Robs Each Family of Enough Money to Buy a New Car

In 1924 United States’ General Electric, Holand’s Phillips, Germany’s Osram and other lamp makers created the Phoebus Cartel. The purpose was to divide the distribution of lamps for each maker to its own geographic area, so prices and profits can be, without competition, kept high, and to limit lifespan of light bulbs to 1.000 hours – from the previous common life of 1.500 to 2.000 hours. The cartel functioned extremely profitably for its members until the start of WW2.

After WW2 fluorescent became the predominant lighting type. The light produced rather dull colors. In the 1950’s deluxe fluorescent lamp appeared, which had full lighting spectrum and natural colors, however the light output was lower. Still visual performance improved. Although many researchers found out that less lamps are needed, the lamp manufacturers provided their own tests, which indicated otherwise. Although more expensive Deluxe Color lamps started to be used in many installations, the number of lamps did not decrease; this translated to higher profits for the lighting industry.

In the 1970’s, under the leadership of Dr. Thornton, Westinghouse developed Prime-Color fluorescent lamps, which had lighting peaks at the 3 points of the color spectrum, where eyes are most sensitive. It produced prime red, green and blue colors, which combined into pure white. It meant that 50% less lamps could be used. These lamps had significantly larger light output than non-Deluxe lamps. So even if we disregard the fact that their peaking at the optimal points of the color spectrum increased, it is obvious that the energy savings could be tremendous. GE and others immediately ran test, or had run tests by others, which showed no energy improvement for the new lamps. Then in the 1980’s Philips bought Westinghouse lamp manufacturing and quit making claims that the new lamps had better performance than what was measured with standard testing instruments. These improved lamps became standard in Europe, but without properly crediting them their benefits, so the number of lamps has not seriously decreased.

In the 1970’s Caltech invented the Phantom tube, which allowed great energy savings. No other invention brought to Caltech, up to that time, as much money as the Phantom tube. General Electric and others ran or sponsored tests, which disproved the Caltech claims, thus protecting profits for the lighting industry.

Fluorescent lighting needs special voltage, so each lamp or two lamps are using so called ballasts, which are transformers or solid state inverters, which change the building voltage to what the lamps need. It would be very cost effective, if one such ballast would supply many fixtures, but the lighting industry was able to fight that, which translates again to higher profits for them and higher costs for us.

Dr. Brennen of the Laurence Berkley Laboratory is one of the researchers, who explained why lamps with higher color temperature have higher visual efficiency than lamps with lower temperature, which were commonly used mainly in the US. Simple explanation of low color temperature is sunlight at sunset and high one is a sun coming through blue sky at noon. If the same amount of sunlight would be able to illuminate a room, the noon color sun would producing much better visual response than the sunset light. It is because at the higher color temperature eye pupil closes more and therefore things become sharper. It is true that closing the pupil causes less light to hit the eye retina, but the brain compensates for that.

The lamp manufacturers did not like this research, because it would mean lower lamp sales, so they fought this fact and because their people led the Illumination Engineering Society, which sets standards, the importance of the color spectrum of the lamp was always ignored as to the ability to perform visual tasks. That allowed companies like General Electric to push their low quality spectrum high pressure sodium (HPS) lamps and Philips their yellow light LPS lamps, which had no spectrum at all.

The current situation is that more efficient LED street lighting is being used, but the complaints are that it affects sleep. Well it may not affect sleep so much because of its wider spectrum, but because it is much more efficient in visual throughput than the HPS an LPS lighting that was mainly used in the past. What is the solution that the lamp makers are recommending? Instead of admitting that a lot less of the full spectrum LED light is needed, they recommend going back to the awful orange HPS or yellow LPS light and many communities are listening to this, which I consider to be a rather profit-motivated advice.

LED lamps have its problems too. They are very expensive and when broken, the materials used in them are extremely carcinogenic. There was a study done at one time, which indicated that the extra energy and other costs needed to manufacture LED lamps is the same as the energy saved from its use.


Approximate annual savings with proper efficient lighting techniques in the U.S. – very rough estimate

Residential lighting costs 145,000,000,000 kWh x $ 0.12 per kWh = $ 17,000,000,000

Commercial lighting costs 258,000,000,000 kWh x $ 0.105 per kWh = $ 27,090,000,000

Manufacturing lighting costs 52,000,000,000 kWh x $ 0.07 per kWh = $ 3,640,000,000

Total is $ 47,730 billion annual lighting cost

$ 20,000 billion annually could be saved

As there are about 75 million on the average (I estimate) 4-member families in the U.S., proper lighting techniques could save some $ 267 per year per family = $ 2,670 in 10 years = $ 5,340 in 20 years = $ 8,010 in 30 years. At that time I assume that a family becomes usually 2-member type, for another roughly 30 years, which translates to another $ 4,005 savings, or a total of $ 12,015. Taking into consideration that from 1950 to 1990 cost of lighting per lumen dropped, in 1992 dollars, more than twice and amount of lighting in lumens was roughly halved mainly as a reset of the 1970’s energy crisis, we could estimate that a family during 60 year lifespan could save some $ 30,000 in today’s dollars, which is a price of a nice new car. The savings would be in more efficient lighting with taking into consideration spectral distribution efficiency, proper lighting design techniques and making sure that older people vision is properly corrected. Even if we take a lot more conservative approach to the calculations and assume only 1/2 the savings, or $ 15,000, it is still enough to choose from about 10 new car economy models, which cost between $13,000 and $16,000.



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Last Change: 20-04-17