Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A brief rant about Compact Flourescent Lights (CFL's)

I started wearing reading glasses about two years ago, and now I can't read anything without them. 
Tonight I started a new book, and trying to be a good, environmentally-conscious citizen, I turned off every light in the house except one reading lamp.
I couldn't see the freakin' book. 

I knew that just a few months ago I could read with only that one lamp for illumination. 

Then I found the culprit.  My eyesight is getting worse, but there was another factor.  The lamp now had a CFL bulb. 
These things might be great at saving energy, but they aren't worth crap at producing light.  I've never seen one that was fit to read by. 
I had to turn on the overhead fan lights to compensate, which I think defeats the purpose. 

These CFL's are like the water-conserving toilets with the smaller tanks that Congress mandated a couple of decades ago.  You know, the ones that you have to flush two or three times to take care of bidness? 

Here's U.S. News on the CFL's:

The incandescent light bulb, one of the most venerable inventions of its era but deemed too inefficient for our own, will be phased off the U.S. market beginning in 2012 under the new energy law just approved by Congress. Although this will reduce electricity costs and minimize new bulb purchases in every household in America, you may be feeling in the dark about the loss of your old, relatively reliable source of light.

They got that right. 
Can you imagine the uproar there would have been if Congress had tried this 40 years ago?  The hardware stores would have instantly sold out of pitchforks.

And then there's the mercury issue.  These things, like the familiar long flourescent lights, contain some mercury. 
Here's the EPA on how to dispose of the soon to be mandatory CFL bulbs:

1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.

2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner. Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands). Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard. Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or disposable wet wipe. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.

3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it. If your state permits you to put used or broken CFLs in the garbage, seal the CFL in two plastic bags and put into the outside trash (if no other disposal or recycling options are available). Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.

4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.

Actually, that info is now out of date.  Most communities now want you to put the bulbs into a disposal pouch and take it to a recycling center, or use a special compact bulb recycling pail
When you've finished doing that, calculate how much energy you've consumed driving to the recycling center, as opposed to the energy consumed by chunking your old incandescent bulbs into the trash. 

Here's a video on one possible way to recycle your old CFL bulbs.  I know that everyone in America is going to do this instead of throwing them into the trash.  You are going to do this, aren't you?   

You might be asking yourself....Why are we having to go through all of this?

Well, General Electric lobbied for the ban of the old bulbs, and they donate to more campaigns than you do.  Here's The Washington Examiner:

“Government did us in,” says Dwayne Madigan, whose job will terminate when General Electric closes its factory next July.
Madigan makes a product that will soon be illegal to sell in the U.S. - a regular incandescent bulb. Two years ago, his employer, GE, lobbied in favor of the law that will outlaw the bulbs.
Madigan’s colleagues, waiting for their evening shift to begin, all know that GE is replacing the incandescents for now with compact fluorescents bulbs, which GE manufactures in China.

Lordy, that's cold. 
People should be able to manufacture whatever they want to, wherever they want to, as long as it doesn't harm someone else.  But lobbying for a ban on your old product line so you can have a succesful launch of the new stuff?  That's cold. 

This guy is suggesting that we all mail some busted CFL's to our Congressman on September 30th. 
The current bunch of Congressmen would probably hire 30 union members, 5 environmental impact experts, and half the D.C. police force to supervise the cleanup. 
So let's not mail our dead CFL's anywhere.
Let's re-name them.   

Those inadequate, squishy, little light bulbs reminded me of something.  Or someone.  I couldn't figure it out for the longest time.  And then it hit me....


Dr Ralph said...

Uh, you do know these things come in more that one wattage, don't you? If the bulb is too dim, put in a brighter one. I have these in some (but not all) fixtures in the houses. Granted, they are ugly but I'm told I am too.

The mercury issue is a problem. That being said, fluorescents will last in excess of 5 years (I finally got around to switching out the tubes in my studio after 15 years), so you aren't going to be making that trip to the hazmat disposal center every weekend. And you don't have to take one bulb at a time -- it is *possible* to actually take 2 or 3 at once.

Finally I've been wearing glasses since I was 10 and am blind as a bat. Quit your whining.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I've never lost a cell phone. I think I lost one wallet about 30 years ago.
I've lost about 8 pair of reading glasses in two years.

By the way, G.E. sent me an email, asking me to thank you for being obedient. The fact that you're willing to comply really helps, ummm....them.

I've never seen a CFL that was fit to read by.

C said...

Are incandescent flood lights and spot lights outlawed?

Flee said...


Dedanna said...

I actually find them brighter than regular light bulbs. They certainly are whiter, and without them being that yellowish-dim garbage, I certainly see better with them, and I have major eyesight issues, too.

That being said, what Dr Ralph said. ^^

Michael Blackburn said...

The same is happening over here in the UK. Last year ordinary 100 watt bulbs were banned from sale and this year the ban will be extended to lower wattages. That's courtesy of the EU. At least your dictators are American. With the EU they're foreigners. No discussion, no mention in the media while it was all going on, just the usual fait accompli (ie democracy is doing what you're told).

Having said that, we've had the energy-saving bulbs in our house for years - they were free and last a long time and we're tightwads. They take ages to brighten up and are still pretty dim at their best. A bit like politicians.

What's galling is the removal of choice. I want to able to choose for myself, not have a cabal of politicians and private business deciding things for me. People who think it's OK for this to happen are missing the point.

D said...

I have a lamp stand with three CFL's on it. I routinely use only one for my evening reading leaving the rest off because they typically provide too much light to the room. The problem you're having is more likely that you're using old lamp shades and/or indirect light to read by and thus getting less out of the bulbs.

To Mr. Blackburn, I had the same problem with slow activation a few years back until I realized I was simply buying the wrong type. Make sure you're using the proper wattage and etc. and things should improve markedly.

Fortyseven said...

Absolutely no problem with these bulbs in my house. They have a much longer lifespan then the older bulbs, and they are plenty bright. I was wary of them at first, but they've proven themselves time and time again. Otherwise, I'd have gotten rid of them long ago.

You're trying just a bit too hard to turn a friggin' lightbulb into a political talking point: I've been using the things long before Bush left office.

CenTexTim said...

Two points:

Michael B. nails it about freedom of choice. Why does the govt. dictate to me what sort of light bulbs I must use?

Dr. R., I doubt that everyone is as conscientious as you. Five+ years down the road we'll be seeing an explosion of stories about high mercury levels and expensive landfill remediation projects.

And BTW, Whited, I agree 100% about those damn low-flow toilets. Another government-mandated inefficiency. Multiple flushes, low-flow or not, do not save water.

Harper said...

I throw CFLs in the garbage. Where does it say that they can't be thrown in the garbage? I have a lovely magnet on my fridge provided by my trash company, with a detailed list of what goes in which can and a list of items that must be turned in at the annual hazardous waste day. No mention of CFLs.

They don't last anywhere near 5 years. We haven't even lived in this house that long and I have replaced every bulb at least once. Lights that are switched off and on frequently go out as often as incandescents do/did. And they dim over time. Horrid to apply makeup with.

Unfortunately, the higher the wattage, the larger the CFL. I have several globe-type light fixtures that I cannot fit a hig watt CFL bulb into.

I guess that means I need to change the fixtures, which means more money in someone else's pocket...

The Whited Sepulchre said...

And now we get to the primary motivation behind all this wholesome legislation....
The last incandescent light bulb factory is now closing.
Which means ALL of those jobs have gone to....


(Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just the law of unintended consequences rearing its ugly head again.)

Dr Ralph said...

Odd you would mention G.E.

While one of their engineers originally developed the CFL, they shelved the idea as too expensive. It wasn't until the design leaked out and copied by the Chinese that CFLs really took off. Now (as you point out) almost all CFLs are manufactured in China.

Why would G.E. be thanking me?

Given your frequent Free-Market rants I would have thought this turn of events completely to your liking.

Gosh, what a conundrum!

Dr Ralph said...

PS - While I agree incandescents should not be outlawed (please cite any reference to this actually happening unless it's another POOMA factoid). On the other hand I have no problem with encouraging adoption by other means you would probably find equally objectionable. Still, to hear you talk, I'm expecting the NRA to launch a sister organization any day now.

"You can have my bulbs when you pry my cold unlit fingers from them."

Is this what they refer to as a slow news day?

The Whited Sepulchre said...

You'll notice that I said people should be able to manufacture things wherever they want to.
AND I followed up in the comments with "not that there's anything wrong with that".

The point, once again, was to bring up Mr. Law Of Unintended Consequences.

If anyone had mentioned this possibility when the law was going through Congress, the thing woulda sunk like a stone.

Nick Rowe said...

I think the Dr. said you are a dim bulb.

I have a combination of CFLs and incandescents in my house. I get annoyed every time I flip the switch on the CFL and don't have the instant-on. Surprises me every time.

I'm not surprised CFLs are an environmental hazard. It joins the list with hydroelectric dams, ethanol, MTBE, paper recycling, wind generators, asbestos removal, hybrid cars and other environmental boondoggles where the cure is worse than the illness.

I have several LED flashlights and I love them, but they're not very good for reading. They are brighter, more efficient, longer lasting, and safer than CFLs, but the light stream is more direct. Up front, they're more expensive but they last 6-10 times as long as a CFL which lasts 4 times as long as incandescent.

I don't use lights very much because you know us Republicans don't read much. I watch Fox News on my big screen LED TV.

I just got reading glasses too. I haven't lost them, but I seldom have them when I need them. I bought a cheap compact pair from Walgreens.

Loved watching them sword fight with flourescent bulbs in 40 yo Virgin.

Who gives a damn what type of bulbs people use. If I'm willing to pay for the energy and the bulbs, watts the difference? If energy costs go up, I'll either change my bulbs or pay more. My lights are the least of my energy usage. I've got one light on in the entire house right now and it's on for about three hours a day at most.

Dr Ralph said...

For the record, it was Nick who raised the possibility of someone being a dim bulb, not I.

Parag said...

Recycling CFLs is not only the right thing to do, but also the safe thing to do. Fluorescent lights contain mercury that can leak so they should be recycled instead of thrown away with other household wastes.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

I totally agree. Those things are beyond dangerous, and I can't wait to see what programs will develop to take care of the NEW problem that developed from Congress solving the OLD problem. I...Can't...wait !