A bright idea

Buying light bulbs used to be easy. Where I came from, British standards were followed in this regard.  We had screw or bayonet types (gory name, that last one). For the bathroom 75 watts was ample, 100 watts more than enough for the verandah, and 60 watts if you wanted decent lighting at a desk or did not want to burn fancy light shades.  If a gentle glow was required in the sitting room, then 40 watts was best. Packaging for all of the above was minimal; either a cyclinder of corrugated paper open at each end, or a plain cardboard box, without any package inserts to hold the bulb in place. As I said, easy. One could send a child to buy a light bulb.

Then humans overpopulated the planet, destroyed some resources and depleted others.

Now you need a pair of powerful spectacles, a Masters degree in environmental management and a whole new vocabulary. If you do not have the latter two, then you need a powerful pair of spectacles and good Internet search skills.

The specs are to read the technical specifications on the box the new-fangled bulb comes in, in case you were wondering.

We have just received via the local community centre a promotional gift from the parastatal electrical energy provider: four light bulbs in a sturdy two-tone coated cardboard box. Inside the promotional box, there are four more little sturdy cardboard boxes (Aside: On the way to St. Ives / I met a man with 7 wives…), two small and two larger, corresponding to the sizes E14 and E27 (I think), screw type, of course.  The two smaller boxes sit on a platform of yet another piece of cardboard.

Each of these smaller cardboard boxes with lots of fine print on 3 of its six sides contains an energy-saving light bulb (as illustrated above, without the limbs, hands and feet), two lighter quality cardboard inserts coated white on one side nevertheless, for the purpose of securing the top and bottom of the light bulb. We also have a package insert measuring 90 x 90 mm. Yes, it is black, white, and red all over – and coated. I am now thinking of the number of trees in the Amazon which no longer exist. Der Grüne Punkt (the Green Dot) symbol on this copious packaging evaporates all sequential thought about high-tech logging machinery and Brazilian beef.

By the way, I have already removed two of the bulbs and placed them in the fittings above the bathroom mirror. The shock of my reflection bathed thus in 2 x 60W incandescent-equivalent light had me switch off the lights immediately and running away to read my new compulsory literature.

The box tells me that these are, in fact, 12 watt bulbs, approximately equivalent to 60 watt old type. The nominal lifetime of the lamp is 10,000 hours – with no equivalent given as to what that might be in days! The number of times this light bulb will withstand being turned on and off is 5,000. I choose not to think what that might mean. The temperature of the colour (dear Baudelaire, where are you now?) is 2,700k.  What does a little “k” mean? I thought Kelvin was a big “K”? No light bulbs flashing here, so off to the great big Internet we go.

I am back from the Great Trek. Kelvin is indeed a capital “K”. And now we know that “temperatura de cor” in Portuguese is a somewhat less baudelesque “colour temperature” in English (de-Americanised for my own comfort). The outside of the box also tells me that it takes between 5 and 30 seconds for the bulb to heat up enough to achieve 60% of its light-producing capacity. As if I am actually going to time it! Can this light be regulated? No. That means no dimmer switch, dimwit. Pressure is  1.5 mg/Hg mercury. “Hg” stands for hydrostatic gauge. My mind is now under severe pressure, so to speak. Too much static, and way too much enlightenment.

The pamphlet, which is shortly on its way into my paper-only waste paper bin, tells me all about the energy saving drive. These light bulbs are in the “A” category for energy saving (like my fridge). The miniature script advises me that I should choose a cooler colour temperature for use in the study and kitchen (“places of work”, according to the pamphlet) and a hotter colour temperature for “restful” places such as the sitting room or bedroom.

What is more, energy saving is cost effective. With the use of one energy-saving light bulb, I can save approximately €62.53 (yeah, approximately) on my electricity bill over an eight-year period. That is, exactly, 338 cigarettes at today’s price.

Ooh! I have just seen that these bulbs are Made in China! Whose bright idea was that?


The word in bold appeared in the previous post.

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