Talk heats up on light technology

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There’s light at the end of the tunnel. But it looks like the grand plan to make it more efficient is getting caught up in some murky points.

When the calendar turns to Jan. 1 in a couple of weeks, the ban on the more power-sucking incandescent light bulbs comes into effect in Canada. It was an initiative legislated by the federal Conservatives not long after they came to power in the interests of energy conservation.

It’s certainly a good overall goal, but some of the hitches have yet to be worked out.

One of the big problems is the small amount of toxic mercury contained in compact fluorescent light bulbs, making them an environmental hazard if discarded improperly.

Locally, Pictou County Solid Waste accepts CFLs from residents as hazardous waste – which means saving them up separately and making the occasional trip to the Mount William site.

But overall, the means to safely dispose of them is spotty. So far there are no federal rules yet on recycling them or on collection. Ideally, one would expect, retailers should be involved with drop-off depots – since they benefit from sales – otherwise it’s hard to see the majority of consumers driving miles out of the way to dispose of them.

In the meantime, consideration is still in the works for halogen bulbs, with no firm answer yet on whether they will remain as an exception.

Incandescent bulbs reportedly lose 90 per cent of their energy as heat. But they are significantly cheaper than CFLs. It’s anyone’s guess how many householders have stocked up on the old standby – which of course wouldn’t save money in the long run, but some people just prefer those bulbs.

It’s encouraging to see the growing presence of LED lights on the market, with prices gradually decreasing. Let’s hope that downward trend in their cost continues as they catch on since, given time, they will likely prove a superior option. But until then, we need some really bright ideas about how to deal with what we’ve got.

Geographic location: Canada, Mount William

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