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The myth of the CFL

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
They say, by 2014, that we will no longer be able to buy incandescent light bulbs, that the government wants to legislate them out of existence.  Ask yourself what is the waste in the Incandescent, and what is the benefit of the Compact Fluorescent Bulb?

1) How does a CFL, which is solely manufactured in China and sold in a plastic blisterpack, come out more "environmentally friendly" than an Edison incandescent that was manufactured in Ohio and sold in a recycled cardboard box?

2) How does a CFL, which contains mercury (a product known to cause brain damage in laboratory animals) become more environmentally friendly than an Edison bulb made of metal and glass?

3) How does a CFL bulb that I have to return to an authorised recovery centre become more environmentally friendly than a bulb I can throw in the household garbage?  Of 30+ stores in my neighbourhood that sell these bulbs, only two take them back.

4) What is the waste of an incandescent bulb?  They are hot.  But I pay to heat my house nine months a year anyway...  The 49 watts of heat I get off my 60-watt bulb will have to be replaced with 49 watts of heat from my 70-year-old Gurney oil furnace or my wood-burning stove.  Hydro-electric versus Norco oil, versus cutting down a tree....

5) CFL lights strobe at 60hz, which can cause epileptic seizures and migraine headaches.

6) When we bought the house, we changed about half the bulbs to CFL - 14 of 35 bulbs.  In the four years since, I have burned out five of them.  The only incandescent I have burned out is the one I hit with a ladder.  That's a 35% failure rate for CFL, and 5% for incandescent.  WAIT!  35% in four years, versus 5% for over five years...  THE CFL DOES NOT LAST LONGER!!

All these things considered, when the Edison bulb is going off the market, I am going to stock up on about 80 of them, in all sizes, so I am not bound to the stupidity of the Compact Fluorescent Bulb.

post #2 of 41
Hi jiquay - welcome to the Eco Huddle!

For more and correct information of CFL bulbs please see various posts on this site. You have no idea what you are talking about.

For your points:
1) A point of economics but not environmentaly related
2) The amount of mercury in a buld is very small - I don't worry about it at all - this is just one of the scares put out. More mercury is released into the atmosphere from the power plant generating the additional power for the incandescant bulb.
3) Recycling can stand improvement - no doubt about it but that is also true with many things
4) Heat - I pay to heat my house maybe two months of the year and I get the heat where I want it - not just whereever a lamp is
5) The epileptic siezure thing is an old wives tale and they don't work at 60 hz anyway
6) If you have to change they bulbs so often you either have another electric problem or you are buying the cheapest bulbs you can find - most other people have no such problem CFL does last longer

If it pleases you to waste money stocking up on incancescant bulbs be my guest but I have other things to do with my money.
post #3 of 41
1) Buy an American-made CFL.  Problem solved.

2) The incandescent bulb uses about 4-5 times more energy than the CFL.  Much of that energy comes from coal plants, which emit mercury.  Over the lifetime of the bulb, the energy wasted by the incandescent results in significantly more mercury released into the atmosphere than is contained in the CFL.  That's how the CFL is more environmentally friendly.

3) What's the relevance of where you dispose of the bulb?  Besides, much of the CFL is probably recycled as opposed to your incandescent, which just ends up in a landfill.

4) The waste is in the inefficient use of energy.  You don't always need the waste heat, and many people don't live in cold climates.

5) Sounds like a myth to me.  Produce one example of a CFL causing a seizure.

6) Maybe you're buying cheap, poorly made CFLs.  I've never had one break or wear out in several years.  The same is true of most people.  CFLs unquestionably last much longer than incandescents, on average.

Feel free to hoard incandescents.  I don't really care.  I'll stick to my energy efficient CFLs and LEDs and my small electric bill.
post #4 of 41
2. I notice you do not have any problems with the large fluorescent tubes that are probably hanging in your kitchen right now, and which you have probably used for decades. It's the same technology just on a larger scale, and so contains significantly more mercury. Why do you not have a problem with these? The only answer is because they are not "green".

3. You are not required to take them to a disposal center unless there is some specific CFL disposal law where you live. Federally, all household waste--even if it could be considered hazardous--can be disposed of in your regular garbage can.

4. You're mostly right on this point. If you live in a cold climate and can use your incandescent as a space heater of sorts, then it may very well be the better option. Especially if putting a 100 W bulb close to you means you will not need to kick on the heater for your entire house.
post #5 of 41
Thread Starter 

Replies to the above:

Shipped from China:  Russ, how much pollution is involved in truck or train across China, ship across the Pacific, truck or train across North America to my local store?  The CFL has a carbon footprint before I even screw it in!  The GE bulb made in Ohio has been shipped a few hundred kilometres, not tens of thousands.
Dana:  Buy one made in USA?  BECAUSE THERE ARE NONE MADE IN USA.  This is my point.  When we see Chinese cat food being recalled because it contains napthalene, and Chinese toys being recalled because they contain lead paint, how can we trust that these lamps are actually being made within specification?  We enact legislation like this and then wonder why there is an unemployment problem.

Energy use:  Dana:  My choice is heat off a light bulb from a green Quebec hydro-electric plant versus heat from a pre-WW2 oil burner.  The nature of my basement is that I dread having to get a new boiler down there - I have to find one that breaks into boxes 75cm on a side.  The foundation on this converted cottage was built around the furnace and water tank.  And, as I said, I am heating 9 months a year anyway...

Disposal:  Read the box.  When you break one, you have to evacuate the room 15 minutes, shut off the air conditioning, open a window, wear gloves, clean it up with duct tape (not a broom or a vacuum,) etc., etc.  Why would there be so much CYA (cover your ass) instruction on the box if there was not a serious health hazard here?  We are not allowed to put paint, chemicals, car batteries, chlorine, or any other HHW (hazardous household waste) in the garbage here.  Had a garbage truck fire down the street last week - someone threw out pool chlorine, someone else threw out a car battery.... It left seven tonne of garbage dumped on the asphalt.  The city newsletter carries a permanent banner ad reiterating this point, and giving pickup points for all of the above.  I am waiting to see CFLs added to the list.

Dawei:  The only 48" fluorescents in my domain are out in the shed, not in living areas.  I like the no-shadow aspect on the workbench.  And I like a cool CFL on the work lights on my tools, so I don't burn the back of my hand as I adjust a piece. I also like CFLs like in my reading lamp, where I don't want a 60-watt breathing down my neck.  Give me the choice.

Yes, Russ, I am out in the region where we have varying voltages. But why should I have to change a bulb every time the neighbour's heat pump kicks in?  Incandescents don't have this problem!!  And my parents, in a major city, have had CFLs last as little as 32 days.  It's not the cheapos that have given problems - I have a Dollarama bulb that does about 7 hours' service per day, and it's 4 years old. The last one I changed was a $9 Sylvania unit.

There are applications for the CFL.  Likewise, there are many applications for the incandescent.  If it is truly a better bulb, then the free market will decide, and the inferior bulb will eventually go to the world of BetaMax videos, 8-track tapes and rotary dial phones.  Why does it have to be forced down our throats with Big Brother legislation?

post #6 of 41

Hmm. This seems like an interesting debate.  My dad is definatly on jiquay's side. He is always talking about the inefficienies of the CFL lightbulbs. He does not like them at all. I would be worried if my daughters lamp somehow fell over and the CFL light bulb broke.  It is kind of a dangerous thing. 

Especially with all the hoopla of removing chemicals from your home.  We willingly bring mercury in with these new light bulbs.  I would rather the dangerous chemicals be released somewhere outside my home than inside my home. 

Kids can be wild and things do tend to get broken, you can't keep your eyes on them 24/7.  You can teach them to be careful around certain things.... but now I am worried. What is up with this mercury in the bulbs?  It sort of goes against a "chemical free home".

post #7 of 41
Hi enjoigreen, There is only a minute amout of mercury in each lamp - this is a green scare from years back that has no real basis but has hung on.

If one is worried about the rating of dangers in life cars are fairly high up and mercury from CFL bulbs very, very far down the list.

I don't know what inefficiencies he is talking about but I expect they are of the mythical nature.  
post #8 of 41
Lights of America claims that they actually came up with the "twister bulb" cfl.  I'm pretty sure all of their products are made here too.  I love my cfls, never replaced one, and I've had mine for 4 years, in fact I've moved 3 times and taken the bulbs with me each time!

It is all in how you use them and how important conservation is for you.  I was over at my in-laws' house the other night for dinner and I counted 22 incandescent bulbs that were on at a time and there were only 6 people at the dinner!  Seriously, 22 bulbs burning, and they don't even notice the waste.  And they wonder why their electricity bill for one month is more than I pay in 6 months!

I get the point about the importation and the packaging, you just have to shop around to find a company that actually understands green.
Edited by srj0385 - 9/18/09 at 10:42am
post #9 of 41
well it is good to know that all this CFL's are the devil talk is only an exaggeration. I always thought so, but people get so passionate about things. Like my dad for instance he talks about the weirdest things (CFL's are bad too) and he is so stubborn there is no way you can talk any sense into I just listen and nod my head.  He can't stand to listen to facts and reason.  But my dad is older.... how old are you jiquay?  No offense but many older people are more resistant to change
post #10 of 41
Yeah you just have to be careful when cleaning up if a CFL is broken.  The EPA has fairly simple cleanup guidelines.
post #11 of 41
Haha enjoigreen, I know what you mean.  Whenever I bring up the fact that my in-laws use too many light bulbs for no reason, he tells me that he is supporting the economy and that it is my fault when hard working families can't feed their children, because I'm not consuming enought to support them.  Of course this all happens in good humor :)
post #12 of 41
A typical CFL has less than 5 mg of mercury. Many fish species have 0.5 mg/kg or more.

The only way the CFL's mercury will actually be released is if you break it, and as long as you don't lick the glass shards then the only way it will get into your body is if you stick your nose above it and inhale the dust. A fish on the other hand is directly consumed, so 100% of the mercury in its meat goes into your body. Even we all did use our tongues to clean up the broken bulb, I can't imagine many of us break light bulbs more often than we consume 10 kg of fish.

Factor in that the dust that you actually inhale while cleaning the broken bulb will probably only represent 1/100 of the total mass of mercury of the entire bulb (probably much less if you're really careful), and you could calculate that a plate of fish sticks gives you a higher dose than what you get during the rare event of cleaning up a broken bulb.
post #13 of 41
Thread Starter 
Enjoigreen - I am mid-40s, not an old geezer.  (Okay, I admit I wear bifocals and I have to make a trip across the hall at 3 a.m.) 

My point is that the environazis are telling us how much better the CFL is, whereas they are not listing the entire equation.  And they are censoring and legislating free market and free choice blindly, and we are blindly accepting this.  And they are legislating that jobs currently in the USA be moved to China. 

City of Montreal is banning woodstoves, too.  How soon we forget the ice storm we had here in 1998, January 5-11 straight freezing rain, which caused power failures up to 45 days long, in January-February!  By January 25, when the temps went to -30C, thousands of homes stilll did not have power.  Many houses (including the one I live in) were saved from major damage by the existence of a woodstove.  The pellet stoves of the era could not be run off a generator or a power inverter, either, so they were only good for the first three days.
When this ban comes to my town, I will replace my woodstove with a brand-new unit in order to get myself 25 years in the "grandfather clause."
post #14 of 41
 @jiquay - I am an old geezer - wear bifocals (varifocals anyway) and all that. On some controversial things I may agree about the environazis comment though I generally use the term enviromafia. Free choice becomes limited when it begins to affect all the population though. The political thing about moving jobs to China is better saved for a different forum.

Many items about taking better care of the environment are not controversial at all. We humans have taken very poor care and the old mother earth is struggling! Using less power is one area that each and everyone (who wants to) can participate. Not using polluting (old style) wood stoves is another point that is necessary.

When I read the EPA recommendations for handling mercury spills I laughed - very greatly exaggerated in my view point and I worked with it for a life time. I was reading on some other site where 5 mg of powdered iron ore ingested was toxic which is plain BS - another material I worked with for 40 years.   

Many, if not most, green bloggers don't have much more of an idea of what they are talking about than you seem to have about CFL's and mercury. There is much disinformation available in the blogs - some is simply foolish while I consider some of it to be dangerous.

Enjoy hoarding all the old style bulbs you want and your new wood stove - I have better uses for my money.
post #15 of 41
Originally Posted by jiquay View Post

they are legislating that jobs currently in the USA be moved to China. 


This part is kind of silly.  Do you really think Americans can't or won't make CFLs, especially when the demand skyrockets as incandescents are phased-out?  Come on now.

I think the complaint about government phasing out incandescents is a valid one.  The problem is that too many people continue to buy incandescents even though they would save money and energy with CFLs.  But this complaint is a valid one.  The 'jobs to China' is not.
post #16 of 41

lol! I wasn't calling you an old geezer! my dad isn't an old geezer either!

post #17 of 41
As for the made in China thing, first, they don't just ship one over at a time.  They ship thousands and thousands in crates on ship with a billion other things so when you break out the actual cost of one bulb I would think it's much less than you think.  This makes it much easier to realize that the savings in electricity usage (great, your hydro-electric, the vast majority of people are not) is by far better for the environment.  I replaced every bulb in my house with CFL's (over 50 bulbs) and I have had under 5 burn out and that is after 4 years and counting.  Do the math!  You will actually save money if you throw out a working incandescent and replace it with a CFL...pays for itself a matter of months.  As the technology continues to get better and as LED's start getting produced for cheaper, the early burn out rate will increase.  Remember that it was only a few years ago that CFL's cost as much as LED's do now.  I'm banking on that when my CFL's (which come with a warranty FYI) finally do goout, LED's will be much cheaper and then we will all switch to them and have even a greater savings.

Oh, going back to the China thing, do you worry that all your electronics come from overseas and have to be shipped here?  Is everything in your home "Made in the USA"?  Really?  How about that car you drive, all the parts?  Our economy works by trading with others countries.  If your plan is to build a big wall around USA and not let anything in then I think you better find yourself an island somewhere where this can happen.

The reason that they are getting rid of them is because they are inefficient energy wasters.  Most would of course rather by a 50 cent bulb because they don't know any better about long term costs.  They just don't get it or are scared away by misleading, untrue information.  By getting rid of the other bulbs it will a) save money for all Americans  b) force American companies to start making CFL's  c) put more money into the research to reduce the mercury even further (already 1mg bulbs out there)  d) make the cost of CFL's come down.
post #18 of 41
Thread Starter 
To jgroves:  The incandescent bulb made in Ohio  was also shipped by the crate hundreds of kilometres, but not tens of thousands.  My first-purchased CFL bulb was 1991, and it is in its' fifth address and still going strong.  I have to turn it on 45 seconds before I can see anything by it, but the last set of Blue Planets I bought do the same thing..  I try to buy Made in Canada, or a trade partner that has some form of ethical work practice, before I buy Made in China or Bangladesh or numerous other countries.  BUT WITH THE CFL I DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE.  My driveway has two Japanese nameplates in it - a Mazda pickup made by Ford in USA, and a Honda Civic made in Canada.  My stereo consists of a Harman-Kardon (USA design made in Japan) and Mission speakers (made in England) and PSB speakers (Made in Canada).  These products are out there if you look for them, but this is not true of the CFL.  If you want to go with CFLs, you have to buy Made in China.  This is one of the few countries left in the world that we could end up in a World War with, and we are going to have to buy our uniforms and bullets from them because we are closing all our manufacturing plants here.

As for "(the CFL) pays for itself in a matter of months" see my comments on the waste heat coming off the incandescent.  That heat has to be replaced by your central heating system, which we use about nine months a year.  If you are air-conditioning against that heat part of the time, I will admit that the CFL doubles down on the savings.  It depends on your split of energy use - here in Canada, it is over 50% heat, less than 10% lighting.  So you're gonna save 75% on 10% of your energy bill, and add half of that false economy to your heating bill?
post #19 of 41
Hi jiquay - The waste heat from old style bulbs is normally up near the ceiling - not very useful. In a proper study they give very little credit for the heat provided during the heating season. There are studies available on this topic.  
post #20 of 41
...and if you outlaw incandescent bulbs I can guarantee you that you will find a huge line being made in USA or Canada.  It's just that the fat cat companies here, like the car companies, had no foresight into green business and now they are paying the price.  Can you find a Prius or other hybrid that gets that good of mileage made in USA or Canada?  Nope, not until very recently.  Trade with China is how our system works.  Unfortunately, we have had less and less to trade back to them.

Now, if you want to talk heat for your house, I'll talk to you about my Corn Stove -

post #21 of 41
Coincidentally, incandescent bulbs aren't being banned in the USA to begin with (though they are in Europe).  There are standards being implemented which lightbulbs will have to meet, but no technology is being banned.  And as a result of the new standards, incandescent bulb technology is suddenly leaping forward.

There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades

I think that puts an end to jiquay's complaints.
post #22 of 41
Just for the record and to expand on what Dana wrote - legislation concerning incandescent bulbs - 

What do recent initiatives mean?

The Energy Independence And Security Act of 2007 created higher efficiency standards targeting today’s 40–100W incandescent and halogen general-service lamps.

Starting Jan. 1, 2012, 100W lamps will have to become 30 percent more efficient or be prohibited from manufacture and import; Jan. 1, 2013, targets 75W lamps; and Jan. 1, 2014, targets 40W and 60W lamps. 

My notes:
1. Are the incandescent bulbs being banned? NO
2. Are manufacturers being forced to improve the energy efficiency of 40 to 100 watt bulbs? YES
3. Are manufacturers doing so? YES and they are reaching the market at this time
4. Will the new bulbs be more expensive? YES - virtually any new tech item costs more than something that has been made forever until the competition catches up
5. The new incandescent bulbs will pay for the additional cost in energy savings 
post #23 of 41
Lucky you. Your rate of failure is way better than mine. I installed 12 CFLs. They  ALL (I mean ALL)  burnt out within two years.    Regular incandescent bulbs last 10 times longer(at a fraction of the cost of CFLs). Maybe it's just the brand or the lot that I bought.
post #24 of 41
Hi Joejoe, Welcome to the Eco Huddle!

You either bought some very poor quality bulbs or possibly installed them with a hammer.

What you say is an experience no one else in the world has had. You should have taken them back to the store for a refund.
post #25 of 41
Originally Posted by Russ View Post
You either bought some very poor quality bulbs or possibly installed them with a hammer.

Hah seriously. I don't know why so many people expect CFL's to be different than every other product out there. If you cheap out and buy a crap brand you're going to get a crap product.
post #26 of 41
Thread Starter 

Do you have voltage fluctuations?  CFLs don't like that.

Oh, and they also don't like -30 degrees C, so I have to replace my outdoor ones with incandescents in a month, until the end of March.

So here's a bulb that only does half the job half the time, and we won't be able to buy anything else because the damn legislators have shoved their noses in where they only have half the story...
post #27 of 41
@jiquay - just to set the record straight and to keep others from being confused by bad information I am reposting this:

What do recent initiatives mean?

The Energy Independence And Security Act of 2007 created higher efficiency standards targeting today’s 40–100W incandescent and halogen general-service lamps.

Starting Jan. 1, 2012, 100W lamps will have to become 30 percent more efficient or be prohibited from manufacture and import; Jan. 1, 2013, targets 75W lamps; and Jan. 1, 2014, targets 40W and 60W lamps. 

My notes:
1. Are the incandescent bulbs being banned? NO
2. Are manufacturers being forced to improve the energy efficiency of 40 to 100 watt bulbs? YES
3. Are manufacturers doing so? YES and they are reaching the market at this time
4. Will the new bulbs be more expensive? YES - virtually any new tech item costs more than something that has been made forever until the competition catches up
5. The new incandescent bulbs will pay for the additional cost in energy savings  
post #28 of 41
russ and dana pretty much covered it :)
post #29 of 41
I like my CFLs, indoors, although there are certainly a few issues yet to resolve.

1) The average run-of-the-mill CFL works with poor efficacy in the cold. I live in SE British Columbia, where winter temperatures below -30C occur annually. Electrical code requires an outside luminair outside each dwelling outside doorway, and using an HID luminair is unnacceptable due to the slow strike time. So we're going to need incandescents for a while yet.

2) My job is as an electric utility manager for a medium size ski-area. An interesting observation is that when a building gets a lighting re-fit with higher efficiency luminairs, the end result is rarely any electricity savings. The heat generated by the old inefficient luminairs simply contributes to the overall building heat, and must be made up for otherwise. Human nature is such that people will turn off an incandescent, but will leave a CFL turned on (aw, it's OK, it doesn't waste much energy). Lighting is needed more in winter. During the summer, we get 20hrs of daylight, so the lights are already out.

3) Colour rednition in retail and F&B commercial outlets. Still 95% incandescent dimmable PARs, I hope that some LED mfrs start to make good affordable dimmable bulbs to fill this market niche, CFLs don't have any chance in this application.

4) My beautiful dining-room teardrop chandelier uses inefficient dimmable incandecent halogen bulbs. The bulbs themselves look nice. Once again I expect a nice LED replacement bulb to become available in the future. I simply don't want a CFL over my dining room table, as I prefer my wife's lovely face in the warm halogen light.

5) Other technologies such as LED clusters, & quick-strike HID, are yet to become affordable to the average home-owner

Our governments are naive in their expectations that other technologies will fill the gap left by 100% exclusion of all incandecents (halogens are incandescent). Especially when incandecents are still the best bulb available for perhaps 20% domestic lighting applications.

That said, if you don't already have CFLs in the other 80%, you are perhaps somewhat brain-dead.

post #30 of 41
Hi mountain - welcome to the huddle and thanks for a good post.

Good for you to point out that CFL's are not suitable for cold applications and as your name suggests you might well be in one of those places! 
I don't know about Canadian law but in the US the incandescent manufacturers are only being forced to make them more efficient - they are not being banned.

The heat provided by incandescents is of value if used but where I am I have yet to turn on the heating system. It will be in use from about 1 December to 1 April. The other eight months any heat generated in wasted. The heat is typically generated on the ceiling where it does little good. Studies done on this point suggest that only a small percentage of the heat generated by a lamp is really used due to the location (ceiling).

As you point out color temperature and color rendition are different for different types of lamps and some are not yet to a point where they are satisfactory for particular uses. This is generally improving as manufacturers try to meet market demands.

Your last line says it all! 
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