Light bulbs? Heavens no, they’re heaters.
October 26th, 2010

Posted under Alpenglow Lighting Design News

If you listen carefully, you can hear my forehead slamming on the desk.


Banning old lightbulbs seems like low-hanging fruit, an easy way to significantly reduce energy usage with little to no loss of lifestyle comforts. But the bulb bans persistently promote protest, and bring out the curmudgeons resistant to change.

European regulators jumped aboard the bulb-ban bandwagon in 2009. Since 1 September of that year, it has been illegal to sell light bulbs that do not meet “eco-design” standards. In short: no more incandescent light bulbs. But a decision celebrated for saving enough electricity to power a small country has met its match. The incandescent bulb is back. But this time it’s not a light. So what is it?

It is Not a Light, It’s a Heater
The incandescent bulbs back on the European market are offered for sale at a German website,, that delivers Europe-wide. According to the Heatball website: Heatball is the “best invention since the lightbulb. Heatballs are technically similar to incandescent bulbs, except that they are not intended for lighting, but for heating.”

Are they serious? Dead serious. It appears the bulbs are selling so well, that the orders page warns of delivery delays due to strong demand.

How do they live with themselves? Well, the matter is more complex than first meets the eye. Allegedly, Heatball is more than just a marketing gimmick aimed at people who lined up to hoard 100 Watt bulbs before they faded into oblivion.

First, Heatball donates 0.30€ from every bulb purchased to projects for the protection of the rain forest. (Conscience compensation?) Second, Heatball aspires to be “protest art”. The home page elucidates:

“A Heatball is an electrical resistance, that serves to heat things up. Heatball is Protest Art. Heatball is resistance against regulations that are enforced outside of all democratic and parliamentary procedures, reducing citizens to wards of the State. Heatball is also a resistance against the disproportionality of measures to protect the environment. How can someone honestly believe that we can rescue the global climate by using energy-saving light bulbs, and simultaneously allow the rain forests to wait decades in vain for protection.”


Could Heatball Help?
And there is one final question: could the Heatball concept help to kill the incandescent bulb? Could the ironic suggestion that incandescents are more suited to heating than to lighting finally convince the consuming public that the waste of energy is real?

We seriously doubt it. The truth is not hard to find: lighting consumes a large percentage of electrical supplies, for example. The amount of mercury (which can be recycled) in compact fluorescent lightbulbs is less than the amount released from generating the added electricity needed to power incandescents. And heating with an electric lightbulb is not efficient.

More to the point: Heatball is selling lightbulbs. Not art. There are better ways to drum up support for the rain forest. And better ways to educate the public, in both peaceful protest, as well as environmental protection. And, well, better art.

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