Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How many stooges does it take to change a lightbulb?

Recently, I bumped into a fellow that loves to make any topic political. We were talking about what our weekends held, and I mentioned I had to go get some new light bulbs to replace some that burn ed out, and the various other projects and plans I had in store on my two days off. That opened the floodgates for a rant on why he hates CFL's (compact florescent lamps) and how he's stockpiled 35 cases of incandescent bulbs. It amazed me how many of the false rumors he had bought into. So lets take a look...

They have mercury in them so they're bad for the environment.

It is true that CFL's contain mercury. However, one of the byproducts that power-plants make is mercury as well. Since the CFL's use less energy, the power-plant has to make less power. The CFL actually contains less mercury than the power-plant would have made if it was powering an incandescent bulb instead.


CFL's lead to extra mercury in landfills.

If you throw them in the trash, sure. But you're not supposed bin them, or many other things that most people do (like batteries). But places like Hope Depot and Lowe's take them for free and recycle them properly. I just dropped a could off on my way home from work the other day. Took me no more than 5 minutes out of my way. So I can't see that as such a deterrent of problem.


You have to call HazMat if you break one.

Um, no you don't. Sure, you want to avoid breathing in the dust, but it's not remotely as bad as most make it sound. At least for me, breaking any bulbs is an exceedingly rare occurrence. But if you do break a CFL and have to clean it up, you'll be fine.


I don't like the light color.

True, most CFL's are a brighter and whiter light. Most people are used to the warm yellow glow of conventional bulbs. But all aren't bright white. We have some in our basement that look just like incandescent light. They were there when we bought our house, so I don't know much about them, but the light is noticeably different from most CFL's. Personally, the white light doesn't bother me, but a simple look at the shelf will show that they are sold with different Lumen values. That number will tell you how bright the light is. If you want a duller light with a yellow cast like the traditional bulbs your used to, you can get them easily.


They don't come on right away/get brighter the longer they're on.

This is true of CFL's when they first came out. But most no longer suffer from these problems. If you are having this problem, you either have old bulbs or exceedingly cheap ones.


They cost more than incandescent.

Yes, the bulbs cost more (but they are much more affordable now) but that difference is easily made up by the power savings and the longer bulb life.


They break more often.

All I can say is that I've personally only seen CFL's last longer, not shorter service periods. I've had some very cheap ones go out, but they certainly lasted much longer than the cheapest incandescent bulbs I've had in the past.


I don't like the 'pig tail' look.

If you don't like the 'pig tail' look, they do make ones with a false bulb covering so that they look like an incandescent bulb. Personally I wish we could get the European 'U' shaped ones as well, but since they aren't readily found, most CFL's in my house are the ones that look just like a regular bulb. They cost about the same, and are easy to find.


 The percentage of US power usage from light bulbs is a small percentage of the total US power usage.

Admittedly, I haven't bothered to look that stat up because it's completely unimportant. The simple truth is that we use a LOT of electricity. Even a small slice of the pie is a huge chunk of energy. If one person has $5 million and another has $95 million, would you say that Mr. $5 million is poor? Of course not! We know that CFL's use less energy and that assuming usage rates remaining the same, you will see savings on your bill (possibly not much, but a savings none-the-less). So collectively, CFL usage adds up to significant energy savings over the bulb's lifetime.

All that said, I no longer buy CFL's. Why's that? Because LED bulbs are no longer prohibitively expensive for the average buyer. I am slowly but surely converting all the lighting in my house to LED's. Each time a bulb burns out, I pick up an LED bulb to replace it. They have amazing durability, produce nice light, look fine, and use so little electricity. In my opinion, if you can afford $10 a bulb, they are nothing but win. Sure they still cost more, but my electric bill tells me that they're already begining to pay for themselves.



-Brain Hulk

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