First, let me say that I recommend using CFL’s. It’s just that I wonder if mandating conversion from incandescents to new lighting technologies shouldn’t be coupled with some better education about the new lamps.
Soon to be mandated to exclusion of incandescents, are CFL’s as good as people make them out to be? CFL’s have several under-publicized issues that all customers should be aware of.
- CFL’s contain mercury gas. They will save many times more in coal-fired mercury emissions from the power plant, than they contain, but breaking one right in your home delivers this deadly poison right to your home, so extreme caution is in order when handling and disposing of CFL’s. The federal government has issued guidelines for responding to a broken lamp – something that used to be a simple matter of a broom and dust-pan. Today, procedures for cleaning up a single broken CFL lamp include vacating the room 10 minutes, opening all doors and windows in a home, shutting down central-air type HVAC systems to prevent circulation of poisonous dust/gas, and leaving HVAC off and doors/windows open, and staying out of the room for HOURS. Certainly, mercury is poison and causes birth defects, but EPA may be covering it’s a** as much as speaking for the public good, in recommending this intensive cleanup response to a broken lamp. Or maybe that bit of mercury/dust really is nothing to sneeze at, and the EPA recommendations are right-on. Regardless of how dangerous a break in the home really is, you oughtn’t just throw a CFL in the trash. PECO energy has a handy search feature for rate-payer funded CFL discount retailers and CFL recyclers
- CFL’s don’t seem to last as long as manufacturers claim. Longer lamp life is a significant factor in the cost-savings calculations presented by manufacturers and die-hard advocates, alike. CFL’s have been advertised to save money partly because they last many times longer than conventional incandescent lamps, so their energy conservation function becomes leveraged by long life, justifying their relatively high cost per unit. My experience on the ground changing lamps in the real world suggests that the 5,000-hour and longer ratings claimed for CFL’s probably hold up in a laboratory fixture supplied by a high-quality regulated power supply at constant ambient temperatures, but in real-world situations of >10 degree F temperature fluctuations, ‘dirty’ power, and surges, the sensitive electronics built-in may be failing at a rate rather similar to the old incandescent lamps’ filaments (1000-2500 hours). More likely, the electronic ballasts are burning out anywhere from the day installed to thousands of hours later, with a statistical equivalent ‘lamp life’ that works out similar to regular incandescent lamps. Whole-house surge protectorsmay be a worthwhile preventive measure both for the sake of lamp life for expensive high-efficiency units and for the life and data-security of computers and other expensive electronics that are all becoming more common in every home.
- Standard CFL’s are not dimmable (will in fact burn out a standard dimmer), and even so-called dimmable versions have been unsatisfactory, to date. As customers become familiar with the new technology, I get many service calls related to dimmers connected to fixtures with new CFL lamps installed, where incandescents had been working fine. You just can’t dim CFL’s — at least not yet.
- CFL’s won’t fit into many lamp holders on common lighting fixtures. CFL’s have a wide variety of ‘form factors’, but most all of them house their electronic ballasts inside a base that is wider than common on regular incandescent lamps. Many fixture lamp holders were designed before the widespread use of CFL’s, and cannot accommodate the wider base; the new CFL’s simply don’t work because they can’t make contact with the ‘hot’ prong at the base of the lamp holder’s screw-shell. This is particularly true of outdoor flood type lamp holders, both legacy and brand-new from the factory.
- Clean Energy Portal: “EPRI Addresses 7 Myths of CFL Technology“
- Have LED’s come of age?
- Considerations for new ceiling fan installations (including CFL or not-CFL)
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- Philly Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Schedule City of Philadelphia dates and places for disposing of spent batteries, CFL lamps, unused paint and cleaning products, etc. LovePhilly: don’t pour these in the drain or send them out with the trash.
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