Energy-saver light bulbs (CFL, compact fluorescent light) aren't very nice. Most of them produce an unpleasant colour of light - often about as inspiring as a frozen morgue on a November morning, with a zombie tapping your shoulder.

They are also slow to start, taking a minute or two before they produce their full, nominal luminosity - which usually is still less than you expected from the sales package. And, CFLs contain mercury, which is poisonous. In most other products, like thermometers, there has been a frenzy to to eliminate mercury, but not with lamps, where mercury is part of the compound that forms the luminous vapor in the tube.

Regular light bulbs are banned because they are "inefficient", i.e. consume electricity and produce heat, which in Southern Europe is then removed by air conditioning, which consumes even more electricity. But this inefficiency doesn't really matter too much in Finland, because it is almost always heating season here - except for the middle of the summer, say June to August, which is the season when you don't really need light bulbs. So, whenever we want to use light bulbs, the energy is wasted to a lesser degree than elsewhere.

Nevertheless, the EU has banned regular light bulbs, even though for many of us, they would continue to be the best alternative in some applications.

But fortunately the free market still has some innovativeness: in Germany, a new product called "heatballs" has arrived on the market.

Of course, they are exactly the same as the old light bulbs, but as they are marketed as heat bulbs, they are not banned. After all, they work just like electric heaters - which are still allowed, of course, because the pact of light bulb manufacturers could lobby on legislation allowing them to sell CFLs, but not replace the whole of heating infrastructure in Europe. And, in addition, the heat bulbs produce some light, with a pleasantly coloured spectrum.


Note: I don't think CFLs are totally bad. For instance, at my home, all the outdoors lights are CFLs, except one (at the side entrance where it needs to light up instantly when the IR sensor turns it on). However, I find it strange that the recycling has not been arranged at the cost of CFL manufacturers and importers, as you would expect. Now most of the hazardous material ends up in landfills.

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