Compact Fluorescent Bulbs…a blogging effort
Influential writer Seth Godin posted How many bloggers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? and invited other bloggers to describe their view of compact fluorescent energy-saving bulbs. Why have these bulbs not caught on, Seth wondered aloud? Good question…I offer my thoughts and, not surprisingly, I decided to do it from a Lean perspective.
First, I went to gemba, the actual place where the action happens. On my way home from work, I bought a CF bulb, to experience it for myself. Then, knowing we had extended family coming over for supper, I emailed my wife that we’d have a discussion over dinner about CF bulbs. She was thrilled. When I got home, I then installed the bulb in a lamp on my bedroom dresser, where a conventional incandescent bulb had just burnt out.
What did I learn?
First, the bulb is expensive. I paid $4.82 for a single 60W-equivilent bulb. The purchase broke a $10 bill. I probably could have had 8 regular bulbs for the same price at the same store.
Second, the package labeling was intimidating. There was much fine print on the back, with dire warnings about mercury contamination. It made the bulb seem complicated.
Third, each of our dinner guests had opinions about the bulb…many of them negative. Chief amongst them was the cost, the lack of quick recognized savings and the harsh hue from a fluorescent bulb. As Don put it, “I spend all day at work under fluorescent bulbs…I don’t want to come home and to more of the same!”
Mercifully, the conversation then shifted to the grandchildren and whether any more are on the way.
Though others grew tired of talking about CF bulbs, I further examined this myself. I installed the bulb in our bedroom and stood back to look at it. Not as bad a hue as I had feared. In a small light fixture, under a lampshade, it really looked OK.
So why haven’t CF bulbs caught on? My thoughts from my observations today.
The energy savings of CF bulbs are clear. The cost is intimidating. Isn’t this a business opportunity for someone with a Lean design perspective? To set a retail price target of, say, $1.00 for a bulb and then set out to wring waste out of the process to meet that aggressive target?
And what about the consumer? Many enthusiasts feel that we should buy CF bulbs because of the “cause” of energy savings. That won’t carry the day for widespread acceptance. The bulb has to be cheaper. A strong customer focus could help this…probably better design wouldn’t hurt either…the bulb doesn’t look like what we think of when we say “bulb”.
It is a tough sell to take hard cash out of my wallet to buy the bulb and then hope that small decreases in electric bills that don’t go back into my wallet will come, distantly, on some future day.