Heat Replacement Effect Again

Friday evening, something rare happened in conformist Sweden (where no article may be published without praising the politically correct lamps):

On prime-time national news, a representative of the Swedish Energy Agency (one of the strongest anti-lightbulb forces in Sweden*) was caught blatantly lying about the incandescent lightbulb. Can be viewed here for another 5 days (at 9:55 in the clip): Rapport 31 Aug, 19:30 My description, transcription and translation to English, reporter in green, his narrative in citation marks:

News anchor: From tomorrow the lightbulbs will be gone. The Energy Agency thinks this is an important measure for the climate and claims this will save energy comparable to the heating of 80 000 houses. But it turns out that the Agency uses exaggerated and outright erroneous numbers.

Cue Energy Agency representative Peter Bennich, turning on a an incandescent bulb:

– Well, this is a very nice light source, but unfortunately it uses a lot of electricity. So therefore it will be phased out. 

Then an elderly man in a lamp shop is interviewed while buying incandescent lamps:

– You’re stockpiling?

– Yes, absolutely! These modern lamps are so horrible, strange colours and… 

Clip new picture of lawn mowing.

“Environmental bombs like old lawn mowers and two-stroke engines are allowed but lightbulbs are banned.”

Back to Peter Bennich again (filmed at the Agency in front of a huge flat screen TV):

– They waste so much. It’s like buying 10 liters of milk and throwing away 9 liters every day.

“Only 1/10 of the electricity is of any use in a light bulb, the rest is pure waste. This is what the Energy Agency says.” (Document of the statement is shown.) “And this way we will save 2 TWh, 10% of the electricity in Sweden. This is the equivalent of 80 000 [electricity-heated] private homes they claim.”

– It saves at least 80% compared with the other lamp, says Peter Bennich again (likely referring to the CFL or LED).

“But something has been forgotten….”

Back to the man in the lamp shop:

– I have electric heating at home. The radiators turn on less frequently when I have the lamps lit.

“Lasse is quite right. If a lot of the of the electricity used for lamps is turned into heat, it logically follows that one can just turn down radiators a little instead. Most Swedish houses need heading, during most of the year anyway.”

Back to the Energy Agency and Peter Bennich again to check:

– Is it true that 90 % is pure waste? 

– Yes, that is my opinion. 

“In the Energy Agency propaganda incandescent bulbs are presented as only wasteful.” (A leaflet is shown.) “But the Agency has made their own calculations that show that throughout a whole year, not all but about 50% of the heat from the lightbulb is useful.”

Presented with this undeniable fact, Peter Bennich tries to spin it the other way:

– Well, it turns out then that max 50% of the heat from incandescent lamps are of any use… 

“Oops, earlier it was 10% that was useful. The truth was 50%! Which means that then the 2 TWh savings are not true, and not the other numbers in the information either. For those who want to save energy at home, there are much worse climate villains than the little lightbulb.”

Then the reporter presents Bennich with an infrared heater and a lightbulb, and turns up the heat in his questions:

– If I use this [lightbulb] as a reading lamp for half an hour every day for a whole year except June, or use this [infrared heater] for one evening, which uses most electricity?

Without even a second’s hesitation Bennich replies:

– The incandescent bulb! 

– No.

– Yes, Bennich insists.

“Wrong again. My reading lamp uses 2.7 KWh per year in my example. The patio heater uses 3.6 KWh after only 3 hours!” 

“But”, the reporter seems compelled to add (probably to not get in trouble with his superiors), “if you look at all of Sweden, the ban can still save energy.”

He then lets Bennich get the last word (despite just having proven what that word is worth):

– Lighting uses a very large part of electricity use in Sweden. 

– It sounds as if we are not very good at turning the lights off when not in use?

– Yes! We Swedes are extra poor at turning lights off. 

***  The End  ***

Fascinating, isn’t it?

Note how the Energy Agency representative is extremely careful to use the word ‘electricity’ rather than ‘energy’. That is a very deliberate  and well-coordinated strategy in order to make lighting part sound more than it is, as electricity itself is only a smaller part of total energy consumption.

It’s not a lie but it’s not telling the whole truth either. The largest part of most households’ total energy consumption is space heating (or cooling in warmer areas) followed by water heating. Lighting is only a small fraction of the remaining household electricity. EU average according to official statistics, is less than 3% of total household energy use – of which an estimated 46% was already fluorescent or halogen at the time of the ban (!) according to the preparatory study that was used as foundation for the ban (see my post EU Energy Statistics for details and references).

What is also deceptively concealed is the fact that the largest lighting part of national electricity use is in the commercial, industrial, public building and road illumination sectors, which use the most number of lamps, the highest wattages, and keep them turned on for most of the day or night. And most lamps in these sectors is already fluorescent or gas discharge! Some of them can still be optimised with newer and more efficient lamps of the same or similar lamp groups, better control systems etc, and by being turned off when not in use. That’s where the real savings on lighting can and are being made!

Whereas the private sector lighting use is such a microscopic slice of the total energy pie that it can easily be saved without banning any lamps.

I am sadly becoming more and more convinced that this whole lamp issue is just a diversion to keep us all believing that both we and politicians have really made a difference now by switching a few lamps. The planet is saved and we can all go back to sleep and keep consuming as usual. While the multi-billion-dollar CFL and LED industry is laughing all the way to the bank.

When the truth is that no one wants to rock the boat and start restricting the things that really pollute and deplete resources. Such as petrol-fueled cars & airplanes and the gazillions of electrical gadgets, clothes, trinkets and junk food we’re continuously being prodded to buy more and more of. No restrictions there.


* The Swedish Energy Agency (STEM) has been leading the Swedish part of the global Market Transformation Programme (away from incandescent lamps) all through the 1990s until now. As I reported in The Global Anti-Lightbulb Campaign post, Kalle Hashmi, Executive Officer of Technology & Market Unit at the Swedish Energy Agency, in his Market Transformation Programme paper from 2006 admitted that:

STEM does not necessarily enjoy a commanding or trusted position vis-à-vis the consumers due to previous campaigns launched by STEM during the 90s. These campaigns may be summed as:

STEM engaged in ill conceived, inconsistent and ad-hoc promotions.
STEM did not take into account the consumer perspective but rather concentrated exclusively on energy efficiency and technical issues.
STEM relied indiscriminately on the information provided by the vendors.
STEM was very passive about dealing with CFL technology failures that affected main benefit claims.
STEM did not study, did not know or admit technology limitations.
STEM did not demand or work to establish minimum performance requirements.
STEM never questioned why long life claims were not backed by a guarantee.

And it seems that they’re still at it…

CFL Analysis – Heat Replacement Effect

An incandescent bulb produces about 5% light and 95% heat. CFLs are said to produce 25% light and 75% heat. It is this little difference which constitutes the foundation for all other figures and calculations.

However, as shown earlier, top brand CFLs only give about 3-4 times more light at best, while many CFLs on the market give less light, and proportionally more heat.

Update Aug 2012: updated table.

In cooler climates such as in North Europe or Canada, where it is usually cold and dark at the same time, the “excess” heat from lamps naturally adds to indoor heat and is thereby not necessarily wasted, even if not all of the extra heat affects thermostats enough to lower heating bills or is produced during the heating season.

• A (pro-CFL) study by the Swedish Energy Agency 1998 showed varying results depending on type of house, heating system, thermostat efficiency, season, latitude, amount of direct sunlight etc. [1] “Very roughly [with seasonal variations included] one may expect a net saving of 50% of the lighting savings in a house heated by electricity.” [2]

• According to a British 2003 study, about 60% of the energy from lighting throughout the year in a typical British house turns into useful heat [3] (as 60% of the energy lightbulbs consume heats the building they are in so heating needs increase accordingly) with CFLs saving only 20%. In a follow-up study using thermal simulation software, researchers conclude:

“The findings from this study confirm the earlier conclusions that the HRE is a significant factor and therefore one that needs to be taken into account to obtain realistic predictions of the savings from reducing energy consumption by lights and appliances within buildings.

“In a typical UK house, the cost saving from installing low energy lighting, if the HRE is ignored, will be overestimated by about 19% and the carbon saving by about 67%. It would be reasonable to expect a similar level of overestimation when looking at the potential savings for a large group of dwellings, rather than an individual typical house. Failure to recognise this when performing calculations could lead to wrong conclusions being drawn and, potentially, to wrong decisions being made. [emphases added] [4]

• Recent Canadian studies suggests that actual savings of potential savings depends on season and what type of energy you use for electricity. In some regions it may even be counter-prodcuctive. [5, 6, 7]

“Physics department head Peter Blunden found using CFLs in Winnipeg could cut energy consumption by 67 per cent, “but that’s not the whole story,” he said. “The issue is all the heat that’s thrown off by the incandescents.” Blunden said factoring in heating and cooling changes, Winnipeggers would end up with energy and cash savings of 17 per cent, similar to Manitoba Hydro’s findings. Those who use air conditioners would see savings of around 24 per cent, he said, while cash savings will be a little higher for people who heat with gas instead of electricity.”

Blunden pointed out that lights make up a tiny portion of a home’s energy needs, just three per cent on average. ‘We’re really talking about a very small slice of the energy pie,’ he said.” [emphases added] [7]

• Dr Peter Thornes explains the heating benefit in more detail here: A Heat Benefit and makes the astute observation that it’s funny how the excess heat from lighting seems to be considered a highly relevant factor when it comes to space cooling when it’s too hot, but not when it comes to space heating when it’s too cold, although both are two sides of the same coin! [8]

Debunking attempts:

Faced with these annoying facts, whenever the heat replacement effect is mentioned, CFL proponents have been trained to automatically retort that “incandescent lamps are inefficient to heat houses with.” This argument rather falls on its own ridiculousness as I’m sure no one would dream of turning on a light bulb just to create heat! Lamps are obviously used for lighting houses with, and the extra heat is just an added bonus.

• Another early argument was that the light bulbs “have to be placed under windows” in order to have the same heating effect as radiators in reducing cold draft. But why on earth would one place a light bulb under a window? Drafty houses usually have a radiator there… No one has claimed light bulbs can replace radiators, only complement and decrease the need of some of the heat they give off (a very tiny portion at that).

• With increasing desperation, critics now claim that the heat “only stays near the ceiling” but this is not true either as heat circulates, and most people use floor-, table and desk luminaires besides ceiling- and wall fixtures.

Getting a little extra heat close to where one is sitting is usually an immediate benefit whether themostats register it or not – except during hottest season when it may be a nuisance instead (not a huge problem here in Sweden where the slightly-too-hot season usually lasts about 2-6 weeks and coincides with the little-need-for-light-anyway-since-the-friggin’-sun-never-sets season).

The warmer the climate you live in, the less of a benefit and the more of a problem incandescent heat will be, of course, and it so happens that warm incandescent light is most popular in the cold and dark climate zones and decreasingly popular the closer to the equator you get. Perhaps there is a natural reason for this? Seems like consumers are alredy intuitively drawn to the type of light that is most appropriate for their particular climate, so why regulate with a one-size-fits-all solution that will be an ill fit for many?

1. Studie över spillvärme från hembelysning, Enheten för Energiteknik, 1998
2. Beräkning av energibesparing vid byte till lågenergilampor, Energimyndigheten (STEM), 1998 (Swedish study)
3. Market Transformation Programme: The Heat Replacement Effect (UK study)
4. Thermal modelling of the heat replacement effect and its implication for energy saving programmes (UK study)
5. Benchmarking of energy savings associated with energy efficient lighting in houses.pdf (Canadian study)
6. “Switching off incandescents a no-brainer?”
7. “Compact bulbs not as green as once thought”
8. New Electric Politics: A Heat Benefit


• Lighting only uses around 3% of a household’s total energy consumption.

• Used indoors in cooler climates during the heating season, only a part of nominal savings from switching to CFLs will be real savings, due to increased need for space heating to make up for the heat no longer produced by light bulbs.

• How much depends on many factors such as length of heating season in one’s particular climate zone, house type, insulation, type of energy used in ones region or utility, energy system (e.g. gas, heat pump, electric radiators, water radiators), presence of indoor thermostats and thermostat sensitivity – though nothing stops the home owner from turning down the heat manually if not sensitive enough, and enjoying both the warm light and little extra heat from incandescent and halogen lamps instead (if one needs the light anyway).

• Only in warm climate zones and seasons which require extra cooling do the most efficient CFLs potentially save what they are claimed to save.