CFL Myths

May 5, 2008 at 9:53 am 1 comment

So here we are. Unless you have been living in a very dark cave, you have no doubt heard about CFL’s (or compact fluorescent lights). If you are a little in the dark on this subject, or if your just interested in how the li’l buggers work, I enjoy the above video. Indoor lighting use is highest from 9 AM – 5 PM, despite the fact that light bulbs were invented so we could see in the dark. While natural light is best, CFL’s use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than a regular bulb. So, what is the problem you may ask. Well, I am so glad you asked that question. There has been a lot of ink spilled lately on the fact that CFL’s contain mercury. This is nasty stuff. I would not recommend bathing in it. However, very few people mention how much mercury is actually in a CFL. Please look closely —> . That’s it – about the size of a tip of a pen. This is about 100 times less mercury than in your run-of-the-mill thermometer. It’s also interesting to keep in mind that methylmercury is a byproduct of burning coal. Ergo – the more energy you use, the more coal you burn, the more mercury you release into the atmosphere. Because CFL’s use so much less electricity, the overall mercury released into the environment is less, especially if you properly dispose of your CFL by taking it to a responsible hardware store that would recycle them or to a Hazardous Waste drop-off site. another common complaint is that they take too long to turn on. Personally, I have never noticed this as a problem. However, the most important lights to switch are the ones you leave on for long periods of time. Last but not least, light bulbs are like many products, you get what you pay for. Some CFL’s are very cheap while others are more expensive. Like any purchase, research your purchase to make sure you are getting the best deal.

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Plastic Safety R is for Reduce

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Halogenica  |  March 30, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Hi there Recycle Racoon!

    Old post but I just felt like adding some comments anyway:

    “Indoor lighting use is highest from 9 AM – 5 PM, despite the fact that light bulbs were invented so we could see in the dark.”

    And? This is naturally because of the massive overillumination of offices and has nothing to do with home lighting.

    “While natural light is best, CFL’s use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than a regular bulb.”

    That’s what the PR-brochures say. In reality, it’s closer to 50% or less, and very varying lifespan. See my blog, post #3m.

    “So, what is the problem you may ask. Well, I am so glad you asked that question. There has been a lot of ink spilled lately on the fact that CFL’s contain mercury. This is nasty stuff. I would not recommend bathing in it. However, very few people mention how much mercury is actually in a CFL. Please look closely —> . That’s it – about the size of a tip of a pen. This is about 100 times less mercury than in your run-of-the-mill thermometer.”

    So? Who uses a mercury thermometer these days?? What does thermometer content have to do with CFLs? If CFL use increases as much as the lighting industry and other vested interests hope (and lobby to legislate), TONS of mercury may end up in landfills as those tiny little dots add up. And it only takes a teaspoon to poison a medium size lake!

    “It’s also interesting to keep in mind that methylmercury is a byproduct of burning coal. Ergo – the more energy you use, the more coal you burn, the more mercury you release into the atmosphere. Because CFL’s use so much less electricity, the overall mercury released into the environment is less,”

    Did you check the source of this PR-statement before repeating it here? It’s very old and easily disproven. (See my website, post #3d.)

    > especially if you properly dispose of your CFL by taking it to a responsible hardware store that would recycle them or to a Hazardous Waste drop-off site.

    That would certainly be a good thing. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or energy to do so, even if they are informed of this necessity.

    “Another common complaint is that they take too long to turn on. Personally, I have never noticed this as a problem.”

    I’ve noticed it in public restrooms. VERY dim light that didn’t reach full output until one was finished. The problem with those CFLs that DO last long is that it then takes longer before they get replaced by improved CFLs, e.g. that light up in less than a minute instead of 10 minutes.

    “However, the most important lights to switch are the ones you leave on for long periods of time.”

    Agreed.

    “Last but not least, light bulbs are like many products, you get what you pay for. Some CFL’s are very cheap while others are more expensive. Like any purchase, research your purchase to make sure you are getting the best deal.”

    Right. By reading consumer tests for each bulb, as tests have found little connection between performance & price but great variation in quality even between lamps from of the same brand and/or price range.

    Lastly, no it is NOT easy going green, and switching to CFLs is not going to save more than 2% at best, for which you get a poorer quality light.

    Making a REAL difference usually means more radical and costly life style changes, only possible for some; e.g. installing solar panels or ground heating; buying a hybrid car or not using a car at all; never flying; becoming a vegetarian etc.

    But if you really like CFLs, don’t let me stop you from using them. I think I can trust you to recycle them afterwards. 😉

    Green regards,
    Halogenica

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