As a in boy in the 1970s, I can remember walking onto my local high street by night. On the way the streets were somewhat dimly lit and when you got there, only The occasional shop window was illuminated and the sum total of the exterior lighting scheme for Bligh’s Hotel was a solitary lantern hanging over the main door. So, maybe not the most energy efficient of technology, but there wasn’t that much used and what there was lasted a long time, writes Bob Bohannon, President, The Society of Light & Lighting*.

How many presidents does it take to change a light bulb?

Pat Lehane April 1, 2021 , , , ,

Jump forward 30 years and I was running the British arm of a German exterior lighting company. On average our fittings

Bob Bohannon, President, Society of Light & Lighting

lasted 15 to 20 years in use and on the rare occasion somebody had a problem, we maintained a stock of spares and would do all we could to repair things … often for free as part of our commitment to the product. In the office, if a fluorescent tube failed, we would reach up and put a new one in with little thought, cleaning, repairing and re-lamping – all forms of life extension; keeping things in use was natural then.

Move forward another 15 years to around 2015 and now the lighting industry was driven by a laser focus on luminaire energy efficiency. While officially predicated on a need for carbon reduction, the true driver was the return on investment possible by replacing legacy luminaires with ultra-efficient LED versions. As with any business case, the lower the capital cost the quicker the return on investment and this, coupled with an offshoring of manufacturing, created the low-cost LED luminaire.

But here’s the rub, the old joke about how many (fill in your stereotype) does it take to change a light bulb doesn’t work anymore. The LED and the driver is often integral to the fitting, so if one were to fail you have to replace the whole thing – you simply can’t repair it, life extend it, even if you wanted to. We’ve become used to this throw-away economy, only pausing to grumble that our washing machine/TV/whatever doesn’t last as long anymore, while we order a shiny new one.

By now  you are most probably thinking that this Bob Bohannon bloke is a bit of a luddite, stuck in that pre-LED world where everything looked better through

(2700k tungsten) tinted spectacles. LEDs are more energy-efficient and they are also part of our green jobs revolution that drives economic growth. All that is true, but it is not the whole story …

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Pat Lehane

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