The 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:
- 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…