Friday, January 25, 2008


Years ago when we lived in Washington State, the Air Force Base was trying to get the residents to be more energy efficient so they were giving out CFL bulbs. We happily went to get free light bulbs for our home and we quickly installed them and were quickly unhappy. The light they put off was glaring and harsh and yet not as bright as a regular incandescent bulb. They seemed to be a strange item hanging in my ceiling fan fixture. The self help store actually gave us 10 of them, all of them were these odd curly CFL bulbs. The one problem is that in Washington state, at least where we were, light was a very special thing. We didn't get much natural sunlight and we did use plenty of lights in the house, so good lighting was very much needed. Now, this was a number of years ago, actually, this was 6 years ago and I know that now they have nicer looking bulbs, but with an introduction as painful as this was, I wasn't ready to run out and plunk down four dollars for just one CFL for my home.

We have recently, however, purchased a few and have put them in places that we tend to leave the lights on, like the front porch light. We have this bad tendency of leaving the light on out there, frankly because we forget about it. So, we bought this nice weird looking bulb and installed it and found that now the glass cover doesn't fit over the bulb. How handy. We now look so chic with our naked bulb hanging out there for everyone to see.

I keep reading about these countries putting laws into effect that ban the use of incandescent light bulbs in houses by 2010 in Australia, and the EU is doing something similar, so I wanted to look up information on them. The thing is that although they do last longer than incandescent bulbs, John and I were not convinced that they lasted that much longer. We certainly didn't find that they were lasting for the years that the package promises.

What I found was startling, in several ways. Apparently, you can't put them in the trash, the CFC bulbs need to be recycled and not just anyone recycles them. Only certain places do, and it is because of the mercury in them. Yes, mercury, the same stuff that ruins ground water and causes us not to use the old thermometers.

I found this very interesting fact sheet, this is what you need to do if you happen to break a CFL in your home:

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
The following steps can be performed by the general public:
1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
~Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
~Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
3. Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
~Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
~Note: some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
~Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
4. If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:
~First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
~If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Makes you want to run out and buy some of CFLs doesn't it?

So, this leaves us with LED bulbs. The biggest problem with LED bulbs? They are crazy expensive! They run upwards of $40 a bulb. Yes, you did read that right, and yes it is outrageous! I will admit that all of my outside Christmas lights for the last two years are LED lights. I wasn't as fond of the white LED Christmas lights, they seemed cold, but I did like the red LED lights for the outline of my house. They are even more efficient than the CFLs and they do not break and spew horrible chemicals into the earth. I bought the LED bulbs last year before Christmas and the beauty of it is that for the first time ever I didn't have to buy more lights due to them being burnt out from the year before. They did actually pay for themselves because they lasted at least a full 2 years, which was a vast improvement over the CFL bulbs that I used to use.

This is a great article that breaks down the gist of both and I have found that this information is pretty accurate, except where it says that the light from either CFLs or LEDs is similar to the incandescent bulbs, that is pure fiction, but I don't think my grandkids will ever know the warmer light that is put off by the horribly bad-for-the-environment incandescent bulb.

Onward and upward then!


susan said...

Anna, I bought some energy effecient cheap bulbs at ikea, but I was dissapointed when they didn't fit into any of my fixtures. Needless to say, Brian and I are trying to cut out other energy sucking things, like too much stuff in our house. In the last week, we've given away 5 large bags! It feels great.

Anastasia said...

We've had mixed success with these coil bulbs in our house. We bought a pack from Target and one was broken inside--I had no idea we were supposed to do all that. I did also read that they go out faster if you turn them off after less than 5 minutes. If only conservation could be simple.


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