Archive for Monday, February 7, 2011

Lawrence experts illuminate differences between incandescents and CFLs

February 7, 2011


Linda Cottin explains the differences between compact fluorescent light blubs and incandescent light bulbs

Linda Cottin, of Cottin Hardware and Rentals, talks about the life span and energy efficiency of compact fluorescent light bulbs compare to incandescent ones. Enlarge video

Consumers have options when it comes to compact fluorescent light bulbs

Linda Cottin of Cottin Hardware talks about the different options consumers can find when looking to use CFL bulbs rather than the less energy efficient incandescent ones. Enlarge video

Across Lawrence, more than 1,500 incandescent light bulbs already have been switched out for compact fluorescent lights as part of an intrastate energy competition with Manhattan.

In the Take Charge Challenge competition between Lawrence and Manhattan, residents are encouraged to reduce their energy use. The winning community will receive $100,000 to help fund an efficiency project, money that comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Using compact fluorescent lights is one way to cut back energy use. And while CFLs offer a great way to save money and conserve energy, many people have questions about just how safe and practical they are.

We asked experts in Lawrence to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Do CFLs contain hazardous material?

Yes. On average, a CFL contains about four milligrams of mercury, which is sealed within the bulb’s glass tubing, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In comparison, the amount of mercury is less than 0.01 of the amount found in an old mercury thermometer.

At high levels, exposure to mercury can harm a person’s brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system. In newborns and young children, the mercury can affect the nervous system, which makes a child less able to think and learn.

The risk of a small mercury spill has to be weighed against the amount of energy savings the bulbs provide, said Eileen Horn, the sustainability coordinator for Douglas County and the city of Lawrence.

“In general, all new technology has costs and benefits,” Horn said.

How do I dispose of CFLs?

Just like paint and household cleaners, CFLs should not be thrown in the trash and taken to landfills, said Kathy Richardson, operations supervisor for the city of Lawrence’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Division.

Instead, Richardson said, they can be recycled through the city or at some local hardware stores.

As part of the city’s Household Hazardous Waste Program, residents can schedule an appointment to drop off CFLs by calling 832-3030. In Lawrence, Home Depot, 1910 W. 31st St., and Cottin’s Hardware and Rental, 1832 Mass., also accept household CFLs.

What do I do if I break a light bulb?

Since CFLs contain a small amount of mercury within the glass tubing, if a bulb breaks some of the mercury is released as mercury vapor. The broken bulb can continue to release the vapor until the material is cleaned up and removed from the residence.

The EPA offers these guidelines:

l Before the cleanup, have people and pets leave the room, and air out the room for five to 10 minutes by opening windows and doors. Also, shut off the heating or air conditioning system.

l During the cleanup, make sure you collect all broken glass and visible powder. Place the cleanup materials in a sealable container.

l After the cleanup, promptly place all the bulb debris and cleanup material outdoors in a trash container or a protected area. Avoid leaving any bulb fragments or cleanup materials indoors. To dispose of the broken bulb, contact the city’s Household Hazardous Waste Program at 832-3030.

If possible, continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the heating or air conditioning system shut off for several hours.

If CFLs contain mercury and incandescent lights use more energy, which is better for the environment?

When CFLs break or are improperly disposed of, small amounts of mercury are released into the environment. However, the EPA calculates the amount of mercury from CFLs is far less than the amount of mercury that would be released from coal-burning power plants to provide electricity to the more inefficient incandescent lights.

I don’t like the harsh blue lights that CFLs emit. Do I have another option?

Yes. According to Linda Cottin, of Cottin Hardware and Rentals, technology has come a long way for CFLs. Manufacturers have produced a soft white CFL bulb that emits light similar to an incandescent bulb.

“With the yellow light, you won’t notice too much of a difference,” Cottin said.

Consumers can also buy a bluer light that manufacturers designed to mimic daylight, which is suppose to be more calming and easier on the eyes. Consumers tend to prefer the soft yellow light, Cottin said.

Where can I use CFL bulbs?

Manufacturers of CFLs are making lights that work not only in lamps but for a home’s recessed lighting, floodlights and spotlights. Buyers can find lights of different shapes and sizes for kitchens, bathrooms and outside.

However, manufacturers still have a ways to go, Cottin said. Here are some of CFLs’ limitations:

l CFLs can be used for dimmer lights both inside and outside, Cottin said. But they dim down to about half the full light, as opposed to incandescent lights that can go almost all the way down to dark.

l Manufacturers also have made CFL bulbs for chandeliers. But, Cottin said if the bulbs aren’t covered, they aren’t the most beautiful bulbs.

“Every year we get a little bit better, but we aren’t quite there yet,” she said.

l For outdoor lighting, Cottin said to be prepared for CFLs to take a few minutes to fully illuminate. Most of the time, that shouldn’t be a problem. But because of the slower turn-on time, Cottin doesn’t recommend using CFLs for motion sensors to scare away animal predators.

Do CFLs really save you money?

No doubt about it, CFLs are more expensive to buy. At Cottin Hardware, a box of four costs $9.99. In comparison, a box of four 60-watt incandescent bulbs runs $2.29.

However, the CFL bulbs last for 12,000 hours while the incandescents have a life of a 1,000 hours. Along with having to be replaced far less often, CFLs save a lot in energy costs. In the first year, a CFL can create $6.86 in energy savings, and $37 over the five-year lifetime of the bulb. And, those numbers don’t include the cost of having to buy new incandescent bulbs to replace the ones that have burned out.


CorkyHundley 7 years, 2 months ago

Is the Hawaiian Dude going to "giveaway" free "Hazmat" suits to "every" household in the nation or is his Hawaiian Dudecare going to send cleanup teams into "contaminated homes" for broken "death spirals"?

I'm still chipping away the lead paint in my homes. Thank goodness the government "banned" DDT. I'm just glad I don't live in Africa where millions of children have died from mosquito bites since the ban.

Hope n' Change you knuckleheads

BloodBot 7 years, 2 months ago

Well said! Will the mindless left ever learn? Not likely, we still get a numbskull Democrat for President every 16 years or so...with all the glorious utopia and idiocy where they talk of quotation marks instead of the issues.

Jeff Cuttell 7 years, 2 months ago

16 years? That must be that Fuzzy Math George Jr talks about. Go back and look at the timeline.

Michael Throop 7 years, 2 months ago

“In general, all new technology has costs and benefits,” Horn said -- Ah, got it. If I, or a member of my family, suffers mercury poisoning or other health problem related to mercury exposure, well, that's ok. Collateral damage is acceptable when we are forced by The State to accept that '“In general, all new technology has costs and benefits,”

Locust02575 7 years, 2 months ago

ksfbcoach We had many florescent lights in the labs I attended, and they do your eyes in. They also have been known to cause headaches, or so many people tell me. And they somehow have this strange ability of being able to sap the life right out of you. BY the end of the day, you're dragging!

I grew up in the 70's and learned to turn off lights when I wasn't using them and today I just follow fellow roommates around all night shutting off their lights after they leave common areas in the house cos darn tootin' they haven't done it themselves. What's the point of going green if everybody who espouses it don't really believe in it in the first place, as evidenced by their actions?

The CFL thing is just another swindle, in my opinion. If you ever get a chance, try a reveal incandescent bulb (made by GE, I think). They are less yellow and show truer colors than the typical incandescent. And they're fairly cheap too now, because everyone else has switched over to florescents.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

I hope all of you who are so worried about mercury poisoning have written your local legislators to oppose the construction of coal-powered electrical generation, as it presents a much greater exposure to mercury than CFL's do-- and unless you wear a hazmat suit and respirator 24/7, there is no way to limit your exposure.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"Putting CFL's into our homes (as the growing population continues to demand power /energy) is NOT going to slow the demand for powerplants. "

Actually, that's precisely what it will do. Since lighting makes up around 9% of all electrical usage, it's calculated that switching to CFL's could cut overall usage by up to 7%. Which also means a reduction in mercury poisoning by coal-powered plants by that amount, and even if people are ridiculously careless with CFL's, they won't increase localized contamination by anywhere near that amount.

But I have a feeling you're more concerned with making a political/ideological statement than you are with the mercury in CFL's.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

We switched all of our lighting at home to CFL's some years ago.

Our experience has been positive - they last much longer, the choices as far as color of light goes are sufficient, and they use about 1/4 the energy.

I can't remember any of the light bulbs breaking - I don't know what people do that breaks their bulbs.

Again, the amount of mercury in the bulbs is 0.01 (that's 1 percent) of the amount in a mercury filled thermometer, and the amount of mercury produced by power plants is much more of a concern.

xclusive85 7 years, 2 months ago

The mercury in the thermometer is also in a different form than the mercury in the lightbulbs. The mercury in the lightbulbs is actually methyl mercury. The methyl group attached to the mercury makes this an even more dangerous compound. Methyl groups on the mercury would actually make it easier for the mercury to enter your body through your skin.

average 7 years, 2 months ago

Maybe it's just because I played with liquid mercury as a kid (as did everyone else in my grade school), but what is wrong with you people? One good old T-40 florescent shoplight bulb has as much mercury as a whole damned house full of modern low-mercury CFLs. Yet people don't go ballistic about them.

Chelsea Kapfer 7 years, 2 months ago

I was just thinking about that as scrolled down and saw your post! I did too. it was cool. I am glad I survived. ;)

nobody1793 7 years, 2 months ago

maybe if you hadn't inhaled so much Hg you'd be above average! :)

gphawk89 7 years, 2 months ago

"In comparison, the amount of mercury is less than 0.01 of the amount found in an old mercury thermometer." Is that 0.01% or 1%?

"At high levels, exposure to mercury can harm..." What are considered "high levels"? Levels present in your living room when you break a bulb?

"The risk of a small mercury spill has to be weighed against the amount of energy savings the bulbs provide." Again, what exactly is the risk/benefit? Prescription drugs that benefit millions are pulled from the market because of a few isolated cases of adverse reactions.

"For outdoor lighting, Cottin said to be prepared for CFLs to take a few minutes to fully illuminate. Most of the time, that shouldn’t be a problem." So if I need bright lighting to find something in my cold garage, I can leave the CFL on for five minutes to let it warm up, or run an incandescent for twenty seconds. The CFL's using more energy.

"During the cleanup, make sure you collect all broken glass and visible powder." Collect it how? The EPA states that you should never use a vacuum (or broom, for that matter) to clean up mercury.

Our fertility specialist told us absolutely no CFL's in the house. Given it's detrimental effects during a pregnancy, ANY additional mercury in the home is an unacceptable risk.

I'll wait for LED's. Non-toxic, longer-lasting, lower-power, instant-on. Five years from now CFL's will be considered obsolete.

Don Whiteley 7 years, 2 months ago

With 10,000 street lamps shining in all of our bedroom windows, all night long. With business districts lit up like Christmas trees, whether I replace the few incondescant bulbs in my house makes so little difference that it's totally meaningless to even consider. This is all hype that gets everyone's attention focused on the trivial and away from the real wastage of energy.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

If everybody makes small changes, they add up.

And, why not change what's in our power to change, while also advocating for larger changes?

littlexav 7 years, 2 months ago

jafs, you are far too reasonable to participate on this website!

Locust02575 7 years, 2 months ago

If you ever did any kind of math where some great big number is put beside some infinitesimal amount and the two of them averaged, you'll see that the great big number has the biggest effect on the outcome every time. :) In 2001, I worked for a construction company who put in a wine cellar for one of the richest people on the island (it had two miles of rebar in the cement by the time it was built). He owned ~500 acres on this vacation island, I was told, worth a considerable sum. He had a salt water swimming pool that had water pumped in from the ocean. And it was heated year round by its own heating plant. He was there two or three weeks out of the year. My boss on the project (who grew up in the 60's and was part of the green movement in the 70's) observed: "You know, that guy burns more in one year, just to heat his pool, what I saved in all my years doing conservation". That's pretty sad, isn't it? We do need to do what we can, but I don't know why our quality of life has to suffer if the privileged folks don't. It's ridiculous.

hujiko 7 years, 2 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me how resistant people become to new technologies and will find any excuse possible to hang on to antiquated ways. How many tons of mercury has the human race pumped into the atmosphere via coal burning plants in the past century? So why is it such a big deal if a light bulb contains 4 milligrams?

Be mindful of the risks involved during breakage, and you won't have a problem.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

For the ideologically intransigent, admitting that making any changes might make sense is a slippery slope to other changes. And, unfortunately, "conservative" these days means that all change (unless it's been drawn on Glen Beck's chalkboard and looks a spiderweb built by a spider on acid ) must be resisted, no matter how much sense it might make.

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

Let me get this right. We buy these mini florescence bulbs so that we can maybe arrest climate change. We then have to drive to the bulb recycling center to get rid of them – because they are hazardous. Bet they did not include the affect on climate of all that driving when they decided that these bulbs are required (shortly). Now don’t tell me that I should store them somewhere in my home because they are hazardous and I am going to get rid of them quickly when they die.

On another note about these things, has anybody observed or seen data that suggests that there longevity is not as great as originally sold. They seem to do well in uses where they are operated for longer periods. For uses where they are cycled a lot they seem to fail as frequently if not more frequently than the incandescence bulbs.

From quick research it appears these critters are not manufactured here but to a significant degree in China. Did we just mandate the closure of the last incandesce bulb plant here while demanding we all buy bulbs from China??

Have we been sold another bill of goods by our lawgivers?? It all sounded so great. Unfortunately the homework appears to not have been completed. Now we will admit only grudgingly that maybe this was not the great planet saver originally envisioned??

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

I tend to consolidate my driving errands, so would take bulbs for disposal while doing another errand in the same part of town.

My experience is that they last much longer than incandescent bulbs, if not quite as long as advertised, and we use them for all of our lighting.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"We then have to drive to the bulb recycling center to get rid of them – because they are hazardous.'

As jafs points out, you don't need to rush out to the hazardous household waste collection site every time a light bulb burns out.

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

As I said, I am not keeping a dangerous item in my home because the government wants me to. Add in the costs to get rid of them and I will bet they accomplish nothing other than to made the resident satatist happy. Address the substance of my note rather than offering another solution that puts a burden on me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"Address the substance of my note rather than offering another solution that puts a burden on me."

I did. Is storing a burnt out light bulb for a few days that large a challenge to you? If so, then by all means, don't use CFL's.

BTW, nearly every manufactured item available these days is not being manufactured in this country. That has absolutely nothing to do with the particular technology involved.

parrothead8 7 years, 2 months ago

It's not dangerous if it's not broken. Do you break all your lightbulbs after they burn out? If not, it shouldn't be a problem. There's only an added cost to get rid of them if you plan to never go anywhere near Home Depot or Mass St..

What about all of your other appliances that contain hazardous materials? Are you going to get rid of them, or are they okay because the government isn't telling you to use them?

gudpoynt 7 years, 2 months ago

"I am not keeping a dangerous item in my home..."

George, do you have a gun in the house? Just asking.

Regardless, you may have a (thin) point. But if CFL usage goes up, then demand for safe drop off places will likely increase. I would not be surprised if WalMart soon was listed as a safe disposal location. Grocery stores and Radio Shacks would probably be good future candidates as well.

As soon as you have enough places to drop them off that are "on the way" to whatever else you're doing, the (thin) argument about CFLs increasing consumer automobile pollution falls apart.

It's refreshing though, to hear you voice you concern about elevated levels of automobile pollution.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

My experience is that the longevity of CFL's is not entirely consistent. But on average, they seem to last as long as advertised. And I think budget-priced ones at some of the big-box stores don't last as long as other brands.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

I've been told by an electrician who installs lots of CFL's that the cheaper, bulk-packed bulbs sold at places like Home Depot will generally burn out in 2 years or less. He says there are higher quality ones available that really will last, on average, 5 years or more. Next time I see him, I'll ask him which bulbs to look for, and which ones to avoid.

My own purchasing of these bulbs hasn't been systematic enough to be able to make any recommendation on brands. But in my current house, in which the entire electrical system was rebuilt in a remodel about 2 1/2 years ago, nearly every bulb is a CFL. There are probably 30-40 bulbs throughout the house, and I've probably had 3-4 burn out in that time.

So if they really are as long-lasting as advertised, I shouldn't need to replace many for another couple of years or so. If not, I should see lots of bulbs start going out over the next few months.

I'll try to keep somewhat close tabs on it.

Eric Neuteboom 7 years, 2 months ago

Bozo is 100% correct! It does matter where you buy your light bulbs. The big box stores don't care about quality. All the more reason to buy local. Speaking of, if anyone is interested, please feel free to contact me and I can hook you up!

gccs14r 7 years, 2 months ago

I replaced nearly all of our incandescents with CFLs in 2007 and finally lost one in December, a tulip bulb in a ceiling fan. The ones in the bathroom are cycled regularly and seem to be holding up just fine. I like the energy savings. Right now I'm using less than $30 per month in electricity.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

Um, nuclear power plants are considerably more expensive, and potentially hazardous, than screwing in a light bulb.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

"The real issue is about how we will generate electricity."

No, the real issue is using less electricity. Conservation/increased efficiency is by far the cheapest way squeeze watts from available resources.

And nuclear energy is extremely expensive, which is why no new plants have been built in decades.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

"feed an insatiable demand for energy"

Nice statement of a problem, but perhaps the wrong idea for a solution.

ltljim64 7 years, 2 months ago

........and all this, and not one mention of LED lighting...

makes this like talking the advantages of oil lamps over candles, around 1900.

gphawk89 7 years, 2 months ago

Totally agree. And there actually is one mention of this above.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

For many applications, LED's will certainly become the lamp of choice. But right now, they are extremely expensive, and the payback period too long for most people's short-term budgets. That will change over the next couple years, but CFL's will still be a good option for many applications.

Eric Neuteboom 7 years, 2 months ago

For comparable (energy) savings, CFLs are currently unbeatable. The high purchase point of LEDs - around $50 to $60 - plus their questionable sourcing, is a big drawback to LED's right now. Again, Bozo on the mark!

7 years, 2 months ago

I never knew so many people were so passionate about their light bulbs.

I have been switching to CFL's as the old incandescent burnout over the past three - four years and have only had to replace one CFL b/c I broke it when switching it out for a xmas light....and even though I used caution when cleaning it up I was able to do it with out a hazmat suit.

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

I am about more government intrusion in my life while arguing that intrusion helps the common good but where I am not cerrtain real data sustains that argument

Eric Neuteboom 7 years, 2 months ago

What real data would persuade you? An energy audit? I can provide one for you. Feel free to contact me.

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

I supect the life time data was accumulated by turning them on and letting them run. CFLs do well in that kind of test. When they are cycled frequently I suspect they do not do as well and I suspect tests on cycling may not have been done. Hard to tell because the methodology to support the assertions as to longevity does not seem to be anywhere I can find it. Anybody know better?

Eric Neuteboom 7 years, 2 months ago

All light bulbs, regardless of type, are tested to determine their longevity by running them for three hours on, twenty minutes off, three hours on, etc., until they fail. You are correct, they do not last as long when constantly turned on and off. Simply put, the longer they are on, the longer they last. But beware where you buy them. Your big brand stores don't care if they only last two months, as you've long ago thrown away your receipt.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

Again, we use all CFL's in our house.

That means we use them in light fixtures in all rooms, and in the outside light - so they're used as normal bulbs would be.

They all last significantly longer than incandescent bulbs - years - although I'm not sure they live up to a 7 year span in all cases.

gphawk89 7 years, 2 months ago

Is there something about CFL's that's going to make them last a lot longer than "tube" flourescents (T12, etc.)? Between my basement and two garages I have about as many T12 bulbs as incandescents, and I've had to replace as many or more T12's during the past five years. Makes me doubt the 12K hour figure. Time will tell, I suppose. Personally, I'll wait for LED's. Actually, I'm not waiting - just installed LED under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen. The entire system pulls about 30 watts but is actually too bright - I had to add a dimmer circuit.

pace 7 years, 2 months ago

I have five CFL bulbs in my house for over 5 years. I placed them in hard to reach fixtures when I moved in. None have needed replacing.I now have 10 bulbs in use. I have only broke one bulb of either kind in 45 years of home maintenance..The old fashion bulbs are much more vulnerable to breakage. It is hysteria to say one needs a hazmat suit if one breaks a cfl bulb. follow the guidelines in the article. It seems to be a teapot thing, to lie and distort the truth in debate. I do agree one should know the plus and minus of a product, make the right choice.If I build or remodel, I will go LED where I can. I don't have money to burn, and yes it is a green thing. Win, win, win, don't change bulbs as often, purchase fewer bulbs over the years, pay less to the electric company and reduce pollution by using less energy.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

I remember going to my high school just before school started (early 70's) as they were doing general maintenance before the school year started. The janitor was in the process of changing out 8 ft. tubes that had burned out. He was breaking them in half so that they would fit into the trash can.

As horrific as that sounds, it was probably SOP for a long time-- and may still be in lots of places.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

You seem to be a big fan of mindless environmental destruction. No wonder you like nuclear power so much.

imastinker 7 years, 2 months ago

They are great for certian areas, but have disadvantages. I put them in my basement shop at my last house - about 50 of them. I replaced them quite frequently, they would go bad often. I never got 12,000 hours out of them. I have them in my current house in the bathroom and hate them, the warm up time really screws with me in the morning before I'm awake. They don't come on reliably in very cold weather (below 10F or so).

That said, they are great for fixtures that see a lot of use. I have gone to 100 watt bulbs with them almost exclusively. It's twice the price but they are a lot brighter. They are great in high vibration areas. Anyone still fussing with incandescent in their drop light out to drop one of these in there!

Overall, I have gotten away from using them. I'll point out that the inefficiency is given off as heat - not a waste of electricity this time of year. I'll also add that they don't make much sense in little used areas, like closets or laundry rooms. The electrical consumption from those rooms is so minor you'll never notice it.

JerryStubbs 7 years, 2 months ago

They have these 8 watt (40 watt equivalent) LED bulbs at Home Depot for $17-18. They are excellent, instant on and bright light. The light from these seems very directional. That kind of light sometimes helps you see close work.

CFLs might be a stepping stone to a better technology, but for now they are great for general purpose lighting, especially lighting that is on every night for hours at a time. Use incandescents for closets, etc.

CFLs are lots better for the drop light, they don't 'flashbulb' out if you bump them even when they are on.

They aren't fragile, the glass is lots thicker than on incandescents and some have plastic or glass jackets.

One weakness of any tube light-- they need a ballast or inverter circuit. They get old and either buzz and hum or get yellow and burn out . On the CFL you trash the whole bulb.

Judgesmails 7 years, 2 months ago

If everybody switched, it would make a difference.

i'm calling over-reaction on the mercury.

George_Braziller 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree. The amount of tuna the average person consumes in a year exposes them to more mercury.

mr_right_wing 7 years, 2 months ago

One bonus on these CFLs that hasn't been mentioned yet; if you have one of those little desk lamps that can't handle more than a 75 watt traditional bulb -- you could put in the equivalent of a 300 watt bulb and not even come close to pulling 75 watts. (Or course that's a little extreme, I use the 100 watt equivalent CFL.)

George Lippencott 7 years, 2 months ago

You know what; I have about twenty of the little buggers. Only one has failed and I disposed of it improperly as I was not yet aware of the need for special handling. I put them in areas where I use lighting longer. I believe the last incandesce I replaced was a year ago. It had been in use since I bought the house almost a decade ago. I can not tell how much the little critters save as I have done too many things to reduce my footprint to be able to isolate any one item. I do know that failures are not driving my costs and that the little critters cost more.

I note that no one addressed whether the need to recycle these things actually affects the calculated energy savings? No one addressed real data on performance - all anecdotal. No one addressed the precipitous way we are implementing the new requirement or the need to buy them off shore. Sounds like the true believers drinking deep the cup of their own beliefs.

We did all this for a reason. You would think you would want to know whether the pain is worth the gain. The article suggests it is but really did not provide updated usage data (or frankly any data – just a trust me card) now that they have been in use for a number of years.

Remember ethanol. Great green awaking. Save the planet. Now we question the original data and are backing off the original argument. Lots of money (mine) spent on that excursion and worse we seem unable to turn off the spigot. Are our little critters the next great excursion to come up short? Maybe we could have waited for LEDs? In the interim, there might have been better uses for our money? That thought never seems to rise to a level of consciousness on here??

Pity! Ideology is not a substitute for data and facts - ever!!!

Richard Payton 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm getting a government grant to study cow farts and the effect on the O-Zone. Light years ahead.

Locust02575 7 years, 2 months ago

You'll probably do just as good a job as the people who studied the CFL implementation. Good luck on that.

Stuart Evans 7 years, 2 months ago

CFL's are great. just make sure you check the Kelvins for your application.

Gedanken 7 years, 2 months ago

I really hope everyone doesn't switch. Electric utility companies are one of the few businesses (at least in KS) that are guaranteed to make a profit. I switched to save money. If everyone switches and the electrical company isn't making their guaranteed profits then they will have to raise rates! Let the stupid subsidize the smart! ;-)

Clark Coan 7 years, 2 months ago

I have CFLs but one burned out in a year. Cottin's replaced it for me at no cost. I am waiting for the LEDs which should be cheap enough in 3-5 years. They will be far superior all around.

JerryStubbs 7 years, 2 months ago

Check out this LED bulb. When it's turned on it looks almost exactly like a regular light bulb.

Here's the url if you paste into your address window and hit go you'll see the whole specs:

The EcoSmart A19 8.6-Watt (40W) LED Light Bulb (E) can replace a standard 40-watt bulb. The LED bulb puts out 429 lumens with 8.6 watts of power and can last up to 46 years for extended use. The bulb is designed for indoor use and features an A-line shape and medium base. (E) means this bulb meets Federal minimum efficiency standards.

Light output: 429 lumens Energy used: 8.6 watts Life hours: 50,000 hours Lasts up to 46 years for extended use

Less than $20 w/tax

gphawk89 7 years, 2 months ago

"If everybody makes small changes, they add up."

Well, if truly everybody did so that would be true. But that would have to include businesses, not just individuals in their homes.

If I walk into my workplace after hours, motion sensors light up about 13Kw worth of fluorescent lights by the time I get to my desk, and they stay on for at least an hour. One late night at work swamps any changes I make at home.

Then you take a look at the power consumed producing one batch of steel in an arc furnace and realize that all your conservation efforts add up to basically nothing.

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

Sorry, but I prefer to act in ways that might make a difference, and encourage others to do the same.

You're right, of course, that if we could get truly everybody (including businesses) to be more mindful, we could save much more energy and resources.

But I'll continue to do it myself, and encourage others to do it as well.

sphinx 7 years, 2 months ago

I have LED's that I bought from Sam's club for suprisingly cheap a couple of years ago. They are not very bright so I use them in areas that I don't need a bunch of light. I have yet to replace one and they only use 5 watts each (about 1/2 to 1/3 what a CFL uses0>

JerryStubbs 7 years, 2 months ago

check the reviews on the web site for the LED I mentioned above. They are bright, and only $20

Prairielander 7 years, 2 months ago

I have CFLs in all my basement lights, ceiling fans and some lamps. They work fine and I can only remember one failing (not breaking). I returned it to Westlake and got a replacement. We recycle most everything, including batteries, and I can't imagine that disposing through a hardware store would be inconvenient. The CFLs are slightly larger than the incandescent bulbs and don't fit in all light fixtures so I still use some of the old bulbs which routinely burn out in a matter of months. As I have or want to replace a fixture, I look for something that will accommodate the larger bulbs. All that said, I expect that LEDs will be a significant improvement once the price comes down. On a side note, I have had two fluorescent tube lights in the basement for 20 years and have never had to replace a bulb.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 2 months ago

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JerryStubbs 7 years, 2 months ago

CFLs do burn out sometimes. Sometimes it's the brand, some bulbs don't like being upside down, they overheat. If you put a CFL in a 'can' light, make sure the bulb can take it, they get hotter.

The LED bulbs I bought are probably even a better deal at $20 than a $4 CFL (46 years life vs 7) but some of the LED bulbs have circuitry and that might make them vunerable to heat damage in certain conditions.

The LED lights I bought make everything look better than any CFL I've owned, as far as color.

Jeff Dean 7 years, 2 months ago

I am fairly green, but will no longer by CFC bulbs. They do not last as long as advertised. That being said, I am ready to try the new LED bulbs.

Here is a good list of reasons not to buy CFCs.

Locust02575 7 years, 2 months ago

Great article, deaner! Even addressed some of the stuff I've also seen, but had no explanation for. I have never bought even ONE CFL bulb for myself in my life. I rent and most of the places have CFL's, but I also bring along a floor lamp for when I want to do anything useful, like work on electronics, read a book, pretty much anything I have to see to do where the background lighting isn't like what you find in a bears cave. :)

jafs 7 years, 2 months ago

Well, I didn't see any documentation of those claims.

And, by the time he misspelled "propaganda", he had pretty much lost me.

I know firsthand that the CFL bulbs last significantly longer that incandescents, and use about 1/4 the energy to run. The light they produce is quite comfortable for reading, watching tv, using the computer, etc. There are currently more choices than there were when they first came out.

In many years, I haven't seen any fire problems caused by the very few bulbs that have stopped working.

Locust02575 7 years, 2 months ago

Somebody mentioned that the CFL's made in China and sold at discount stores probably don't last as long as a higher quality bulb. That's probably true. I did maintenance for a big Hostel in the area I live and replaced all incandescents with fluorescents in about 2007. The bulbs came in a huge box and we used all of them up in three years because we were constantly replacing them one after another. Several things may have caused this. 1: sometimes the spiral-type bulbs are very weak where the glass goes into the base and you cause stress breaks down there just screwing them in. That happened to a few of ours, that I could see. 2: Some seemed to be bad right out of the box; suggesting that they didn't come through much of a quality control process. Item #3: I think some of them succumb to high voltage breakdown, as well. We see a lot of black (maybe carbon) in the bottoms of the glass when they fail. I don't think they (at least the cheap ones) stand up too well to high voltage over time.

Other things I noticed using CFL bulbs are, as follows:

  1. They seem to have a flicker rate that tires the eyes over time. We had tons of these overheads in my electronics and computer labs at the Marine institute and I felt physically drained being under them for a three hour lab. I wouldn't want them in my home, if I could help it.
  2. The hostel where I work is actually only seasonal. In the winter it opens up for 5 months as a residence and I live here. I find that where people used to turn off lights at one time because they were cognizant of the energy they were wasting, nowadays people seem to leave every light in the building on! These lights burn energy over time and if you want to realize any savings, you don't just leave them on any longer than you would a normal bulb; otherwise, where is the savings? But nobody mentions this phenomenon.
  3. My friends house almost caught fire the other night because of a couple of these things blowing sparks out of them when he switched on the overhead lights. He replaced all his lights with florescents but didn't realize they don't work well with dimmer switches (meant for incandescents). It means that you either have to upgrade to a much more costly dimmer or use a straight through switch and no dimming.
  4. We have to pay to have garbage toted off this island. At one time it cost $1.00/bulb to get rid of the big florescents. I think they charge something for the small ones too. Probably more than we paid for them. They get you coming and going. :) And you almost have to hire a hazmat team if one breaks.

All that stuff reminds me of Al Gore going on about being green and then owning shares in companies that stand to benefit from cap and trade which will change nothing about the carbon output. Big polluters will simply pay more to pollute and pass the "savings" on to us. I'm shaking my head here. But with all the "savings", we can buy cheap florescent bulbs made in China. :)

Locust02575 7 years, 2 months ago

I'm continuing from what I said above:

So what do I do? I use good lighting in places where I can afford to. For instance, I use "Reveal" incandescents (color temp somewhere around daylight) in my room around my computer desk and I switch them on when the light seems inadequate from the overhead CFL's; and I don't leave them burning when I don't need to. And we use CFL's (in quantity) in places like the kitchen because I might need my eyesight a few years down the road. (I helped install these light fixtures three years ago so I made sure there were plenty because I knew what was going in there).

We have six two-bulb fixtures in the kitchen area. Based on a 15 amp circuit (apx 1800 watts), if someone put in 12 incandescents at 100 watts each, this would still only be 1200 watts (well under what the circuit could handle). Switching out with the equivalent CFL (13 Watts) means we only use 156 watts when the lights are in operation; significant savings over the 1200 watts, assuming someone actually turns them off once in awhile. We're paying ~12 cents/kilowatt hour here (soon to go up to 22 cents when Cape Wind comes online - that's green for ya!) , so it takes 6.4 hours to burn a kilowatt with these bulbs in this one circuit. So they do save significantly in the long run, provided you use high quality bulbs and you turn them off as attentively as your would a high wattage bulb.

When better lighting sources come out, such as the LED, if they get cheap enough to use, I'd consider buying them... as long as they put out enough Lumens to see by. Otherwise the politicians will be laughing at us behind our backs over that too. Because I would almost bet you that anybody in this country who can afford it do not use florescents because they are such an inferior light source. Personally, I think one of those Coleman lanterns (with the mantle that glows white hot) produces better light! :) Used one of those in a fishing cabin for many summers. Anyway, good luck with finding the right lighting.

lightingwizard 7 years, 2 months ago

CFLs are a product that requires some thought to buy and use. Short life could indicate 1) too much heat which would occur in an enclosed or unvented fixture, 2) a cheap lamp, 3) on for 15 minutes or less, and 3) electrical surges or high voltage. The most common cause for short life is use in enclosed fixtures including recessed cans. High and low temperature CFLs are available, ask your supplier. Buy a major brand for best quality (GE, Philps, Osram-Sylvania). Always install and remove CFLs by holding the base. The glass can break if too much pressure is applied. Always check Kelvin (incandescent equivalent is 2700 to 3000 Kelvin) and CRI (CRI 80 or greater is best). Kelvin measures color of light and CRI measures the ability of the light to reproduce colors. If you are older or doing detail work, try 4100 Kelvin or 5000 Kelvin. Always check lumen output. A 26 watt CFL replaces a 100 watt incandescent and both produce about 1700 lumens. Do not use CFLs in fans, or garage door openers, the vibration will snap the cathode inside the glass. Try the Reveal CFL from GE if you like an enhanced color that makes people look good and reading easier. Reveal will look less bright and will take longer to reach full output. You may need a higher wattage Reveal than the package recommends. The 100 watt and 95 watt incandescent will be discontinued beginning in 2012. The replacement will be a 72 watt halogen incandescent, or a 26 watt CFL. There is no LED replacement at this time. Philips and Sylvania have introduced a 12 watt LED replacement for the 60 watt incandescent (which will be discontinued in 2014). They are the Philips Endura and the Sylvania Endura. Cost varies from $ 40.00 to $ 55.00 each. These are best used in hard to reach places, anywhere there is vibration, or cold, and anywhere a 10 to 20 year life is needed. The DOE site says there are about 900 million 60 watt incandescents in use about 700 hours a year. Replacing all of these with a 12 watt LED would provide enough power for 17 million homes. CFL reflectors have limited use, they do not provide equivalent light output to a PAR halogen. PAR LED lamps are available but the price is high. LED lamps tend to be heavy. Many sockets cannot support them. Again, ask your supplier for recommendations. CFL dimmers are available from Lutron, Leviton, and others. These allow dimming to 20% of light output. Finally, if a price is too low for a CFL and LED, be wary. CFLs are running $ 4- to $ 10- each for better quality and for packages with 4 or 6 lamps. Utility subsidized CFLs are often less though quality varies a lot.

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