It’s not always easy changing a lightbulb

Last weekend I went in to a Woolworths store to pick up a new lightbulb. While I was marvelling at the shelves of bulbs for indoor and outdoor use, nightlights, insect repellent globes, and ultraviolet party lights, a lady came in to the aisle and asked me if I knew anything about lightbulbs. I said I knew a little and I asked her what she needed the lightbulb for.

She told me she wanted a replacement 100W bulb for her kitchen light because the old bulb had blown but she didn’t understand these new ones at all. I pointed out to her that the boxes displayed the new watt vs the old watt so for instance some boxes showed “20 watt = 100W” and the bigger number indicated the old system. She was impressed by this information but pointed out that the numbers were small and hard to read because she didn’t have her glasses on.

I asked her if her bulb was the type that you screw in or that you push in and turn a little. She was sure that it was the latter so I looked for bayonet-based bulbs. I showed her some 100W-equivalent spiral and tube energy saver bulbs but she told me she wanted it to look like her old one.

Next I found her some bulb-shaped energy savers but I couldn’t find any equivalent to 100W – whether they were out of stock or whether they don’t make that strength in the bulb shape I couldn’t guess for her. Certain that she wanted a 100W bulb, she thanked me for my help and said that she’d try a hardware store where they have a bigger range.

It was disappointing that I couldn’t help her find the right bulb, but looking at the box I bought and one I bought from Coles a year or two ago, a few things strike me:

  • the old watts aren’t easy to notice or understand (especially considering they now sell energy savers shaped like the old incandescent globes).
  • the space on the packaging for energy efficiency information overwhelms some of the other product features.

Apart from a want for energy efficiency, my deciding factors when buying lightbulbs include:

  • how bright it is – for different rooms I like different strengths of light (and I still refer to the old watts)
  • the colour – in some rooms I prefer a crisp clear light, in others a subdued light
  • the fitting – I have a mixture of screw and bayonet fittings in my ceilings and lamps

Especially during this transition time where Australia has ceased the import and sale of most incandescent bulbs and some people are buying energy efficient globes for the first time, products should not neglect to help people relate the new with the old while also helping them to make their choices based on all the factors that matter to them.

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