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2012 Good House Award – Best Energy Smart Home


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100-Watt Bulb. R.I.P.

The law to phase out good ol’ incandescent light bulbs was sold as cool, simple, energy efficiency when Pres. Bush signed it back in 2007.

On Friday (12/16/11), the House voted to delay enforcement of it until at least Oct. 1, 2012. This may be one of the few things the Senate agrees with this year. Republicans are pushing for a full repeal of the new rules. (More, in our year-end Law Wrap-Up, next issue.)

House sponsors said there were a whole lot of good, scientific reasons to postpone enforcement. There were not. But 2012 is an election year and telling people what kind of light bulb they can buy is not likely to win friends, or votes.

The whole thing got twisted off its tracks at the start. To its credit, DoE (the U.S. Department of Energy) admitted its mistakes. It apologized that CFLs (“compact fluorescent lights”), the first replacement bulbs out of the gate, failed to last as long as they said, gave a harsh off-color light, warmed up too slowly in the cold, and worked poorly on dimmers. Oh, and they had mercury in the bulbs, which was kind of an environmental hazard in landfills.

We give DoE credit for the admission. If you do not admit a mistake, it is almost impossible to fix it and make things right. But it cost the program plenty, in trust and consumer acceptance. It is still recovering.

The best way to convince people to spend extra for a light bulb in a depression is to show it will save money – by lasting longer, and lowering electric bills each year. No one is going to save receipts in case a $12 bulb burns out 5 years early. So it all gets down to trust.

The problem with most incandescent bulbs, and especially 100 watt bulbs, is they use more energy creating heat than they do creating light. You can kiss 100 watt incandescent bulbs good-bye, if the rules survive. Smaller wattage bulbs might get engineered to save the required 28% of power the rules require. Ultimately, though, only CFLs and LEDs (“light emitting diode” bulbs) will be able to meet the rules in the higher wattage ranges. No change in circuits, or most sockets, is required for either bulb.

For the first time this Christmas, LED light strings took a big bite of holiday sales. But Home Depot just reported incandescent bulbs were still 60% of 2011 sales. Only 5% were LEDs and 25% were CFLs for the year.

Home inspectors are not in the business of checking light bulbs. Even though we see more homes with few light bulbs, or almost no light bulbs, lately, inspectors usually do not carry bulbs in the truck.

Still, home inspectors are The Encyclopedia of Home Fact Checks for most home buyers. More and more are asking about the new rules.

(How many home inspectors does it take to change a light bulb? For an unabridged list of the light bulb genre jokes, start at: http://www.eyrie.org/~thad/strange/lightbulbs.html.)

Kentucky: Incentives will target inefficient appliances
   Article from the Courier-Journal Business Watch – November 10, 2011

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved the incentives for Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric Co. customers who give up old appliances or replace them with more efficient models.

Customers who allow KU or LG&E to take away an old refrigerator or freezer for recyling will get $30 per appliance.
A second program pays customers to replace old appliances with newer, more efficient models.  The incentives range from $50 for dishwashers or freezers to $300 for heatpump water heaters.  There are incentives for central air conditioning and heat pump units, and an incentive of up to $200 for window films that reduce the need for air conditioning.

The PSC also approved a program to provide residential customers who use the most electricity with individualized reports on ways to use less.


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