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That Could Be a Mighty Expensive Light Bulb:

The Boston Globe reports:

The [study issued by the state of Maine and the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project], which shattered 65 [compact fluorescent] bulbs to test air quality and clean-up methods made these recommendations: If a bulb breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum -- even on a rug -- to clean up a compact fluorescent light. Instead, while wearing rubber gloves, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the bulb broke. Use a glass jar with a screw top to contain the shards and clean-up debris.

Cut out the piece of carpet? How expensive will that to be replace? I've seen reports that the mercury risk is greatly overstated, but this story worries me. The $2000 toxic cleanup bill story was apparently based on an overreaction; but if this study, which is hardly anti-fluorescent, is right, those bulbs might prove very costly.

As importantly, while it sounds like the mercury danger can be largely eliminated using these cleanup tips -- expensive as they can be when carpeting is involved -- there's always a risk that the cleanup won't be done exactly right: Say, for instance, that a child breaks the bulb, and doesn't follow proper cleanup procedures, or doesn't get out of the area promptly. Of course small children should be taught to leave the area of any glass breakage in any event, but the trouble with small children is that they don't always do as they're told; I don't like the idea of adding mercury poisoning risk to the risk of glass cuts.

And I say all this as someone who has largely replaced most of the standard incandescent bulbs in my house with fluorescent ones (though fortunately for me, we have wood floors in most of our house, so at least the carpet concern is absent). Perhaps I should have stuck with my normal skepticism about environmentalist enthusiasms. Or am I missing something?

Thanks to the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web for the pointer.

Cornellian (mail):
I have never understood why carpets are so popular relative to hardwood floors. The latter are so much easier to keep clean.
2.26.2008 8:45pm
FantasiaWHT:
Cornellian, do you live in a cold climate? The thought of waking up on a winter morning and stepping on hardwood just makes me cringe.
2.26.2008 8:54pm
Redlands (mail):
Which prompts my question: To aggressively pursue a "living-green" policy what are the likely costs? Has an enterprising economist ever crunched the numbers???
2.26.2008 8:55pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I doubt that a little mercury would do that much harm. I played with it and didn't notice any mental retardation.
2.26.2008 8:57pm
Mark H.:

Perhaps I should have stuck with my normal skepticism about environmentalist enthusiasms.



That's always a safe way to go.

I really don't know, I like the curly-q things, and bought my first one some time back, but I'm floored at the attempt to regulate real light bulbs out of existence -- if the CFLs can stand on their own merits, they'll push the others out without any help. Will these rush-job laws also stop the progress of LEDs if they're written as poorly as I imagine they are, thus banning all other forms of bulbs?

I hate to be overly cynical, but which company had the biggest production capability for CFLs and who did they donate to? Have the various environmental clean-up companies made donations as well?
2.26.2008 9:00pm
cirby (mail):

I played with it and didn't notice any mental retardation.


Well, you wouldn't, you know.

How long was the bus you rode to school? Did they make you wear a helmet when you went to the water fountain? Did you vote for Hilary Clinton at any time?
2.26.2008 9:06pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

Cornellian, do you live in a cold climate? The thought of waking up on a winter morning and stepping on hardwood just makes me cringe.

I've spent most of my life in cold climates (I currently live in northern British Columbia). My preference is bare floors with rugs here and there, e.g. beside the bed. These are much easier to clean than wall-to-wall carpet and can be moved around. And to my taste a nice oriental or Navajo rug is much more attractive than most wall-to-wall carpet.

Those of us who live in cold climates tend to wear some sort of footwear in the house, so bare floors are fine except where one is likely to be barefoot. For dress purposes moccasins are nice, but what really keeps your feet warm are down booties. I'm wearing a pair now.
2.26.2008 9:06pm
TRE:
Carpet is cheap.
2.26.2008 9:08pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I'm not sure how the environmental/health issues work out, but I see two other problems to mandating the use of compact fluorescents. One is that a lot of light fixtures don't accomodate them. I've changed most of my lights to compact fluorescent, but some of the ceiling fixtures just don't have enough room.

The other problem is that in some cases the heat output from incandescent bulbs is desirable. The canonical case would be in home-brew incubators (for hatching poultry). They are also used in cages for animals such as snakes, and can be a cheap, safe substitute for a heater where it is desired to heat a room or outbuilding only a little, e.g. to keep water from freezing.

The fixture problem will eventually go away as fixtures are replaced, but in the short term I think that it will be a real problem.
2.26.2008 9:11pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
There's another problem with mandating the use of compact fluorescents. In situations in which interference from radio frequency energy must be minimized, as in some laboratories, you use incandescent bulbs because fluorescent bulbs produce much more RF. I believe that this is true of the compact fluorescents as well.
2.26.2008 9:15pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
My father tells me that dentists used to handle what would now be considered large amounts of mercury for filling amalgams, with no obvious ill effects.
2.26.2008 9:29pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Right -= those things run somewhere north of 40KHz, with more or less square waveform - lots of RF, although they do have some minimal filtration. I might add, that they don't seem to last any 7 years when you mount them base up (such as in a ceiling lamp).

Duncan's got a point - a little mercury probably won't do any harm. But if it's soaked into the carpet, you are going to have to live with it until it totally evaporates. How long is that? More to the point, over the course of years, how many lamps are going to get broken in your house? A steady diet of this stuff is definitely not good for you, and particularly not for little kids.

Anyone for starting a bootleg incandescent lamp business? Or perhaps for lynching the legislators who voted for this stupidity. Is banning incandescent lamps Constitutional?
2.26.2008 9:30pm
Toby:
My wife has already dictated that we begin hoarding....

I think the real issue is the dishonesty at the heart of most government pandering and hysteria. I can read the savings on a new style bulp, and find the fine print on the back estimates those savings based upon energy costs 50% higher than the ones I face. The local power company, which cannot afford to make my power more reliable, gets PUC points for subsidizing these poisonous bulbs. THe PUC, by the way, rewards them only for sunk costs, for for investment or for service.

Mark H asks the correct question - who paid who for this monstrosity of a regulation masquerading as mom and apple pie?

Better transparancy, better markets will get us there faster. And *no* amount of these bulbs will overcome the waves of plasma screens in most buildings...
2.26.2008 9:40pm
Le Blue Dude:
For use the daylight blue color, not the incandescent yellow. It has no mercery
2.26.2008 9:44pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

My father tells me that dentists used to handle what would now be considered large amounts of mercury for filling amalgams, with no obvious ill effects.


The toxicity of mercury varies considerably depending on the form. Elemental mercury at room temperature is not readily absorbed through the skin because it does not wet it and so exposes a very small surface area. Mercury vapors are much more dangerous. Inorganic compounds of mercury are more dangerous but do not cross the blood/brain barrier. Various organic compounds are much more toxic.

Dental amalgams are alloys of mercury with other metals and as such contain elemental mercury. They are therefore relatively non-toxic. The safety of amalgam in fillings is disputed - evidently amalgams are not all that toxic or the effects would be more obvious.
2.26.2008 9:47pm
Bleepless (mail):
Fluorescent bulbs also tend to catch fire. As usual, the liberal reformers, regardless of party, have imposed a decree which will not do any good, but will make us feel smug -- those of us who survive.
2.26.2008 9:57pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

For use the daylight blue color, not the incandescent yellow. It has no mercery


To my knowledge ALL CFLs contain mercury, regardless of the color temperature. Can you provide a source for this claim?
2.26.2008 10:03pm
Nathan_M (mail):
The Maine DEP published some more detailed information (the link is a short Word document) after the $2,000 clean up story.

If the Maine DEP information is accurate the Mercury levels on carpet are a bit high at the exact spot the light bulb broke, and inside the bag used to clean it up. The mercury concentration at the carpet dropped to acceptable levels rapidly. I can't imagine why you would want to replace the carpet, aside from paranoia.
2.26.2008 10:06pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
One other aspect of this that I find curious is that a better solution appears to be just around the corner. Light emitting diodes are four times as efficient as CFLs (30% compared to 7-8%, and rising), last even longer, and do not contain mercury or other toxic substances. The current limitation is that they are not yet available at sufficiently high power for many applications, but my understanding is that higher power LEDs are expected within the next few years. It seems odd to force a massive change to CFLs if a much superior lamp will soon be available.
2.26.2008 10:07pm
Rock On (www):

Fluorescent bulbs also tend to catch fire. As usual, the liberal reformers, regardless of party, have imposed a decree which will not do any good, but will make us feel smug -- those of us who survive.

This is actually not true. At all. An incandescent is FAR more likely to catch fire.
2.26.2008 10:07pm
TRex (mail):
Sounds like we have a new asbestos on our hands. If the bulbs are so dangerous, the tort liability will eliminate them, regardless of Al Gore. I like the fact that they are not hot and I should not have to climb up the ladder to change them so often. And I love wood floors.
2.26.2008 10:10pm
Randy R. (mail):
Oh, I wouldn't worry about it. No one's been worried about all the mercury in our fish, so what's a little bit from a light bulb?

Funny how conservatives get all worried about the environment all of a sudden....
2.26.2008 10:11pm
Josh Barro (www):
How likely is a CFL to break if dropped from a height of, say, five feet onto a carpet? Though the cleanup is much more problematic with carpet, the bulbs should be a lot less likely to actually break if they fall onto carpet.
2.26.2008 10:12pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
As a technical necessity, all fluorescent lights include mercury. You can't get most noble gases to put off UV energy efficiently without a metal dopant -- pure neon lamps are only about as efficient as conventional incandescents when you look for any near-white light -- and mercury's the only real efficient option when you're dealing with phosphor. Trying something like pure Xenon arc can actually give you great, daylight-like light, but is even less efficient than your average incandescent. Halogen incandescents would be a better choice than that.

If you go over to sodium gas-discharge, you can actually get much higher efficiencies and lifespans without the mercury (if you're not constrained by size), but the resulting light makes colour differentiation nearly impossible and looks a rather painful yellow.

While there are some medical risks related to mercury vapor lights, I think the concern is largely overblown. That said, I'd prefer if people be allowed to make the decision themselves about whether the risk is worth it, rather than be forced into the subject until LED-based lights become economically viable.
2.26.2008 10:30pm
Jmaie (mail):
There is no mandate that I must eat mercury-containing fish...
2.26.2008 10:34pm
Peter Wimsey:
I stopped burning whale oil when I learned about the mercury in fish.
2.26.2008 10:44pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
One other aspect of this that I find curious is that a better solution appears to be just around the corner. Light emitting diodes are four times as efficient as CFLs (30% compared to 7-8%, and rising), last even longer, and do not contain mercury or other toxic substances. The current limitation is that they are not yet available at sufficiently high power for many applications, but my understanding is that higher power LEDs are expected within the next few years. It seems odd to force a massive change to CFLs if a much superior lamp will soon be available.


Conventional LED lighting is currently extremely expensive for its level of output, and this is not likely to change soon even as advances are made. While these devices are nearly as quick at advancing as computer chips are, there's just too much of a gap right now. An incandescent light bulb rated for 1,000 lumens (60-70 watts) can be purchased for less than a dollar. CFLs are more expensive, but not so much as to be crippling to the average owner. Modern LED lighting costs can have you paying twenty bucks for 100 lumens.
It's going to be at least the better part of a decade before those even approach the same price as CFLs. They may pay for themselves over time, but that doesn't help the people sitting in the dark.

Modern white LEDs also have some rather unique health concerns.
2.26.2008 10:54pm
theobromophile (www):
Cornellian, do you live in a cold climate? The thought of waking up on a winter morning and stepping on hardwood just makes me cringe.

Am I a bad person for laughing at that? Unless he chose his username in order to mask his true identify, he probably goes to or went to Cornell, which qualifies as "a cold climate."

I don't mind the hardwood in my current apt., as utilities are included in the rent and my landlord keeps the heat turned up to the low 70s.

Back on topic: CFLs and any other energy-saving technology does not really need government mandates. There is no market failure: energy is not free (in fact, it is getting ever more expensive), so technology that helps people to reduce their energy use will also help them to save money. Last time I checked, people like to save money. No need for a government mandate.
2.26.2008 10:56pm
Brett Bellmore:

This is actually not true. At all. An incandescent is FAR more likely to catch fire.


I'd readily believe that incandescent bulbs are far more likely to start fires, (Even in normal operation they put out a huge amount of heat.) but your average incandescent bulb, being composed almost entirely of metal, glass, and ceramic, is about as flammable as a teacup. While CFLs have flammable components, and are themselves capable of igniting.
2.26.2008 10:56pm
Cro (mail):
I stopped buying CFBs after I had to clean one up. It exploded as soon as I turned it on and dumped powder into my eyes and all over the floor. Cleanup was a pain. Then I had to wonder if my room was toxic. The energy savings isn't worth it.
2.26.2008 11:08pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
Gattsuru,

Although it is true that they aren't yet economical for larger amounts of light, it looks like LED lamps are already a reasonable choice in the slightly-less-than-100 watt range.
Look at the prices and cost calculations here.
It is true that the up-front cost is much higher than for other bulbs, but it is in a range where even someone of relatively modest means could gradually shift to them, and the savings over time are considerable.
2.26.2008 11:12pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

I stopped buying CFBs after I had to clean one up. It exploded as soon as I turned it on and dumped powder into my eyes and all over the floor. Cleanup was a pain. Then I had to wonder if my room was toxic. The energy savings isn't worth it.

How is this different from what happens when you break a regular fluorescent bulb?
2.26.2008 11:13pm
Vinnie (mail):
How is this different from what happens when you break a regular fluorescent bulb?

Tungsten isn't toxic on the scale of mercury.

I live in a colder climate. I heat with electricity, I pay the second lowest rate per KW hour in the nation.
When I turn my lights on in winter, the added heat is not lost and is more efficient than my furnace.(I use 100% of the output, both light and heat)
In the summer it stays light until about bedtime. I don't use the lights much. When I do use the lights the evening is usually cool anyway.
My porch light is a CFL. No sense in heating the outdoors.
2.26.2008 11:40pm
Brett Bellmore:
It's not different.

Regarding the cost of LED lighting, try hitting the after Christmas sales, when stores are marking down their unsold LED Christmas lights. Remarkably affordable, AND attractive!
2.26.2008 11:41pm
Waldensian (mail):
cirby writes:

How long was the bus you rode to school? Did they make you wear a helmet when you went to the water fountain?

Ah yes, humor at the expense of children with developmental disabilities. I used to think jokes like this were funny. But I was an ass. Cirby, I invite you to learn from my experience. Seriously, ask me what changed my mind about this sort of thing.
2.26.2008 11:55pm
Vinnie (mail):
No, humor at the expense of Duncan Frissell. He could have just said "after looking at past posts that explains a lot".
To keep this on subject: When the PC police get a new idea do organic beeswax candles appear over their heads?
2.27.2008 12:22am
Qwertz:

When the PC police get a new idea do organic beeswax candles appear over their heads?


Alas, no. Beeswax candles require stealing from bees. And emit carbon dioxide. And raise human existence above the level of bare subsistence. They are thoroughly un-PC.

~Q
2.27.2008 1:44am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Here's an idea: don't drop the CFL bulbs, or minimize that chance by handling them very carefully. I don't see what is so hard about that.

I like the CFLs because (1) they are cheap, now that my utility massively subsidizes them; (2) they last a long time, so I don't have to change them very much; (3) they use much less energy than incandescents, so I save on my bill and (4) they are not hot to the touch. The only downsides to them are that the quality of the light is not as good (too blue-green, or cool), and you are suppose to recycle them (not just toss them in the trash) because of the mercury (a pain, just like batteries, because there is no good system in place for recycling them yet).

My favorite household light for light spectrum issues is the halogen.
2.27.2008 2:06am
NicholasV (mail) (www):
There's another problem with mandating the use of compact fluorescents. In situations in which interference from radio frequency energy must be minimized, as in some laboratories, you use incandescent bulbs because fluorescent bulbs produce much more RF. I believe that this is true of the compact fluorescents as well.

I'll say. I was trying to build a guitar amp, and when I had it on my desk with the lid off, it oscillated horribly and had a lot of very loud, bad-sounding unwanted noise. This all stopped when I turned the fluorescent light that I was using off.

It's also very hard to read resistor colour codes in that lamp. I might have to get a halogen or incandescent lamp when working with sensitive analogue electronics or trying to read the colour codes.
2.27.2008 2:48am
Brian K (mail):
How likely is a CFL to break if dropped from a height of, say, five feet onto a carpet? Though the cleanup is much more problematic with carpet, the bulbs should be a lot less likely to actually break if they fall onto carpet.

I had the same question. I've dropped several incandescent bulbs and, not surprisingly, they broke. I've also dropped several CFL's but none of them broke. Although my roommate did break one when he dropped a box of books on it. From my limited experience, CFL's are harder to break than incandescent bulbs when dropped from normal heights but neither one can withstand a 30lb box of books.
2.27.2008 4:08am
Curious (mail):
The [study issued by the state of Maine and the Vermont-based Mercury Policy Project], which shattered 65 [compact fluorescent] bulbs to test air quality and clean-up methods made these recommendations: If a bulb breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum -- even on a rug -- to clean up a compact fluorescent light. Instead, while wearing rubber gloves, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the bulb broke. Use a glass jar with a screw top to contain the shards and clean-up debris.

And if you strictly comply, you will live forever...
2.27.2008 4:27am
Bill Sommerfeld (www):
I've broken more CFL's recently than incandescents.

Another problem with CFL's is that most of them aren't dimmer-friendly, and the dimmer-friendly ones are both much more expensive and generally not found in retail stores.
2.27.2008 8:00am
L Halbrook:
Vinnie wrote: My porch light is a CFL. No sense in heating the outdoors.

I've read that CFL's shouldn't be used outside, or in a garage, in really hot or really cold weather. I haven't tried it myself.

All the supposed limitations of these things are ridiculous. I have found that to get a bright enough light I have to buy a bulb at a higher wattage than I do with an incandescent. Does that save money?? And the fact that it takes a minute or two (at least) for the bulb to "warm up" and then that you're supposed to leave it on for at least 15 minutes, just makes these bulbs seem so inferior to incandescents.

I'm 3 months pregnant and after reading about the added dangers for pregnant women, I feel like throwing out the couple of CFL's I have. (But since we're not supposed to throw them in the trash - I don't even know where to get rid of them!)

I recently stocked up on a bunch of boxes of good, old fashioned incandescents ...
2.27.2008 8:32am
Sid (mail) (www):
Reading this post and the related comments has inspired me to change the way I live.

Just the other day, I was hunting spotted-owls. As I dipped the lead bullet in a small vat mercury, I remembered that I needed to return to my Hummer and change the oil while I was above the watershed. Just let the oil run downstream is the way my father taught me. I can't for the life of me remember why I left the engine running while I was away hunting. While I was there, I buried the asbestos tiles from my remodeling project. Can anyone tell me why the National Park Service does not keep open pits for asbestos tiles? Having to dig my own pit was a real hassle. Fortunately, my bulldozer and backhoe were able to clear a path in the old growth forest so I could back my Hummer to the edge of the pit.

Seriously, light bulb legislation? Was this the result of mass hysteria or a well placed campaign contribution?

CFL's have practical applications but are not useful in all circumstances. I am a fan of "This Old House". Last season, they did a green project in Austin. As the host was walking through an architect's private green residence, the topic of CFLs and lighting came up. The host pointed to a fixture over the sink and complimented the lighting color. The architect admitted that the specific fixture was halogen and quickly diverted attention away to other fixtures. This was a 5-star rated green home in Austin.

Use CFLs when practical. Replace burnt bulbs only when necessary. Update fixtures when necessary. Turn off fixtures when not in use. Avoid legislation to force others to lemming with you off a cliff.
2.27.2008 8:47am
stoneyforest:
OK, Waldensian, I'm curious. What changed your mind?
2.27.2008 8:56am
Miked0268 (mail):
Talk about stupid legislation. Just about when the remaining technical drawbacks of CFLs - warm-up time, incompatibility with dimmer switches, and unpleasant spectral output - are solved, another technology that is yet another order of magnitude more efficient (LEDs) ought to be just about reaching maturity. Will we then have another law to make us change all the light bulbs again?

And, for certain applications - lights that are used only very intermittently, like in closets - there may never be a superior solution to incandescents.

Legislators usually show particularly spectacular stupidity when they dabble in technical subjects. Not too many engineers in Congress I guess.
2.27.2008 9:02am
Temp Guest (mail):
I'm curious too, Waldensian. Is it mercury poisoning that caused you to lose your sense of humor or is it just another aspect of liberalism (DSM-5R Left-Wing Temporal Lobe Disorder).
2.27.2008 9:11am
Just Dropping By (mail):
I've read that CFL's shouldn't be used outside, or in a garage, in really hot or really cold weather.

I don't know if that's correct or not, however the previous owner of my house put CFLs in all the outdoor fixtures and none of them have burnt out in the year and a-half that I've lived there. (During that time temperatures have ranged from -20 to 100 Fahrenheit.) Thus, anecdotally at least, there doesn't seem to be too much of a problem.
2.27.2008 9:43am
Virginian:
I have seen on TV recently several propaganda pieces about how all of the shortcomings of CFLs are really not so bad. BS! I bought one CFL to try...put it in a 3-way lamp (the bulb was labeled as a 3-way bulb). It is a piece of crap. Slow to turn on...poor lighting...flickers and pops...and apparently toxic if broken. Definitely time to start hoarding incandescent bulbs.
2.27.2008 9:48am
Dan Weber (www):
I've used CFL's outside. No problems yet.

The big problem with CFL's is that they vary in quality. I've had some cheap ones go out on me quickly.

As for the big freakout at the top of this page, it's probably because EPA's are bureaucracies. They don't get paid to rationally assess risk. They get paid to avoid as much risk as possible.
2.27.2008 10:07am
wranger5 (mail):
First, gas mileage regulations nationwide, regardless of regional circumstances or individual need. Then, low volume toilets mandated nationwide, regardless of local water situations or individual needs. Are we now looking at a nationwide mandate for "energy saving" and potentially toxic light bulbs, regardless of local energy costs or individual conditions? If so, it's just another tiny step toward more government control over our lives, the fundamental goal of all government agencies, everywhere.
2.27.2008 10:42am
gattsuru (mail) (www):
CFLs are probably more friendly to outdoor situations than tungsten incandescents. Much less risk of shattering if a little bit of water hits a hot bulb. That said, you do still want to keep them shaded from water exposure, snow, et all (which can mess up the phosphor coating or corrode the terminal), and make sure to purchase CFLs rated for low temperature settings. Cheap CFLs often aren't, and they'll provide very little light or be very inefficient at low temperatures.

Although it is true that they aren't yet economical for larger amounts of light, it looks like LED lamps are already a reasonable choice in the slightly-less-than-100 watt range.
Look at the prices and cost calculations here.


None of those LED sources are 100 watt bulbs, nor do they provide comparable light output to a 100 watt incandescent. A 100 watt tungsten incandescent puts out about 1700 lumens worth of lighting. Most of the bulbs on that site are equal to 10 to 25 watt tungsten incandescents, not exactly an important value. 80 lumens is great for a flashlight, but not really acceptable for reading. Almost every application I've seen for light bulbs of that rating uses an array of them. I can't see Joe Blow being able to afford an array of those.

The only LED source on that site reaching near what you'd put in a lamp are the "LED under cabinet lightings" at 720 lumens, equal to a 50 watt tungsten incandescent bulb. Those are not only far too large for most applications, but also cost 200 USD. Even if they do make up for their price over time — not a given, as you have to really rely on that life-span estimate — that's still a <i>very</i> high base value to ask people to pay.
2.27.2008 10:43am
Mark Buehner (mail):
You could always just move.

Seriously people- every day your kid sits in a science classroom where probably a hundred thermometers have been broken over the last twenty years FILLED with mercury, and i am pretty sure hazmat was never called in to clean them up.

Chillax. And go have a tuna sandwich.
2.27.2008 10:54am
Cmdr. Porkins:
I have found that to get a bright enough light I have to buy a bulb at a higher wattage than I do with an incandescent. Does that save money??

I'm pretty sure you're wrong about that, and that you are confusing the prominently displayed incandescet wattage equivalent, which is done because people are so used to associating "watts" with "brightness" even though it is just a measurment of energy. You will find that the CFL bulbs emblazoned with "100 Watt Brightness," if you look closely, consume less than 30 watts.
2.27.2008 10:55am
Tom952 (mail):
We are exposed to mercury naturally in the environment. A few people are highly sensitive to mercury, but the rest of us have no apparent ill effects. Charges of health damage caused by amalgam dental fillings a few years ago could not be proven.
2.27.2008 11:01am
Cmdr. Porkins:
Although it is true that they aren't yet economical for larger amounts of light, it looks like LED lamps are already a reasonable choice in the slightly-less-than-100 watt range.
Look at the prices and cost calculations here.


Wow, what a classic con job. Convenient, isn't it, that their chart leaves off any measurement of actual light output? Sure, you only have to pay 10% of the cost of continuously operating a 60-watt, 1000-lumen bulb for 7 years, if you replace it with a 2-watt 30-lumen bulb. Of course, while you pay 10% of the cost, you only get 3% of the light. Not such a great deal after all.
2.27.2008 11:15am
Mark Buehner (mail):
I've had good results in the 27 watt range- mine provide about 1800 lumens which is in the ballpark of a 100 watt incandescent bulb. Im willing to pay a premium to not have to change bulbs, because i am remarkably lazy. The electricity savings is really an afterthought.
2.27.2008 11:44am
Waldensian (mail):

I'm curious too, Waldensian. Is it mercury poisoning that caused you to lose your sense of humor or is it just another aspect of liberalism (DSM-5R Left-Wing Temporal Lobe Disorder).

No, it's the fact that my twin boys, age 10, are autistic. (That would be DMS-IV Autistic Disorder, since you seem to be familiar with that work.) So they now ride the short bus that Cirby likes to mock.

Note that I'm talking the "real-deal" autism too, not Hollywood feel-good portrayals. They don't have conversational speech, they almost certainly will not be able to live independently, they engage in bizarre behavior, they are at risk of injuring themselves, etc.

One of them had regressive autism, so we basically got to watch his personality disappear right in front of our eyes when he was two. He also IQ tests in the range for mentally retarded, although personally I think IQ testing of kids with autism is a bizarre endeavor.

Oh, and I'm not actually a liberal. I believe in evidence-based approaches to medicine, and think the alleged link between mercury (or vaccines generally) and autism has been flatly disproven.

And I don't think I'm a victim of mercury poisoning. For what that's worth.

I suspect you would look at short bus jokes, portrayals in the media, various statements by public figures, and the history of man's inhumanity to man a whole different way after life experiences like this.
2.27.2008 11:58am
WHOI Jacket:
I have poor vision and I have yet to find a single CFL that even approaches the ease of reading that I get from a good old 100 W incandescent bulb.
2.27.2008 12:04pm
WHOI Jacket:
And, for the record, any mercury spills in your high school were 99% likely cleaned up. Unless your chem teacher had a death wish and the school had the best liability coverage in the universe.
2.27.2008 12:05pm
DanD:
OK, here are my objections to mandated CFL's:
I use them where appropriate, but my house has many fixtures that are specifically not appropriate for CFL's. Canisters, sconces, dimmer switches, and three-way lamps.

Yes, there are three-way CFL's on the market, I have tried three different brands. One lasted two weeks on a single light setting, the other two failed in less than two weeks... no light at all. They were added to my hazardous waste pile for the county's annual collection day... I sure hope I am not out of town the one day a year they encourage collection, because the central collection point is only open to the public a few hours a day during normal workdays, if citizens choose to drive twenty miles out of their way to the transfer station.

The local building code requires fluorescent lighting in closets to reduct incandescent-related fire hazards, so all closets already have tube lighting, no reason to change out fixtures to accept CFL bulbs.

My house has lots of windows and I generally use little interior lighting and no exterior lighting, but between recessed fixtures, three-way lamps, kitchen undercounter low-voltage halogens, and the closet fluorescent tubes, why should I be required to abandon incandescent lighting?

When I do turn on a light, it is often for just a few minutes at a time, so CFL's are still warming up when they get turned off.

One size fits all, oppressive top-down regulation that happens to favor a handful of CFL producers while causing a number of undesirable side effects. It's beginning to look a lot like the 1970's again, anyone recall the seat belt interlock regulation fiasco?
2.27.2008 12:06pm
cirby (mail):
Waldensian:
I suspect you would look at short bus jokes, portrayals in the media, various statements by public figures, and the history of man's inhumanity to man a whole different way after life experiences like this.

Yes, I imagine I would.

But, on the other hand, I've had similar experiences in different areas of my life, some of them quite difficult to deal with, and I still manage to make tasteless jokes about them (and myself). I don't go online, trying to "correct" people's off-the-cuff jokes about those subjects. I don't complain about fat jokes, jokes about people who die on motorcycles ("murdercycles" or "donorcycles"), geek jokes, ex-military jokes, et bloody cetera.

Being completely humorless about any subject makes that thing less interesting to everyone.
2.27.2008 12:24pm
Mark Buehner (mail):
And, for the record, any mercury spills in your high school were 99% likely cleaned up. Unless your chem teacher had a death wish and the school had the best liability coverage in the universe.


Wiped up maybe, but to the specifications listed in this article? Not even close. Not to mention the teacher probably doesnt find out about a good chunk of the mishaps to begin with. And mind you there is 100x more mercury in a thermometer than in a lightbulb.

Liability assumes that level of mercury in the air actually harms a healthy person, or at least that the possibility becomes common knowledge. Occam's razor suggest neither is true.
2.27.2008 12:48pm
Richard Gould-Saltman (mail):
I've just put a bunch of CF's in my house. For "decorative" "archetectural" and "mood" lighting, including facy fixtures, and dimmers/multi-levels, they're less than perfect. For much of the lighting in my house, single level recessed ceiling, they're wonderful, other than that "warm-up" minute or two. We actually found some of our initial purchase TOO bright and too close to daylight (specifically, my wife said: "How come the bedroom's lit up like a television stage all of a sudden?!? Are you planning something you hadn't discussed with me?") and switched them out into the kitchen, where they're fine.

I handled elemental mercury in science class as a kid. No signs of neuropathy, and I'm over 50. I've got friends who are dentists, and while most came up after it was generally accepted that mercury is a hazardous material for dentists exposed to it every day, all of them got exposed to more than the amount of mercury we're talking about, by an order of magnitude or two, and none of THEM are showing signs of hatter's madness.

The studies indicate that immediately upon breaking the lightbulb, the amount of mercury exposure exceeds the safe limit for chronic exposure. "Chronic", I would gather, means continued exposure, like in a workplace. A transient exposure is substantially different than chronic exposure. Ask a radiologist.

Acknowledging that (a) it's a bad idea to have small children doing clean-up of broken glass, or toxic materials generally (anyone still using drain cleaner? chlorine bleach?) (b) it may not be such a good idea to have women in the early stages of pregnancy clean up broken CF's:

what I CAN'T discern from these studies, if anyone bothered to figure it out, is what level of mercury is there in the carpeted room
(1) a day later and
(2) a week later
if
(a) you break a CF, and you (not your kid or your pregnant wife) simply sweep up the broken glass, put it in a sealed bag, and get rid of it, taking no other "decontamination" steps at all; (i.e., how fast does whatever portion of the 2 mg. of mercury which ends up on the carpet simply evaporate into the air?)
(b) if you break a CF, vacuum up the mess and vacuum the carpet, and dispose of your vacuum bag as if it were hazardous waste;
(c) sweep up and spot-shampoo the carpet with stadard carpet cleaner or
(d) sweep up and then spot-shampoo the carpet with some special "mercury-binding" clean-up material

(if if doesn't exist yet, SOMEONE'll market it; some folks were persuaded to have all of their amalgam fillings pulled out, and others were persuaded that they shouldn't have their kids vaccinated, on some pretty flimsy evidence, so if someone makes this stuff, it'sll sell!)
2.27.2008 1:17pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
Your childrens' health and chances for seeing grandchildren are a small price to pay for Congressional grandstanding and saving the world from non-existent dangers.
2.27.2008 2:11pm
stoneyforest:
See, Waldensian, mocking your children in front of strangers in a public forum is appropriate because it is a way of standing up to humorless, oppressive liberals. I'm sure you understand.
2.27.2008 2:12pm
Parker Smith (mail) (www):
Remember that the basis of humor is pain.

It's a big part of how we deal with the daily slings and arrows, how we cope with trouble, hurt, and fear.

That's why ANY joke can hit SOMEONE on a raw nerve - because humor can inflict pain as well as being used to cope with it.

It helps to be mindful of how you intend a joke to be taken, and consider how others may take it.

In summary - "No mothers, man!"
2.27.2008 3:09pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
I have the cfl's in my outdoor sockets, and in the summer they're fine but in the winter they stink because by the time they warm up to give you sufficient light you've already finished doing what you needed to do.
2.27.2008 3:20pm
tyree:
"Funny how conservatives get all worried about the environment all of a sudden...."

Conservatives have always been concerned about the environment. We just get a little prickly when the government dictates that we buy product A when we need product B.

I have compact fluorescents throughout my house except where I paint. As an artist I need to blend incandescent light and fluorescent light to get the right daylight mix. Will the government grant artists a special exemption, creating another privileged class/occupation? Or will my work suffer? Why not let me buy what works for me? The three incandescents in my house are not going to melt the polar ice caps.
By the way, while this is still legal:
Ever walked out of the house in pants you thought were black and later discover are dark blue? Get a Y socket for your closet light at the hardware store and put in both a compact fluorescent and a incandescent bulb in it. Turn the light on as soon as you wake up and after the fluorescent warms up, which take about 5 minutes, you will be able to see the subtle differences in shades in your clothes. Offsetting the additional damage to the polar ice caps can be done by carpooling to work once a year, and you will look much better. The Manolo, he would approve.
2.27.2008 3:21pm
JC:
My prediction: Power companies say go to CFL's to save energy. A few years down the line, power companies raise electricity rates because they aren't getting enough income and they're going bankrupt...
2.27.2008 3:26pm
Lonely Capitalist (mail):
And, for the record, any mercury spills in your high school were 99% likely cleaned up.

I bet 99% of the time no one told the teacher!
2.27.2008 3:33pm
Extraneus (mail):
I was saddened to read that the State of California has apparently backed off on plans to mandate remote-controlled home thermostats. Just think what it would mean if "we" could do this nation-wide! Even rescinding the CFL mandate wouldn't be unthinkable after that, what with all the new energy savings.

(I would be interested in the answer to Brooks Lyman's question as to the constitutionality of these sorts of freedom-sapping nanny-state mandates, but I'm guessing the answer will be depressing.)
2.27.2008 3:35pm
newscaper (mail):
The looming incandescent ban is insane.

FWIW I actually *do* have several CFLS

Here are the practical problems as I see them:

Frequently *horrendous* light quality, particularly at night -- they can make your paint look appalling as well as hurt your eyes. Many look sickly even in lampshades. I *did* find some warmer looking ones but it involved a lot of trial and error, and I can;t consistently find them over time.

In the absence of stupid mandates, market pressure would force mfgs to keep working on the spectrum &color temp issues.

They don;t play well with dimmers. Even the more $$ dimmer-compatible ones don't work well with electronic dimmers (x-10, insteon) and get wonky with a motion-detecting wall switch. Also, the 3-way CFL bulbs I've got in two lamps in the den are iffy, tending to flicker a while on the lower settings before settling down.

Finally,
Some are slow to warm up to full brightness, particularly in the cold, so their use for outdoor security lightning is iffy (think motion lights). -- though I'd add slow warmup could be nice in the middle of the night, indoors - less harsh.
2.27.2008 3:37pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
I've lived in the same house for 25 years, and had it designed to my specifications. The kitchen light fixture was designed to use, and has always used, long-tube CFL's of the sort my office has because my builder said those would be the most used lights in the house. I've replaced them only once or twice in that time.

In hindsight, the lights above the bathroom sinks/vanities should probably also have been CFL's as those have been the second most used lights.

The exterior tungsten floodlights on my patio have never, ever, been replaced in 25 years, but I haven't used those much.

CFL's have a proper place in the home, but they should be used with care, and in particular should not appear where children can easily get at them.
2.27.2008 3:38pm
Chuck Roast (mail):
Or..... you could refrain from breaking the bulbs.

This mercury scare is hysteria.

But there is a real problem with the pain these bulbs cause for headache suffers. Curse Congress and all CFS supporters for the pain you have so carelessly inflicted upon us. May you all burn in hell.
2.27.2008 3:41pm
bud (mail):



Fluorescent bulbs also tend to catch fire. As usual, the liberal reformers, regardless of party, have imposed a decree which will not do any good, but will make us feel smug -- those of us who survive.


This is actually not true. At all. An incandescent is FAR more likely to catch fire.


Well, in more than a half century of using incandescents, I have NEVER had the bulb catch fire, or cause a fire by itself. I've had fixtures that got hot because of bad connections, and I've seen fires started by someone doing something stupid, like laying a nylon scarf over the shade to make it "more romantic", but never the bulb itself.

OTOH, three weeks ago, I noticed a burning smell, and tracked it to a CFL in a ceiling fixture. The base cover (over the oscillator/ballast circuit) had a large brown spot on it, and was well on the way to flame.
2.27.2008 3:49pm
ern (mail):
There certainly is a quality difference in CFLs that isn't as apparent in incandescents. I tried some off brand CFLs (horrible light quality, buzzing, short life) before sticking with GE CFLs. But I did have to use their 100 watt equivalents to get the same light as my old incandescents. I'm still saving electricity, though.

I work at home, though, and in my office I have halogens. CFLs are fine for normal situations, but not for long exposure.

I've only ever broken a CFL bulb once. I was careful cleaning it up (it's amazing how much glass is actually in one of those things, and how sharp it can be), but I didn't treat it much more carefully than I would if it was an old-style bulb I'd broken. I'm not really all that worried about mercury.

Seems odd, though. Growing up, I remember having mercury thermometers stuck in my mouth all the time. No one seemed to worry then. Much of the craziness over mercury has to do with this contemporary fear of all things chemical. Mercury isn't perfectly safe, but the trace amounts in CFLs are not going to hurt you.
2.27.2008 4:01pm
Donald Campbell (mail):
tyree,
Even if you are not an artist, a common practice now days is photo printing. CFLs are a poor choice for getting the color balance correct for a photo you will mainly be viewing in daylight. I'm personally fond of the Reveal Halogen bulbs (probably on the banned list), as a reasonable subsitute for daylight comparisions.
Also, do I get a special dispensation for my 32 year old 'Lava Light'? The 40W incadescent bulb is more a heat source than a light source, and nothing else will do.
2.27.2008 4:01pm
agmartin (mail):
What about the lights inside my oven or in the refrigerator? There is no way I'm using a CFL in there.
2.27.2008 4:09pm
chuckR (mail):
For reading, you could consider metal halide bulbs such as MicroSun

I have two of these. They are definitely not on/off bulbs as the arc takes while to come to full brightness. The lamps include two 25W bulbs you can use until the metal halide brightens up. I don't know about toxicity; these are HID lamps and looking directly at them or being cavalier around a broken lamp is probably a bad idea. The wikipedia article suggests efficiency is at 24%. I also don't know if they factor in the power draw of the electronic ballast either.
2.27.2008 4:10pm
Waldensian (mail):

But, on the other hand, I've had similar experiences in different areas of my life, some of them quite difficult to deal with, and I still manage to make tasteless jokes about them (and myself). I don't go online, trying to "correct" people's off-the-cuff jokes about those subjects. I don't complain about fat jokes, jokes about people who die on motorcycles ("murdercycles" or "donorcycles"), geek jokes, ex-military jokes, et bloody cetera.
Being completely humorless about any subject makes that thing less interesting to everyone.

You're right. You make tasteless jokes about disabled children, and that makes you a better person than I am. I failed to grasp this earlier.

I was like you once, but I was a complete ass. Now, you're a complete ass. I don't see why you can't just laugh about that; it keeps it more interesting for everyone.
2.27.2008 4:13pm
mrbeezy (mail):
a better person than I am

For casual conversation, yeah apparently.

I was like you once, but I was a complete ass. Now, you're a complete ass.

So ... should you be congratulated for the event that "fixed" your ass or would you prefer sympathy and condolences?
2.27.2008 4:33pm
Moe:
The one's I've tried tend to put out a constant high-pitched tone that's unpleasant and distracting.
2.27.2008 4:38pm
Connie:
What about my classic Easy-Bake-Oven?????
2.27.2008 4:46pm
newscaper (mail):
Thomas Holsinger said
"In hindsight, the lights above the bathroom sinks/vanities should probably also have been CFL's as those have been the second most used lights."

My master bathroom has two 4-up fixtures with the exposed globes. It would get warm as hell in there with 8*40 = 320W.

I *did* manage to find some globe-style (G40?) CFLs that had decently warm light, but it was quite a hunt -- unfortunately it was one of those off-brands that Home Depot no longer carries -- for some damned reason HD has more shelf space for CFLs but fewer choices now. The lights were on a Leviton motion detector wall switch so they;d come on automatically when you walked in the middle of the night and shut off when you left, but once in a while it would make them flicker, and apparently caused some infant mortality. I've replaced the motion switch with a conventional one.
2.27.2008 4:50pm
LoafingOaf (mail):
Christopher Cooke:

The only downsides to them are that the quality of the light is not as good....


I love how people pushing CFLs list all the virtues and then note: The only real downside is that the lighting sucks. Oh, that's the only downside! What a ridiculously stubborn person I've been, buying the bulbs that have the most pleasing...light! I should've known that that's the smallest consideration one should give when purchasing a product for lighting my home.

Hey, you all should eat soy burgers instead of ground beef burgers. They're better for you. They're environmentally friendly. The only real downside is they taste like crap.

I bought one CFL and hated the light. I recently stayed in a hotel room full of CFLs and hated the light. So...I'll begin hoarding a lifetime supply of incandescents.
2.27.2008 4:59pm
Ron Hardin (mail) (www):
Just out of curiosity, a couple of years ago, I heated the house through the winter with lightbulbs. Put in 100w bulbs everywhere and leave them on 24/7 in rooms you want heated.

If you heat your house with resistive heating, it actually saves you money, since you don't heat the rooms you don't want.

For that matter, leaving on computers, TVs, fans, and everything else heats the house watt for watt as well as the electric furnace. And it offsets other kinds of heat as well.

Of couse in the summer you pay double for generating heat, once to generate it and once to remove it.

So I suppose seasonal lightbulb changes would be recommended for minimal overall cost.
2.27.2008 5:27pm
Vinnie (mail):
This mercury scare is hysteria.

Again it depends on the form of mercury. Elemental mercury is pretty safe. Most mercury salts are much more dangerous. Mercury fulminate for instance can be a nasty surprise.
2.27.2008 5:46pm
KeithK (mail):
I have a solution to all of this. Let's outlaw CFLs because of the mercury danger. Let's require that all lighting be incandescent bulbs but make it illegal to connect them to the power grid or use a battery. They can only be powered by a hand crank, or some other form of human power like a stationary bike. No greenhouse gases from burning oil and we'll have a healthy, non-obese population in no time! (Or a bunch of dumb-asses who sit in the dark...)
2.27.2008 5:50pm
Mr. Bingley (www):
Oh, and I live in a cool-ish climate and I have hard wood floors...and radiant heat! Woo-Hoo!! Nothing beats having your bare dogies hit a warm floor, especially the tile one in the bathroom, on a cold winter morning!
2.27.2008 5:57pm
Douglas2:
All I ask for is a dimable, lamp that can be used base-up in an enclosed fixture, that has decent colour-rendering of skin-tone and that gets to full brightness within mere dozens of milliseconds. And it should be quiet when I'm reading. And It should be electronically-switchable, so that I can use it with a timer wall-switch or photocell, and it should be operable at low-temperature. And I should be able to buy it inexpensively locally and have confidence that it will meet all of the above requirements.
2.27.2008 6:07pm
Phil A. Meant (mail):
Bill Poser,

you wrote:
The other problem is that in some cases the heat output from incandescent bulbs is desirable. The canonical case would be in home-brew incubators (for hatching poultry). They are also used in cages for animals such as snakes, and can be a cheap, safe substitute for a heater where it is desired to heat a room or outbuilding on
ly a little, e.g. to keep water from freezing.

_______________________________

How good it is to hear from another aficionado of the noble incandescent bulb, which is only in passing a device for producing light. Actually, your comment about "home-made" incubators is only partly correct. Professional chick incubators have been used down on the farm ever since Mr. Edison, our brilliant home-made S.O.B. and the shameless promoter of DC current, developed the first practical light bulb. "Practical" because the first real light bulb was apparently demonstrated before the Royal Society around 1817, but it used an expensive platinium filament that could operate without oxidative destruction in the ordinary room air. To this day, research and production laboratories purchase these elegant wooden bulb-warmed incubators with many trays, to warm eggs that are used to propagate viruses for research and vaccines. It may also be of interest that the first "under desk" foot and space warmers contained long, sausage-like bulbs about the size of a big cucumber (generally about four of them) in a decorative cabinet that hid the glaring light from the bulbs.

A typical incandescent light bulb is only "inefficient" if you define it based on its visible light output, which, truth to tell, is pretty inadequate. As a source of infra-red heating they are pretty nifty. As a light bulb collector (yes, we do exist....) I can tell you that doing so opens a world of historical fascination, and I gloat daily over my 1200 excellent bulbs, especially the Shelbys, T-H's and a host of birdcage filaments. Least you think I'm crazy, you are right, since I would willingly pay a small fortune for a rare Maxim bulb. Maxim, who failed at the electrical enterprise, also invented the Maxim gun, known to you as the machine gun. It is not impossible to pay well northward of US $20,000 or $30,000 for some rare specimens.

As for the evil socialist munchkins with damaged frontal
(g)lobes who are trying to force the "compact revolution" down our throats, and who find everything in our world unprogressive unless is agreeable to them, may their "green" marxist lifeboat of global warming scams be dashed on the icebergs of the massively expanding artic ice-sheets. We can hope they go down quickly in their micro-titanic of micro-minds(this may also invite a remark on other inadequacies that cause compensitory napoleonism...heh!).

Still, we probably won't be that lucky. No doubt this ship of fools will soon start blaming "global-cooling" on light bulbs, too. I believe I can hear in the distance their academic eructations and efluvial rumblings even now, the shameless, overfed parasites.

In any event, a mix of lighting frequencies is pleasing to the eye, and what the hell else is life for, other than a pleased eye, a pleased ear, a cup of wine, a good cigar, and the endless struggle against worthless public servants and their diseased camp followers. When they get to hell, perhaps the only seating available will be on "twisties". We can hope.

Fiat Lux!
2.27.2008 6:10pm
Thomas_Holsinger:
BTW, depicting fears about CFL mercury as "hysteria" absolutely invites litigation on the subject. Consider mold contamination.

I.e., we can expect the banning of conventional incandescenent bulbs to result in a litigation bonanza about home mercury contamination from broken CFL's.

Plus class action products liability litigation against lamp manufacturers for their dastardly disregard of public safety in producing lamps which do not magically capture and harmless dispose of all the mercury contamination from CFL's which break in them.

Think of a completely new product - disposable CFL lamps and other home lighting fixtures which prevent mercury leaks/contamination when their CFL's break, but must then be disposed of. And a new, heavily regulated industry which solely disposes of these things plus broken CFL's, all paid for by fees assessed on property owners, and which generously contributes to the re-elections of deserving Congressmen and state legislators.
2.27.2008 6:14pm
FWB (mail):
Issues:

CFLs do not emit as broad a spectrum of visible light as do incandescents. Missing warmer wavelengths. Ever notice how things you buy at stores with FL never have are same color once you leave the store. I always take things to the nearest window with sunlight to get a better take on the color.

CFLs contain Hg which escapes as a vapor into the surround air when the bulb breaks.

The BS cleanup offered in the Maine article will do absolutely nothing to pick up and remove the mercury. Since it is vapor it will spread throughout the room (good because it dilutes the concentration) but will deposit on surfaces around the area.

Professional Hg cleanup kits for labs generally are useless. The best cleanup tool for a mercury spill is a sliced raw potato. It will absorb the mercury better than any kit out there.

Hg is approx 2000x less volatile than water but does vaporize. Thus any Hg in the room will vaporize over time.

The human body has mechanisms to eliminate Hg from the body, kidney, liver, hair, fingernails.

In Sweden, there are homes that are so well insulated the entire heat requirements are met by incandescent lighting. Design is the answer.

CFLs flicker at various rates. Some folks can pick up the flicker and it can cause headaches, vision issues, etc.

The CFL issues can be surmounted but that requires purchasing special CFL bulbs at costs MUCH higher than other bulbs. Currently I can buy 4 incandescents for 74 cents at WAL-MART. Pretty hard to compete at 18-19 cents each.
2.27.2008 6:45pm
NicholasV (mail) (www):
"No greenhouse gases from burning oil..."

Are you forgetting about the oil burned producing the food which powers these hand cranks and stationary bikes?

Granted, we all need exercise anyway, but take this too far and people will have to eat more to have the energy to power these lights, with the result possibly being the burning of more oil.

Not that I think there's anything particularly wrong with burning oil (as long as it's burned completely - I don't want nasty partially burned stuff floating around).

[Yeah, I know you're joking, and it would be funny if what other people seriously propose were much less ridiculous.]
2.27.2008 6:46pm
teqjack (mail):
JC: "My prediction: Power companies say go to CFL's to save energy. A few years down the line, power companies raise electricity rates because they aren't getting enough income and they're going bankrupt..."

Not an exact parallel, but I stopped having long-distance on my phones over a decade ago, when the major carriers decided to charge me extra (beyond the charge for having the service at all) for not making "enough" such calls. I hear that has stopped, but that they still have the charge for long-distance. Bah.
2.27.2008 8:40pm
sbw (mail) (www):
This issue isn't the CFL, it's the government presuming to decide for you how to spend what you earn for your labor. If I earn a buck, what business is it of the government to suggest I can't spend it on heat?
2.27.2008 8:49pm
Truth Seeker:
This issue isn't the CFL, it's the government presuming to decide for you how to spend what you earn for your labor. If I earn a buck, what business is it of the government to suggest I can't spend it on heat?

Whoa! Dude! This is America, 2008. Government rules. You obey. And just wait until a Dem. becomes president. You ain't seen nuthin yet.
2.28.2008 12:26am
Kev (mail) (www):
Not an exact parallel, but I stopped having long-distance on my phones over a decade ago, when the major carriers decided to charge me extra (beyond the charge for having the service at all) for not making "enough" such calls. I hear that has stopped, but that they still have the charge for long-distance. Bah.


Interestingly enough, I just cancelled my MCI tonight for pulling the "minimum service charge" thing on me for the second time in about a year. Not sure how much longer I'll keep the land line, either.
2.28.2008 12:48am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
To LoafingOaf: I was not taking sides in this debate at all. I thought I was just stating a fact. There is a smaller spectrum of light emitted by CFLs than incandescents. But, I have noticed that many of my CFLs (I bought 5 for $5) have pretty good light quality (much better than the old flurescent tube lights in my garage, e.g.) Also, I have not experienced a long delay in startup and have not had any headaches. Personally, I use a halogen desk lamp when I need to read because that is the best indoor light (or I sit near a window during the day). I like the CFLs because they use less energy so I save money with them (especially if I get them at a subsidized price), and I don't have to replace them very much (since I am cheap and lazy).
2.28.2008 12:54am
gattsuru (mail) (www):
Properly functioning older CFLs, that run off mains power or only use magnetic ballast, may run as low as 100hz (outside the US) and 120hz (inside the US), but modern CFLs should use more efficient electronic controls that run in the thousands or tens of thousands of hertz. In any case, it shouldn't be the refresh rate doing you in unless the CFL isn't work right, or you have similar issues with CRT monitors.
2.28.2008 1:08am
anym_avey (mail):
gattsuru:
That said, you do still want to keep them shaded from water exposure, snow, et all (which can mess up the phosphor coating or corrode the terminal)

Nope. The phosphor coating and terminals are quite safe inside the bulb's sealed glass, unless you break it. However, the CFL base is not watertight, and the electronic ballast therein is quite hydrophobic.

ChuckR:
MicroSun....I have two of these. They are definitely not on/off bulbs as the arc takes while to come to full brightness. The lamps include two 25W bulbs you can use until the metal halide brightens up. I don't know about toxicity; these are HID lamps and looking directly at them or being cavalier around a broken lamp is probably a bad idea.

The outer bulb exists to protect the innards. If you break that, the bulb is worthless and will self-diable (albeit high-voltage wires are still exposed -- if the bulb is stil installed in the fixture, completely disconnect the fixture from power before attempting replacement), but the toxic compounds have not escaped. As with most gas-discharge lamps including CFLs, the inner quartz bulb contains an argon or argon/neon mixture to act as an arcing medium. A small amount of mercury is present to help start the arc and build gas pressure in similar fashion as a high-pressure mercury vapor lamp, but a selection of metal-halogen compounds are used to provide the primary light output once the lamp has heated.

The exotic compounds in a typical MicroSun lamp are tiny in quantity, and won't be released unless you utterly crush the bulb. (The 250-1000W models living over a school gymnasium or Wal-Mart parking lot have considerably more.)

Re: CFL color output

CFLs, just like standard fluorescents, use a phosphor coating to convert ultraviolet light from the low-pressure mercury vapor arc into visible light. Unfortunately, like most minerals capable of fluorescing (remember the rock and mineral exhibit in your local museum?), excited phosphors tend to emit light in narrow bands. Different combinations of phosphors can produce a wide spectrum, but even a "warm white" lamp will be dominated by spectral bands, particularly greens and blues. These are why certain color tones, particularly lighter shades of human skin, sometimes appear ghastly in CFL light even while the room may look relatively normal overall.

Re: Fire

FWIW, I've also had bad luck with CFLs in vertical and/or small-globe sealed fixtures. The ballast isn't meant to take cumulative heat output that results from either of those mounting positions. Some just failed early, but others actually browned the plastic in the fashion other commenters have described. However, while a CFL ballast is capable of emitting copious smoke in a worst-case failure, bursting into flames is not likely. The electronics within and the plastic base are made of materials that will not sustain a flame on their own.
2.28.2008 3:18am
B. Durbin (www):
I've not seen anyone mention that there are a huge number of light fixtures that CFLs will simply not fit into, including ones that take standard incandescents. So if CFLs were mandated, we'd have to buy a whole lotta new light fixtures.

I also second the flourescent flicker comment. The GE bubs haven't been too bad but we have used them blended with incandescent to cut the flicker rate. As my husband is slightly susceptible to migraine, it's a good idea to still have incandescent fixtures in his office space.

—B. Durbin
2.29.2008 12:43pm