Change to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

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  This is a tip seen everywhere these days, but it really is one of the easiest green changes you can make. Here is an article from last year discussing these in depth, and another that talks about the mercury in the bulbs. The cost of these bulbs has come way down. In 1998 the cost of a single 25 watt CF bulb was about 35.00. Keep your eyes open for deals since, with special pricing and utility rebates, today you can buy a package of CFLs at a cost of less than $1.00 per bulb. The bulbs use 1/4 the energy of incandescent so can now pay for themselves in energy savings within the first month or two. Because they last up to 5 years, they are ideal for hard to reach light fixtures.

Although the flickering common with early models of CFLs has been largely eliminated, the rare person can still be sensitive to the light from these bulbs. For this reason, if you are one of those folks, they might not be the solution for all fixtures. For example, you might not want to use them in the lamp beside your reading chair.  TO learn everything there is to know about CFLs, visit OneBillionBulbs.com.  They even have a link in their sidebar with the steps to take if you break a CFL.

The CFLs do need to be recycled because they contain a small amount of mercury. This is my biggest concern about these and the main drawback to their widespread use. Unless there is a real easy way to recycle them, several years from now when the first of them need to be replaced, most people will just toss them in the trash. This issue needs to be addressed. Unfortunately right now the focus is on getting them into every home, not on what to do with them years down the road when they start to burn out. Unfortunately, there may never be a real solution that gets the majority of these bulbs recycled. Just as in the manufacturing of any product, the best approach is to not use hazardous compounds in the product in the first place.

The best option in lighting technology is LED bulbs. I really hope these become widely available over the next few years. Here is a site that sells LED light bulbs with pricing ranging from approximately $15.00 to $60.00.  There are many other places that sell them now, but they will be more practical in the future when the price comes down or they start to receive some of the utility rebates now enjoyed by CFLs.  Unfortunately, the hard truth is that for now, LED light bulbs are prohibitively expensive for most uses.

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Will Sig
1 Abhinav Sood

I use two Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs in my room than a single incandescent tube light. They save power and are cost effective.
Apart that, light now comes from 2 opposite walls rather than from a tube on one wall, so it helps me to study without straining my eyes as in the shadow cast on the book when using a single light source.

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2 Mike Touch

They help save the environment, but they hardly produce a good atmosphere. The light they give off is rather dull which I feel is the main reason most people aren’t switching to more energy efficient light bulbs!

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3 Jennifer Robin

We’ve actually gotten most of our bulbs for free. Home Depot frequently has coupons from local power companies that allow you to buy the bulbs for tax only. They come in so many different sizes; there’s no reason not to switch anymore. I feel the quality of light is every bit as good, but they can seem a little dull at first because they come on low and then brighten up within just a couple of minutes. I’m willing to suffer a minor inconvenience to help conserve power.

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4 Will

You can’t beat free! I find that some take longer to warm up than others. Some seem to snap right on, others take a few minutes to reach full power.

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5 Anna

I really like owning something that lasts forever, and on the end I got my money worth. Thanks for sharing all this stuff, and I like the idea of LED lighths. We don’t use lot of bright or light in general in our house, for some reason to bright makes me hyper and then tired faster, lol, just like a carb snack. Thanks, good stuff Will. Anna 🙂

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6 Rudy

As someone who sells light bulbs for a living, I am less enthusiastic than most about compact fluorescent bulbs. This is due to the fact that the ones currently available contain significant amounts of mercury. If one of these bulbs should break inside of a person’s home, it could cause a challenging disposal situation. It is my belief that the technology should progress to a point at which the mercury levels are low or nonexistent before people changeover their entire homes. Another consideration is that as these bulbs burn out, they will most likely be thrown away as though they are normal rubbish and landfills will have incredibly high levels of mercury in their soil as a result.

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7 Will

Hi Rudy – I can’t disagree with you, but I do think they are a good option for places safe from accidents. Just be careful installing them. That is when they are most likely to be broken.

The second link in the post above talks about the mercury and links to some cleanup info.

-Will

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8 Kristina Richardson

Most CFLs today on the market contain less than 5mgs of mercury and there are CFL options out there that contain as little as 1.5mgs of mercury- which can hardly be called a “significant amounts of mercury” considering that many item in your home contain 100s of times more of mercury including your computer. Mercury levels in CFLs can never be “nonexistent” since mercury is a necessary component of a CFL and there is no other known element that is capable of replacing it. But CFLs actually prevent more mercury from entering the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientist, “a coal-fired power plant will emit about four times more mercury to keep an incandescent bulb glowing, compared with a CFL of the same light output”.

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9 Will

Thanks for that Kristina! It is always great to know things like this. Sorting through all the information can be daunting.

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10 Steve

hi Will, I echo that Kristina has an interesting comment. Everything should always be put into perspective. I’ve been a HUGE fan of CFLs for a couple of years. I used to get four packs at Costco for about $9 I think. Then earlier this year Vons was selling four packs for $1 (yes, 25 cents per bulb). They were subsidized by our power company, Southern California Edison. I got several four packs. We’ve cut our electricity usage by about a 1/3, which has cut our electric bill by about 1/2 since it has taken us out of the “above baseline” tier (we have a tiered price structure. Anyway, didn’t mean to be so long winded. Suffice it to say, CFLs are great (though, to equivocate, LEDs will likely someday be the way to go). ~ Steve

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11 Joe Black

This is a positive article that also tells me some of the concerns with CFL’s, the flickering. It is pleasing there has been some improvements. I am also pleased to have read that a retro standard light fitting is now available as this will suit chandeliers and the older style lighting that remains popular in the elder and some contemporary homes.

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