Wednesday, September 20, 2017

We were LiED to

I’ll bet when Thomas Edison finally got the light bulb to work, he never imagined anyone would look at his amazing accomplishment as an annoyance. But that’s where I am. My feelings on the miracle of electric lighting have tipped. It feels like it’s more trouble than it’s worth right now.

In all fairness to Tommy and his incandescent bulb, it’s the next generation bulbs that I’m annoyed with right now, not his original. I’m talking about LED bulbs, and their blinky, dimmer, and less reliable cousins, CFL’s.

CFL stands for either, Constantly Flickering Lightbulb, or Can’t Freakin’ LightOnTheFirstTry. They are the worst. They were supposed to last seven years and save planet Earth from certain doom. They are not dimmable, and when you turn some of them on, they start as dim as a candle that has just been blown out, and slowly get brighter over a period of ten weeks, give or take.

We had one bathroom where I would flip on the light switch, pee in the dark, flush, wash up, and by the time I had dried my hands, I had just enough light to be able to see the switch to turn it off again on my way out.

And don’t ever break a CFL, because they are filled with mercury and will kill every living thing in a nine-block radius. Also, they cost four to five hundred percent more than regular bulbs.

So why did I spend hundreds of dollars a long time ago to replace every regular bulb in my house with CFL’s? I wasn’t naïve enough to think I was saving the planet. I just wanted to go seven years in between ever needing to change another light bulb.

Besides peeing in the dark, things were going fine until the first one burnt out after nine months. Hmm… that’s less than seven years, I thought. So off I went to the store to enact my constitutional right to a replacement bulb under the Sir Frederick Warranty Act of 1776. It was there, in the lighting aisle at my local Home Depot in Rocklin, California, that I heard possibly the stupidest thing anyone ever said.

Me: “I need a replacement for this seven-year bulb. It didn’t even last a whole year.”
Lighting Aisle Lady: “Did you ever turn it off and on?”
Me: “Yes, of course. All the time.”
LAL: “Well, there’s your problem.”

Uhh… say what?

She then explained to me that the seven-year CFL lifespan only applies if you turn it on once and leave it on for seven years. If you turn it on and off, they do not guarantee how long it will last.

Uhh… say what?

So, never mind the whole mercury thing, how is leaving my lights on 24-7 helping the planet? I reluctantly bought a new CFL bulb and went home to my dim-but-getting-slowly-brighter house.

I waited patiently. Finally, along came LED’s. At first, they cost four thousand dollars per bulb, and didn’t look anything like a lightbulb, but on the plus side, they were bright enough to permanently damage your retinas.

Over time, the light bulb scientists figured out how to make them look more or less like an actual light bulb, and they got them toned down a little on the brightness scale, so now they only cause temporary blindness in people with healthy retinas. And the price finally dropped and leveled out at only three thousand dollars each, or so.

So once again, I spent and exorbitant amount of money replacing the bulbs in my house.

I am an idiot.

LED’s will definitely last ten years or longer, they said. Except one of the two LED bulbs over my head in my office. It will not last ten years. Or even one. It just started failing on Monday. It would go on and off intermittently, plunging my well-lit office into slightly dim, then back to bright. It was like working at a really lame rave.

And don’t even get me started on the dimmer switches. My “dimmable” LED bulbs are a joke. The regular incandescents do a marvelous job of dimming. If you were literally the most boring human on earth and wanted to chart their brightness on a graph in relation to the dimmer switch position, it would be a nice straight line, descending at an angle from “all the way on and bright” to “off and dark.”

My “dimmable” LED bulbs go from “all the way on and bright as the unfiltered sun” to “I can barely tell this dimmed at all and is still so bright I can’t look directly at it,” as you slide the dimmer switch through its full range of motion. A split second before the switch’s “completely off” position, the bulb goes to “momentarily almost dim but still way brighter than it should be,” and then shuts off. It is impossible to keep the switch in a position to maintain the “dim” setting.

I just replaced the bad bulb with a three-thousand-dollar spare, and out of curiosity, I went to the GE Lighting website to see about their warranty.

We're sorry if you've encountered a problem with one of our lighting products.
Defective Bulbs - Fast Service
For an immediate solution, please return the product to the retailer where it was purchased.

Oh, sure, like I’m going to fall for that old trick again. And why would I? The geniuses at GE and the other LED manufacturers have figured out the perfect price point for their bulbs. Six million percent more than the old incandescent bulbs that are not for sale anymore, but still not enough money that I’m willing to spend the time to go to Home Depot or Lowes and hassle with trying to return it.

The guy in the lighting aisle is just going to ask me if I made the unforgivable mistake of ever turning it off.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2017 Marc Schmatjen

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