Incandescent Ban

April 18th, 2007 by Potato

I wrote a short rant not too long about about the ban of indandescents in Nunavut. I think that reducing the use of incandescents would be a step in the right direction, and taxing incandescents (or subsidizing CFLs) so that it becomes easier for consumers to choose the “right” one without having to do a long-term cost-benefit analysis is a good thing. Banning them, though, is not such a bright idea, since there are a small number of situations where fluorescents are not ideal (see previous rant or below for details).

After writing that rant up, I rewrote it as a letter to my MPP, kicking myself after I sent it since there was no way Ontario would actually follow Nunavut’s lead and ban incandescent lighting…


I was happy at least to see this paragraph in the CBC report (the other news sources I skimmed didn’t have it — the Toronto Star even said that Ontario was “the first… jurisdiction in North America to commit to such a ban” — perhaps technically true, since the legislation hasn’t passed in Nunavut yet, but a somewhat disingenuous statement):

The ban, part of a wider energy conservation program, would allow for exceptions, such as the use of incandescent bulbs in fields like medicine.

This is the letter I sent my MPP last month. I never got a response (at least the last time I went crazy-go-nuts on my MPP, she sent me an acknowledgement!).

Dr. Matthews, I recently saw the news that Nunavut was planning on banning the sale of incandescent light bulbs in the territory to save power and reduce emissions. (story:

I am writing you to encourage the province of Ontario to not follow Nunavut’s lead in this matter — a ban on incandescents is not the way to go.

Taxing them however is, in my opinion, an excellent idea: make some money for the government, and make the initial purchase price of an incandescent the same as a fluorescent — even those with a short-term focus can then make better decisions about which to get, rather than having to try to weigh the initial costs against the long-term energy savings. That should help dramatically shift the usage away from the incandescents. Compact fluorescents are a good thing, and I’ve been putting them in nearly every room in the house here. However, they do have a few short-comings, and for these reasons it’s important to have incandescents as an option:

* CFLs can not be used in completely enclosed light fixtures, such as some pot lights.
* Many CFLs can not be put on dimmer switches (though some specific models can be).
* Some types of CFLs (I do not know if this applies to all of them) do not handle extremes in temperature well, and may not be suited to use in stoves, range hoods, or outdoor lighting.
* Almost all CFLs have a delay between turning on the switch and lighting up. There is a further delay between the first spark and full brightness. While this is not a problem for most applications, it is slightly less than ideal for some uses such as motion-detector-triggered security lights (compounded by further delays in cold environments).
* A small minority of people find that the flicker from fluorescent lighting (though CFLs don’t seem quite as bad) gives them headaches.
* CFLs have less-than-perfect colour fidelity. While it’s good enough for almost all uses, some specialized cases (certain science experiments, artists) may find that they prefer to use incandescents for their broad-spectrum output.
* Some sensitive electronics can experience interference from some types of CFLs (I believe the kind with magnetic ballast) due to proximity or being on the same circuit.

For the majority of cases, CFLs are great ways to save tonnes of energy, but for these situations, we should aim to have incandescents as an option (even if it is an expensive one).

Now, it looks like while you won’t be able to buy an incandescent in Ontario under the current plan, you could go to the States or Quebec and bring one over without any trouble, if you had to (so they’ll be unavailable, but not illegal).

One Response to “Incandescent Ban”

  1. Ben Says:

    He’s a politician, you’ll probably get a form letter back extolling the virtues of the Canadian Football League and how the MPP is campaigning to have a team franchise brought to the London area…

    I agree with you though, they should put a premium (the new word for “tax”) on the incandescent bulbs and subsidize the sale of the CLFs so the cost is at least equal, if not in favour of the CFLs. Banning old-fashioned bulbs altogether is a little extreme, and in the many cases you’ve pointed out, isn’t very practical.