Dim Bulbs at ConEd

I get this call from a ConEd rep, saying that the power company is going around to people’s homes, replacing their old lightbulbs with new energy-efficient bulbs, for free. This is all well and good, but I am a little concerned that they replace my bulbs with ones of equal wattage. For instance, the twin bulbs in my kitchen are 40 watts, while the bulb in my drawing table lamp is very bright, 100 watts. But the rep doesn’t understand my question; she just repeats that they’re replacing all the bulbs, and they’re energy-efficient, and free. So I try to explain my concerns again: “I need to make sure you’re replacing all the bulbs with ones of equal wattage.” “No sir, all the bulbs are energy-efficient, free, no cost to you.” She’s a frickin’ broken record.

Finally, it dawns on me: the woman from the power company doesn’t understand the concept of bulb wattage.

And then it dawns on me again: this is the same power company that plunged a big chunk of Queens into darkness for nine days last summer.

Anyway, after a short pause while she consults her supervisor, the rep comes back on the line, chagrined, and confirms that they’ll replace all the bulbs with ones of equal power. They’re supposed to show up this afternoon.

Should I be worried?

About joshcomix
Brooklyn-based cartoonist specializing in nonfiction comics about topics like Hurricane Katrina, the media, travel, and finance.

16 Responses to Dim Bulbs at ConEd

  1. steveflack says:

    One of my best friends works for Con Ed.
    You should be very worried.
    -Steve!

  2. rojagato says:

    I’m assuming that they’ll trade you compact fluorescents for the incandescents, in which case the equivalency that you’re looking for is lumens, not watts.
    Here’s the EPA’s Energy Star page on fluorescents, with a chart at the bottom listing the lumens for incandescent and fluorecents.
    For your work lighting, you might want to hide your old incandescents when they come, unless they actually do have compacts with equivalent lumens and in the right “shade” of white that you need. If they don’t have them, you can buy them on your own later.
    When I moved into my new place, I’ve been replacing the incandescents with fluorescents wherever I can — I’m not noticing a difference in the level or quality of light, and the savings on the electric bill has been fairly dramatic.
    The disposal of the fluorescents when they finally burn out that might be a problem — here in Cambridge, we can’t put them out with the regular curb pickup; however, we can bring them to the local recycling center, to the library, or to a hardware store. When ConEd comes over, definitely ask them what your options are for disposal.

    • 4_eyez says:

      Wow, thanks for the excellent info and resources! (This is why I love LJ!) Now, who’s the dim bulb — me or the Con Ed rep? Ha! But the gal on the phone definitely didn’t know from lumens either. (And I will ask them about disposal.)

  3. thamesrhodes says:

    If it was me…
    I would definitely do up my apartment with candles and insist that they replace each candle with a new bulb.
    Although the spirit is good, I question the wisdom of throwing away still functioning light-bulbs before they expire. Although incandescents use more electricity, My impression is that 90% of the pollution they create happens during their manufacture, shipping to market, hauling as refuse, and taking up space in landfills. (this is not to mention their packaging.)
    This sounds like Con Edison fretting about blackouts due to consumption capacity, rather their concern about the planet.
    What motivation could Con Edison have to want you to use LESS electricity?

    • 4_eyez says:

      Re: If it was me…
      You make some ENLIGHTENING points — especially about why Con Ed would want their customers to use less elecriticity — and thus provide them with less money coming into the coffers. I tend to think you’re right, that’s it their ongoing fear of blackouts more than anything else.

    • rojagato says:

      Re: If it was me…
      What motivation could Con Edison have to want you to use LESS electricity?
      Because Amory Lovins back in the day (1980s, when almost every North American utility was considering building a(nother) nuclear plant) convinced everyone (utilities and state policy makers) that reducing consumption (even if it means what’s essentially a one-time capital cost in Con Ed’s case, in forcing trading a bunch of compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) and disposing of incandescents) is hella cheaper than the cost of building new generating capacity, buying fuel in a n increasingly volatile market, and compliance with environmental and safety regulations governing new plants.
      Yeah, this and other conservation efforts by utilities aren’t motivated by concern about the planet, just by the bean-counters reading the writing on the wall, but the net result is the same, isn’t it?
      What kind of shocked us in the Peoples Republic of Cambridge who were watching this is that ConEd’s CFL trade-in program isn’t exactly voluntary, as the Eastern Massachusetts programs are. I suspect Mayor Bloomberg was involved in the heavy-handed approach, after the problems with the blackouts, transformer explosions, and the plant burnouts last year that you all had.
      I question the wisdom of throwing away still functioning light-bulbs before they expire. Although incandescents use more electricity, My impression is that 90% of the pollution they create happens during their manufacture, shipping to market, hauling as refuse, and taking up space in landfills.
      *Nods* Still, consider — over half of those incandescents were probably 65% and more toward the end of their 1K-hour life, and as they age, they get progressively more inefficient. They’re going to end up in a landfill eventually, so why not have an organized collection that potentially would route them through a process where the glass and metal components could be recovered economically? (I’m just guessing this will happen because it would make sense financially for Con Ed to do that, but that doesn’t mean it is happening).
      What’s going to problematic is late next year when all those the CFLs burn out. They’re a lot less benign than incandescents as waste, with their mercury and plastic components, and need to be routed to a specialized recycling facility. Has Con Ed worked this out with the Public Works department? I’m thinking not.
      I don’t like the heavy-handed approach that NYC and Con Ed are taking here, because it’s kind of fascist. I don’t know if NYC/Con Ed tried a voluntary program that was meant with indifference, or are just really afraid of late July and August. Still, I have to admit that as a quick fix, it’s very cost-effective and should have a dramatic impact on consumption and energy costs (utility and consumer) almost immediately.
      Well, I say “cost-effective”, but that’s assuming a lot about Con Ed.😉

      • 4_eyez says:

        Re: If it was me…
        Wow, you are well-informed! And I’m the beneficiary! This is all very interesting, and it definitely gives me some questions to raise when (if?) they show up. (It’s 4:30 now, and they said they’d be here between 12-5 — cable guy, anyone?)
        Anyway, one thing in ConEd’s defense: this program IS voluntary. It was up to me to accept the switcheroo or not.

  4. milescosm says:

    I bought a few of these low-energy bulbs last fall, only to find out that they make my house look like how pictures make the 1960s look. You know, when color pictures first started circulating. It all just seems so dull and faintly hued. But… I’m saving the planet.

    • 4_eyez says:

      If our apt. had that faded, early 60s look, I would be so psyched!
      P.S. How’s it going on coming up with some link ideas for A.D. chapter 5???

  5. simonfraser says:

    I’ve been carrying around a big bag of these Energy Efficient bulbs for a few years now. They get moved from apartment to apartment, I’m too cheap to leave them behind. I think we’re about 75% in the new place. If you get them with a warm colour temperature then they look the same as Incandescent bulbs. Except for a slightly slow startup ( which gets worse over time ).
    My main worklight is still an incandescent spot however, I’m really sensitive to the very high frequency flickering of Flourescent bulbs and having one that close to me was giving me a headache.
    They do save you a lot of money …over time.

    • lalato says:

      Yeah… We’ve been slowly replacing our bulbs with the swirly fluorescents. They work pretty well. The only problem I’ve found is that they tend to be slightly larger than regular bulbs… so for some uses where you have a cover on the bulb of some kind like on a porch light, you can have issues making everything fit properly.
      But overall… ROCK!
      –sam

  6. Ah, I see the energy efficiency now. What really irks me about fluorescent bulbs is that humming noise and the very slight and quick flash, because my eyes can detect it. For anything other than a drawing lamp, though, seems like it’d be a good idea.

    • 4_eyez says:

      Actually, I love my CFLs. They’re nothing like the old flourescent bulbs – no humming, no flash when they come on, and the light quality is very warm, like an incandescent bulb. They only thing with them is when you first turn them on, they don’t go to full power right away. It usually takes about 15-20 seconds for them to get up to full light emission.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Equivalent Lighting
    By now, I’m sure you realize that by “equal power,” he meant an equavalent amount of light, or LUMENS. Replacing the incandescent bulbs with CFLs of “equal WATTAGE” wouldn’t save anyone anything.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Re: Equivalent Lighting
    LOL, guess I was the dim bulb. I meant what I meant, not what I said!!…

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