If energy needs to be saved, there are good ways to do it.
                                                               Government product regulation is not one of them

Sunday, February 5, 2012

We want to shed more heat than light!

There has been more activity around the "Heat Balls" of late, that is, the German attempt to circumvent the EU light bulb ban law by importing and selling the incandescent bulbs as heating devices - more on the background of it below. Most of their information is in German, but those who want can use for example Google site and text translation.

Recently, a large bulb shipment that had been declared illegal was released from impoundment at customs.
More about that seizure can be read in the English language Local.de article of about a year ago
In what was meant to be a humorous protest of the European Union’s phaseout of conventional bulbs, DTG Trading owner Siegfried Rotthäuser ordered 40,000 of them in November from China. He intended to skirt regulations by selling the 75- and 100-watt strength bulbs as a source of heat for what his website calls a “resistance art project.”

However, they can't sell those ones, as they are still subject to the court decision against them (as described before).
They are nevertheless selling some lower wattage bulbs - 60W clear type for 1.69 euro each including a 30 cent rain forest charity donation, plus postage charges.
[Not sure even that is entirely legal, as regular 60W bulbs are banned from 1 Sep 2011 (EU technical specs, scroll to end), and they do not appear to be a possibly exempted "rough service" types which may last longer, but are dimmer.]

They recently answered a customer enquiry this way:
"You can (at this time) order 60W crystal only, other types are banned by the local government. The expected life time was 2000h, but realistic is about 1500h."

As for the legal situation,
the EU Commission have further clarified their opinion on the matter.
Their basic position was made clear a year ago.
It's all in German and image-copied, so no online translation.
However it is the usual "Hey we all save the energy of Romania" carry on (the Romanians must be very happy by now!) so not really worth wasting time on anyway...

That said, as also reflected in the original court decision, one point related to the necessary labelling of the bulbs as being "unsuitable for lighting".
There is a kind of trap the EU is falling into, as they themselves have pronounced the lamps as unsuitable for lighting.
So the Heatball people sought clarification on this, and the EU Commission in a November 2011 letter (in German) says they are right, that the labelling would legalize the bulbs under EU legislation 244/2009 Article 3 paragraph 2.
As always there is a proviso, in that the Commission suspects that in their legal quest the Heatball people will still have to show that the bulbs will not likely be "misused" as lighting, and that the Heatball company's own (current) promotion language in selling the bulbs would likely be taken into account in that regard.

The Heatball "user info" is taking the above into regard, and again emphasizing the overall environmental benefit of the lamp. The latter is also taken as shown by referring to Dr Peter Kosack's Kaiserslautern University research (in German) comparing infra-red with conventional room heating, and the relative advantages of the former....from the research findings:
It was shown in the present study, that infrared radiation heating is a viable alternative to conventional heating systems.
With proper use of infrared radiation heating, there are advantages in energy consumption as well as in lowered CO2 emission and overall cost.
[as seen from other incandescent related heating studies, the CO2 reduction is particularly noteworthy when the electricity source is low in C02 emissions, eg nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, solar, and in turn displaces oil/gas/coal/turf/ home heating]

So, 28 January 2012, in the latest Heatball newsletter...
"The Higher Administrative Court in Münster will hopefully express an opinion in the near future, paving the way for the pending trial before the administrative court in Aachen."

A new cooperative:
They have also started cooperative for those who want to get lamps not meeting EU standards.
This is also "in the field of education on the topic of light and heat" and aims to get "more weight in the political debate" .

A continuing art-environmental protest:
So, rather than being a commercial activity, the founders, engineers Siegfried Rotthäuser and Rudolf Hannot continue to emphasize that in their view it is a sort of art-environmental protest against pointless EU laws. As they said last week:
"Heatball is a kind of art. It a satiric project against undue laws.
The project shows how to do something for the rainforest quite easily."
An early Reuters article by Michelle Martin, October 2010,
also points this out...
German "heatball" wheeze outwits EU light bulb ban

(Reuters) - A German entrepreneur is bypassing a European Union ban on light bulbs of more than 60 watts by marketing his own brand as mini heaters.

Siegfried Rotthaeuser and his brother-in-law have come up with a legal way of importing and distributing 75 and 100 watt light bulbs -- by producing them in China, importing them as "small heating devices" and selling them as "heatballs."

To improve energy efficiency, the EU has banned the sale of bulbs of over 60 watts -- to the annoyance of the mechanical engineer from the western city of Essen.

Rotthaeuser studied EU legislation and realized that because the inefficient old bulbs produce more warmth than light -- he calculated heat makes up 95 percent of their output, and light just 5 percent -- they could be sold legally as heaters.

On their website (heatball.de/), the two engineers describe the heatballs as "action art" and as "resistance against legislation which is implemented without recourse to democratic and parliamentary processes."

Costing 1.69 euros each ($2.38), the heatballs are going down well -- the first batch of 4,000 sold out in three days.

Rotthaeuser has pledged to donate 30 cents of every heatball sold to saving the rainforest, which the 49-year-old sees as a better way of protecting the environment than investing in energy-saving lamps, which contain toxic mercury.
A German 2010 article has further background information.

They were also part of the Austrian film Bulb Fiction, highlighting some of the faulty arguments and industrial politics behind the EU ban (I have been meaning to do a separate post about the film).

Here are "all the lads" behind the two ventures...

Rudolf Hannot (Heatball), Christoph Mayr (Bulb Fiction), Siegfried Rotthäuser (Heatball),
and Moritz Gieselmann (Bulb Fiction)

More photos in this Austrian Film photographic archive, and video clip links etc.

# # #
Past blog posts about Heat balls are copied below for convenience
[Some of the above 2011 information was not made available earlier]
# # #

Update December 14 2011

As the USA ban is coming up, and continuing with a comparative look at how Europeans have thought up ways around the regulations, the attempt to sell 90% heat emitting products as "heat balls" was interesting and imaginative.

Needless to say, the legal heads were not amused...

They have for the last months been considering an appeal in a higher court and how to go about it.
Meanwhile, in September they tried to have the Heatballs sold in Switzerland (outside the EU) but in October this got a definite no from the Energy ministry official responsible for Energy Efficiency legislation.

# # # # # # # #

Update July 27 2011:

As expected, the decision yesterday (26th July) was that the "heat balls" can not be allowed, in also being a source of light as banned by specifications throughout the European Union
(the name "heat balls", also using English in Germany, was presumably to take away from the light "bulb" idea). More here.

The case was not altogether clear however: So-called "rough service lamps" as used in mines and other such locations are also incandescent lighting as banned in the EU specifications, and there are other exemptions as for small refrigerator lamps and the like.

The issue therefore turns around lighting used as GLS (general service lighting) in ordinary ceiling fittings etc.
So the prospect of, in practice, identical general service lighting being continued was obviously too much:
There might have been (= might be) more chance of success if the light bulbs had a specific screw-in fitting for a lamp with say a reflector in it to "beam the heat".
Of course, enterprising (and determined) people would then put such fittings also in other lamps, but that is another matter...

# # # # # # # #

June 28 original post

Siegfried Rotthäuser and friends in Germany have imaginatively tried to get round the European ban on regular simple incandescent bulbs by marketing them as "Heat Balls" (more).
This is a sop to the frequent ban defence relating to the fact that incandescent light bulbs give out over 90% of their electrical energy they use as heat (nevertheless being much easier to manufacture, when great brightness is required, compared to CFLs or, even more so, compared to LEDs).

The case has gone to the courts for decision, expected 26 July 2011, see announcement (pdf, in German)

Interesting legal argumentation might be expected in court...
a heat ball or rather "heat bulb" market idea to be followed in the USA and elsewhere?

As for light bulb heat "waste", it is often conveniently forgotten that CFLs and LEDs also convert most of their energy use to heat, although the heat is internalized more - in the case of CFLs leading to a recognized fire risk.
More on incandescent light bulb heat, and it's possible benefit here (http://ceolas.net/#li6x)

// end June 28 post
Regular update posts in this blog, search on "heat balls" //

"To shed more heat than light", for those who do not know, is an English expression meaning to stir up emotions (heat), cause controversy and confusion that makes an issue less clear...
"EU Commission": More politically correct "the European Commission", but I do not subscribe to their nomenclature (or much else that has to do with the EU, for that matter)


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