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Candles are Ten Times Worse for the Environment than Lightbulbs

I know, I know, incandescent light bulbs are the cheap cialis pills devil. The fact that any of us still use this antiquated technology is a testament to our stupidity as a species...BUT!

It's actually far more efficient than any other light source from Edison's day. A 40 watt light bulb produces about as much light as 40 candles. If you burned 500 candles instead of using a 40 watt light bulb, you would be burning several gallons of paraffin (refined from crude oil) per day, resulting in about 10 times more CO2 emissions.

Of course, we don't burn 40 candles. We burn one or two or three. So, yes, paraffin candles are not a significant polluter. When I switch off my lights this Earth Hour, and light my candles, I will be replacing 12 watt CFL with three candles. The result, honestly, will be about neutral. The candles will produce a little bit more CO2 than would be produced by the CFL. (thanks, by the way, to enochthered for doing all the math for me.)

The big difference is the amount of light I'll have to work with. With just my candles burning, chances are my wife and I will have a hilarious dinner in which we can't find the forks, and then we'll try to read our books without enough light to actually read them and then, probably, we'll find some darkness-related activity to entertain ourselves.

And yes, that sounds lovely, but the candle is not saving any energy, it's just making the world a little softer for one evening. And, hopefully, it will remind us of the gifts that technology brings us, so maybe we can not take them for granted quite so much.

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Comments (33)Add Comment
written by Tom, March 25, 2009
Would most candles in Edison's day not have been made from tallow or another Bio-oil rather than from paraffin?

(I'm not sure myself for Edison's day specifically, but you see my point...)
Earth Hour Is Silly
written by Bucky, March 25, 2009
I'm a great fan, Hank, but you are way off in your comments about Earth Hour and the link for you buy cialis now energy and carbon savings. Turning off your lights for an hour and lighting candles instead is not neutral -- you are actually adding more pollution. That's because the big bad utility company that produces your electricity isn't going to shut down any generating capacity for that one hour you've got your lights off. They are going to be burning the same amount of fossil fuels as they always do to produce the same amount of electricity that they always do at that time of generic levitra vardenafil the day on that day of the week for those weather conditions. You'll realize a few cents of savings perhaps, but you won't be helping the environment any.

Earth Hour is a joke. You'd be better off spending that hour using some electricity to send emails to everyone in congress about the need for renewable energy in the US.
written by Bobbi, March 25, 2009
There are, of course, myriad other factors to consider when choosing between lighting a candle or flicking a switch: what's the candle made out of? local beeswax? Petroleum-based paraffin? does the try it usa cialis wick contain lead? How cleanly does the flame burn, is it scented, and therefore how many carcinogenic particulates are released? Add to that concerns about the lightbulb: was it made with an effort to minimize mercury, or does it have high levels? How will you dispose of it when it burns out? And about the electricity source: toxic and polluting coal? Hydro? Solar?

I appreciate the caution about candles for both the reasons you list and only best offers buy real levitra online those I added. Even if they were equal in terms of carbon footprint, being green has many facets!

Umm.. 500 vs 40?
written by Damo, March 25, 2009
The article explains that 40 candles == 40w light globe, but then says that 500 candles release 10x more CO2. So don't burn 500. Just burn 40. By your math, that would release roughly the same amount of CO2. Or did I miss something here?

But that's all besides the point. And I think that all the commentors have also missed the point as well. Just like Priuses aren't the most fuel efficient cars around, they're still good because they instill "greenness" into people's psyche. This provides a flow-on effect for other things they do. That's the effect that Earth Hour is after.
written by jefferson, March 25, 2009
hello, history much? candles were used for hundreds of years before edison -- wax / tallow candles, btw -- & people did more than fumble around in the dark. ever hear of a guy named galileo? how about kepler? newton? not to mention shakespeare, thomas jefferson, leonardo da vinci, the list goes on. if the only thing you can think of tramadol 180 buy to do by candlelight is have sex, you're not thinking very hard.

also, these days you can easily buy beeswax or soy candles at major stores & websites, so you don't need to use paraffin. tiny bit of research could have shown you that. & lead has been banned from candle wicks made in the u.s. for years, look it up.
@ jefferson
written by Icari Vogor, March 26, 2009
This site doesn't let facts get in the way of ideology. Should be called EcoTard.
That's right Bucky
written by Chris, March 26, 2009
The power companies will still be generating their base load supply to the grid. Whatever isn't used for that one hour will be simply diverted to ground.

I would prefer not to be wasteful and instead use that energy for something constructive. Like to cook my dinner or to watch the evening news (Who am I kidding? I'll be playing video games).

At least Earth Hour is good for raising awareness.
More research please
written by Hendrik M, March 26, 2009
Haven't read such a badly researched piece in a while. If you want to use candles, use the mentioned besewax, soy or stearin candles, all are env. friendly and have zero emissions - if we don't count that for stearin candles some rainforests might be cut down, but in that case just get the local option, beeswax candles. Next time, do some more research please.
It's the idea...
written by hyperspaced, March 26, 2009
It's the idea that counts. The planet is not going to forget all the tortures from us all those years off excess resource consumption by turning the lights off for 1 hour.

Just turn your frakking lights off.

+1 for Damo.
Base load ...
written by Palmer Sperry, March 26, 2009
Surely if there was a reduction in demand due to "Earth Hour" then there would be also be a reduction in supply? Admitedly that reduction wouldn't come from base load, but rather from peaking plants.
Come on...
written by Charlie, March 26, 2009
I'm sorry but shutting off the lights for one hour will just reduce demand on the grid and they will simply turn off the peaking units (typically gas fired or hydro) which are the cleanest. They will continue running the generic viagra super active plus coal and nukes to make sure your nice big american style fridge and extra large hot water heater remain running. I understand that the earth-day will increase awareness but I still think it is BS. How about a cycle to work day instead... or drive your SUV off a cliff day (and yes that will pollute the seas but they are already dead so due to overfishing..)
Missing the Point
written by reileycat, March 26, 2009
I think that the point is being lost here. For me and most of the people I know, Earth Hour is more SYMBOLIC thaN effective. It's a reminder to all of us that our earth is important and that we need to focus on changing our lifestyles. That's the real point, am I wrong?
written by John Rowell, March 26, 2009
Or, you could have fun and use a nice bright solar-charged fluorescent floodlight :D haha
written by TheGeek, March 27, 2009

The first oil well was drilled about 20 years before Edison perfected the electric light. So by that time most people were using Kerosene or Natural Gas lamps for lighting. Which was better then the Whale oil that was the american viagra common lamp oil before Kerosene. Paraffin become common in candle around 1850 when they come up with a way to extract it from coal. Candles as a light source were killed off by Kerosene. Purely electric lighting didn't become common in the US some time in the 1920's before then many light fixtures were a combo of both electric with a gas back up as the electric system was unreliable in its early days.
where does 500 candles come from?
written by Brian, March 27, 2009
I agree with Damo's comment completely. The article says that 40 watt light bulb gives the same amount of light as 40 candles. then it inexplicably says that burning 500 candles would be much worse than a 40 watt bulb. what the hell? what is the reason for comparing 500 candles to a 40 watt bulb? this isn't explained at all and invalidates the whole argument.
Energy efficient?
written by Dex, March 27, 2009
Ben said:
"With few exceptions, the most energy efficient (and CO2-efficient, if you care) method of doing something is the cheapest."


The most energy efficient method of doing something is where the energy released is less than the energy produced in an open system. In this candle example that would mean heating the bees wax by wood stove from trees that grew locally and were harvested by hand. Therefore the conversion rate hinges solely on the efficiency of photosynthesis for the wood produced, for the nectar consumed by the bees for the metabolism of the waxes, and for your food consumption.
How exactly these factors are assigned "value" is irrelevant; so long as consumption does not outpace ecological recycling.
written by Ben, March 27, 2009
Dex, I used the wording "with few exceptions" for a reason.

First off, you are avoiding the problem that the methods you describe have a very large environmental footprint on everything but carbon. Beeswax isn't a free resource. An entire hive of bees labored to make it, and there isn't nearly enough of it in one hive to provide significant light to your home for even a few hours a day on a regular basis. You would need hives with a literal environmental footprint over a square mile wide to make enough wax for sufficient candles. Wood burning is inefficient and requires large quantities of trees. Then, you have to measure the the environmental footprint of the pollution you are giving off by burning the wood (wood is nastier than coal in pollution per recoverable BTU).

Second off, you are forgetting that this is a completely non-scalable solution. Yes, you can live that way, but not everyone can. There aren't enough bees and not enough trees. There is a reason that Italy's glass industry collapsed during the Roman Republic. The forests were wiped out for fuel. You have to consider these things.

I stand by my statement that the cheapest alternative is the lowest CO2 >90% of the time.
The reason solar power is cost effective
written by Carl, March 27, 2009
Candle burning is not a top-ten issue. But look at this another way-- traditional night lighting by candle or more typical, kerosene, is expensive for rural poor areas without electricity. So much so, that several organizations (including Grameen, famous for microloans) can profitably install and lease solar PV and LED lighting for less cost than the kerosene.
written by Dex, March 28, 2009
I just reread my entry and generic levitra usa it sounded a bit harsher than i meant, and i agree that you are right the way of answering the beeswax candle problem i am championing here IS NOT SCALABLE. I think that lack of scalability is something fundamental to all ecology, meaning that all organisms must come to fit their environment, and therefore an optimal "scale" of production/consumption must be balanced.
The example of Roman glass is perfect, when production outstripped the needed fuel source (wood in trees) glass production ended, trees grew back.
If you or your community can not tend enough bee hives or maintain a forest large enough for 8 hours of candle light per house,....then how about for 5 hours,...or three.
Thinking that there is no limits to one side of the equals sign will lead to a collapse no matter what.
Ok, ill stand by my statement that using CO2 as a "value" is irrelevant; what matters is that consumption does not outpace ecological recycling.
hand crack led's
written by JC, March 30, 2009
Instead of lighting up a candle for earth hour I pulled out my hand crank LED lantern. This seems like a good way to have some light if you need it during that one hour.
written by russ, April 02, 2009
One 40 watt bulb = approximately 450 lumens or foot candles - correct?

Then one 40 watt bulb = 450 candles

If this is wrong please correct me.
written by Fred, June 30, 2009
Would never guess candles would be harmful
take for granted...
written by hampers, September 15, 2009
QUOTE: "...will remind us of the gifts that technology brings us..." The more we should love our mother-earth. Technology helps but it can destroy because people tend to take it for granted: overused it.
written by Roger Connor, January 04, 2010
Meaningless ecobabble! The two major reasons civilization uses electric lights is that it's cheaper (cost per hour of equivalent light) and two, it DECREASES HOUSE FIRES!
written by Jack, February 15, 2010
I am so tired of people who are uneducated claiming "its not about being practical, its about raising awareness".

At what point do you actually do things that make a difference rather than just do things that making yourself feel like your part of the solution/green/cool.

The only awareness you're generating is that uneducated people are driving the campaign towards self richestness.

50 years ago there was the same jobless morons with squewed ideology claiming peace and yet threw rocks at vietnam vets.

Today, Hippies live in manhattan and drive preius', because they are still naive/uneducated, somehow now rich and still jobless trying to fit into their "cool" peer groups.

written by Stef, March 08, 2010
I think that is all besides the point of this article. Candles are a good source of light for a small room. Light-globes however are more efficient, thats why we use them. As humans, we aren't stupid, we don't know everything, but we aren't stupid. We will continue to try to find renewable energy source, and light-globes are the best we have until we find one.
PS. You guys are really closed minded, if you think that the US is the only country that counts, from your comments, it seems like it. How about Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Africa [no, not everyone from africa lives on the streets or in slums], China, Japan, India, Europe? This is a global crisis, and the effects hit other countries harder than they do to the US. Its the 3rd world countries that get out of work because they are running out of non-renuable resources. Its Australia who has a hole in the ozone layer right above their heads so despite the killer heat have to wear lots of long clothing and sunscreen because they are afraid of the ever increasing rates of skin cancer. The US might be the worlds strongest super-power, but they're not the only ones that matter.
Earth Hour is only symbolic but counter-argument is FUD
written by Mordd, March 19, 2010
Saying Earth Hour doesn't save any CO2 because the plants will still generate energy is true to *some* extent, although not completely true. However the argument behind it though is FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) based, a clear scare campaign by those producing the purchase female viagra energy to make people think they shouldn't participate in stuff like this.

You can make the same argument by saying there's no point not walking / using public transport / etc.. instead of driving your car, because they will only keep on building more roads for us to drive on anyway. Yes this argument is right on a very crude level, but it ignores the bigger picture completely.

The fact is Earth Hour is largely symbolic, and is designed to teach people that if we can save this much energy in 1 hour, imagine how much we could save all year by using energy more sustainably, in effect.

Also by having big companies participating and turning off huge lighting systems in buildings and usa online pharmacies who sell tramadol big advertising signs etc.. during Earth Hour, it would actually have some effect. I am not an engineer but I know that after the first few Earth Hours here in Australia the power grid usage and load in Sydney for example was examined and yes CO2 was saved and no it didn't involve plants turning on and off turbines thereby wasting more power, again as far as I can tell that argument is also completly FUD based and lacking in scientific factuality.
So let's all switch.....
written by David, March 08, 2012
Yes, lets all switch to LED lighting which uses about 1 tenth the energy and therefore produces one tenth the CO2 of normal bulbs; and much less than candles.
written by Kamranos, November 11, 2012
Your assessment is only on one type of wax and not something like Bees Wax with is 100% natural. Bees wax not only releases no pollutants, but also cleans the air around it. Not just from pollutants but also allergins. Bees wax burns long and recommended site canada cialis no prescription bright with a sweet natural honey smell. I will admit that candles are not as bright as light bulbs, but some people would rather live with less electricity in their lives.
Why is more better?
written by itthing21, January 01, 2013
For me, one candle produces enough light to write, eat, and read by and I don't have the cheap propecia order online best eyes in the world. I also only need to have the light on at night as the sun produces plenty of light for me. I'd say, depending on the time of year, that I burn a single candle for no longer than 5 hours at night. That's during the end of the year and the sun stops producing enough light at 5pm. We all have our preferences of course, so I do whatever you please.
It's like purchasing from Walmart...
written by CC, May 26, 2013
Someone complained that I bought something at Walmart - I forget what - but Walmart is 4 minutes from my house while the nearest "eco-friendly" place is an hour's drive down the interstate. You can't win.
written by James DeVito, December 12, 2013
The greatest works of literature, music, and art were created by candlelight. Not to mention the negative psychological effects of lightbulbs. There's more to benefit analysis than money and the environment.
Seems like a foolish rant
written by Mr. E, May 19, 2014
I'm amazed by the lack of evidence and research not to mention the out right wrong data. While candles are worse for the environment if you are trying to reduce CO2 emissions. Candles do have their plus sides just like an incandescent bulb does at times. A Candle lite dinner wouldn't be the same if it was a CFL lite dinner, trust me I've had one and it wasn't very romantic. Ever try and heat an easybake oven with a CFL or keep baby chickens warm with an LED? The push to ban incandescent bulbs was done without much forethought. Pushing people to CFL? Even the U.S. Government knows that roughly only 2% of all CFL's are actually getting recycled, the majority are ending up polluting landfills with mercury. Is this better Hank?
Also worth noting is the fact the nuclear energy is one of the most cost effective and lowest CO2 energy sources. If an incandescent light bulb was lite with nuclear it would be far better for the environment.

I would be all for a LED revolution in lighting. They are quickly become a viable and next day shipping tramadol competitive option for light one's home. In fact most of the bulbs in my own home are LED but even LED bulbs have there limitations, like they don't work well in high heat locations. If one considers the fact that LED bulbs have only been available as a A-19 replacement option for about 10 years they have made huge advances. They are still working on the color and efficiency because the warmer tones we humans like have a lower Lumen to watt ratio than the higher Kalvin bulbs with have a more blue tone.
Here is a final closing thought, if you want to save energy, how about you shut off your computer which draws a lot more energy than a 100 watt bulb.


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