The light goes out on incandescents… hello CFLs & LEDs!

incand bulbThe lights ARE going out on incandescents… would Thomas Edison be sad?  Maybe, because lightbulbs haven’t changed much since he invented them(!) but now his invention is being banned in the European Union as of September 1.  The US will follow, with a phase out beginning in 2012 and complete elimination by 2014.

Can you imagine the energy savings and the reduction in carbon emissions?  Good news for the environment!

CFLs are currently the best option available for those who want to make the switch.  And surely you’ve heard about the mercury they contain and this makes some consumers a little uneasy.  But did you also know that today they actually contain 20% less than mercury than those manufactured two years ago?  Yep, it’s true!  The amount contained would actually fit on half the head of a pin!  (Old mercury thermometers contained 150-500 percent more!) And since most of it becomes bound to the inside of the bulb as it’s used, the dangers aren’t as great as it appears.  Just don’t break it!

I, in fact, just had my first CFL burnout.  It certainly didn’t last six years, but I’m sure it reached its “hour” maximum!  It’s now sealed in a container and awaiting drop off at Home Depot.  You might remember that they accept CFLs for proper disposal and that is key.  Landfills are the last place CFLs belong because of the mercury, so please, please be sure they are properly disposed.

Now might also be a good time to remind you what to do if they (gasp!) DO break.  It sounds frightening, but there are some simple guidelines to follow:CFL blb

  • Open a window, and walk away for 15 minutes.
  • Put on disposable gloves.
  • Sweep up the remnants with an old rag or a stiff paper and put everything in a sealable container, preferably glass.
  • Wipe down and thoroughly clean the entire area.
  • Drop all of these materials (in the sealed container) at a Home Depot or hazardous waste site.

Yes, it sounds like a bit much, but better to err on the side of caution… or better yet, just take precautions so it doesn’t get broken!  (This makes me think back to an incident in elementary school, when my friend dropped an old mercury thermometer. We didn’t touch it and I really don’t remember the teacher having a major freak-out, but maybe she should have!  I certainly don’t remember a hazmat team on site either… boy, have times changed! And maybe that’s why I’m a “half-bubble off level”!)

CFLs aren’t the permanent solution either. On the horizon?  LEDs… light emitting diodes, if you didn’t know!  They’re already being introduced in Japan and are even more energy efficient, so eventually the “mercury-factor“ won’t be a factor at all.

In the meanwhile, switch a bulb… take precautions and care… dispose of them properly… and thank Mr. Edison, but it’s time to move on…

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10 thoughts on “The light goes out on incandescents… hello CFLs & LEDs!

  1. This sounds great and all, but I think it’s too early. I hate to advocate market solutions, but this is a place where they might be appropriate. CFLs and LEDs are expensive because their production is energy intensive. They have to actually serve the life span that is claimed for them in order to see any gains in energy consumption, even if the toxics issue is set aside. I have been using CFLs for some time now, and I experience burn outs at least as frequently as I do with incandescents. If the bulbs require greater energy input and contain toxic mercury and they burn out just as quickly, then its a net loss. What can, and should happen, is carbon taxation and an end to coal subsidies so that energy prices are properly reflected. Then, ultimately, CFLs and LEDs will become more cost effective and will compete with incandescents. In turn, more money will be invested in improving the efficiency of incandescents (which can, in theory, result in an even greater gain in efficiency than CFLs). Then the most efficient product will win out on cost and all the products will be forced to get more efficient.

  2. Well, I really want to get behind CFLs, but I think a lot of them have been rushed to market and manufactured on the cheap, an that’s why you get shorter than advertised lifespans. I wish there were some good, concise information on WHICH CFLs to buy, based on real-world lifespans, energy consumption, and how the manufacturer handles toxics. Hey, in all your copious spare time why don’t you whip that up for us? 😉

  3. I was just telling a friend of mine this morning about CFLs and what to do if they broke (her cat knocked over the lamp). Your timing couldn’t be more perfect, thank you! That’s wonderful news learning about the US banning them completely.
    .-= Frannie´s last blog ..Green Kid Birthday Parties =-.

  4. Gus – Agreed! But the likelihood of me doing that research is somewhere between the “not likely” and “not me” category! 🙂 But yes, I wish there was some valid information about which CFL possess the truly quality and usefulness we are all looking for!

    Frannie – Happy to help a friend out! 🙂

  5. Most of the bulbs in my house are CFLs now but I must say as well that I haven’t had good luck with them lasting very long. Some have even burned out in less than 3 months! One thing you can do is contact the company that made them if you do get early burn outs (some companies offer 3 year guarantees). I was even able to return some that burnt out early to the store I bought them from.

    LEDs seem to be more promising than CFLs. I was reading recently in Popular Science about a competition to create a cheep LED bulb that uses less than 10 watts I think. I don’t have the article handy and can’t remember the details of course, but it looks like efforts are being made to produce better, cheaper alternatives to CFLs.
    .-= Earth Friendly Goodies´s last blog ..Sarah’s Silks Natural Handmade Halloween Costumes =-.

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