Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Pretty Dim Idea

Michael Heberling at The Freeman wrote an article about the truth behind compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs). And questions why the incandescent bulbs have been outlawed. In Europe they are illegal now and in the U.S. it will be 2012.

Here are some myths and facts about the CFLs:

Myth: CFLs last ten times longer than the old bulbs and are as bright at the end as they are at the beginning.
Fact: A Department of Energy study found that after 40 percent of the advertised service life, a quarter of the CFLs started to become dim bulbs. If you don’t mind having dim bulbs for 60 percent of the service life, then CFLs should make you happy.

Myth: Even though CFLs cost much more than incandescent bulbs (up to 25 times as much), they last so much longer so the cost over the life of the bulb is less.
Fact: It turns out that the lifespan of a CFL depends on how many times you turn it on and off. Failure to keep the light on causes the bulbs to burn out just as fast as the Edison bulbs.

Myth: Incandescent bulbs lose most of their energy as heat, and that's bad.
Fact: The old bulbs do double duty when they are on: they provide light and heat. When it is light outside, most people don't use the bulbs. They also don't use the bulbs that are on in rooms that aren't being used.

Myth: CFLs aren't harmful to people.
Fact: In some people they trigger headaches or even migraines because of the nearly imperceptible flickering. The BBC reported that the bulbs can also increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, the United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency recommends that people be no closer than about a foot from these lights for more than an hour a day. The ultraviolet radiation emitted by CFLs is like direct sunlight on bare skin.

Myth: CFLs are good for the environment.
Fact: It turns out that the each CFL contains five to ten milligrams of mercury. Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on earth; it can cause serious health problems, including nerve and kidney damage. The mandate will result in millions or billions of CFLs ending up in landfills where the mercury will leach out to contaminate the soil and groundwater.

A note about the environmental aspects of CFLs. If one breaks in your home, here are the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended guidelines for cleanup:

1) open the windows and evacuate the room for 15 minutes;
2) shut off the heating or air-conditioning system;
3) carefully scoop up the glass using stiff paper and place it in a glass jar or sealable plastic bag;
4) after vacuuming, wipe the canister and put the bag or debris in a sealed plastic bag; and
5) throw away clothing or bedding that comes in contact with the broken glass or the mercury-containing powder. I must not wash contaminated clothing or bedding because mercury fragments may also contaminate the washing machine or pollute the sewage.

Heberling questions why, if the CFLs are so much better than incandescent bulbs, why ban the old bulbs? Won't the market take care of the old bulbs?

You can find the original article here.

You can find the EPA's cleanup guidelines here.

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