the home’s heating system a commensurate amount to keep the place warm.  In essence, you’d take the energy you save in the bulbs, and use it to run the heater longer, resulting in no net reduction in energy use.  Also, given that many natural gas heaters are 80% efficient, while heat from an incandescent bulb is 100% efficient, you’re actually going to have a net savings using incandescent bulb heat in your home.  A tiny one, granted, but a savings, nonetheless.

This is a perfect example of why one size fits all doesn’t work.  This would have been a far better thing to deal with at the decentralized level – the state level, most likely. 

The federal government buys 10 snow plows per state, causing florida to have 10 too many, and Washington to have about 10,000 too few.  Allowing each state to deal with these things on their own is a much better solution.  

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