Monday, February 13, 2006

The dark side of light

light bulbs, consumer fraud,
scams, Westinghouse,
Eco Light, Ecolite

If you were to set out the requirements for a perfect scam, I think you'd come up with something like:
  1. Must be easy to find victims -- almost anyone could be one.

  2. The victim would not know they'd been scammed and,

  3. If a scam were suspected, the victim wouldn't come after you.

If these were your requirements, I think I've discovered an ideal candidate for you, except that it's already being run: Long life light bulbs That link, by the way isn't the scam, it's simply to inform you about the product which is being used.

Why is this such a good candidate for a scam?

  1. Almost everyone uses light bulbs.
  2. The cost is relatively low, even though the Long Life Economic Light bulbs cost at least 5 or 6 times a normal light bulb.
  3. The projected life span of 3000 to 6000 hours or more is such a long time span that it is almost unlikely that anyone would track their usage.
  4. If someone did discover that there was a shorfall in the life span, the actual value which might be recovered is so little that for all the time an effort required the victim wouldn't be likely to even attempt to make a claim.

I happened to stumble across this because I recently moved into a new house and installed several of these low cost long life bulbs. Because there was a large surface at the base of the bulb I noted the date of installation.

Two of these bulbs (different economic brands "Eco Light" and "Ecolite" )went into an area which were used a maximum of one hour daily.

The first was rated at 3,000 hours life and by my estimates received no more than 330 hours of use before it needed to be replaced. The second, was rated at 3 years life and need to be replaced after 7 months.

I have another bulb, a Westinghouse bulb, which is rated at 6000 hours life which is still operating, but at 1 hour useage a day, it will be more than 16 years before I know whether or not it has lived up to it's rating. Chances are that even if I live that long, I'm still not going to have the original proof of purchase which may be required in order to request a refund.

Although the first two bulbs obviously didn't live up to their claimed ratings, the one which lasted 330 hours would have only needed to operate a few more than 400 hours for it to work out as being more economical than the standard 60 watt bulb it replaced if you take into account it's higher initial cost together with the 15 watt power consumption it had.

So, perhaps these long life bulbs are still a better value than their counterparts which they replace, but it seems that the low cost, unknown brand varieties are certainly not living up to the claims which they make on their labeling.

Whether the big reputable brands like GE, Philips, and Westinghouse will fare any better is still in doubt to me, and since their initial cost seems to be about 3 or 4 times more than the cheaper versions, it still seems risky to believe that they will result in any substantial savings to the user.

So, if you're going to try these long life low power bulbs, be forewarned that you might not get what you are expecting.

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