Monday, July 26, 2010

Do Compact Fluorescent Bulbs Suck?

I think compact fluorescent bulbs suck. Perhaps I think this because I lack some important details about them, or simply don't know all the facts. Why do I think these curly little devils suck?

Tonight my spouse simply turned on the bathroom lights and in no time was hit by a horrible, almost acrid smell. You know, the horrible burning electric smell that makes you wonder what the hell is going on. Turns out that the cause was simply a failed compact fluorescent bulb. That made me think of a number of things I don't like about compact fluorescents.

1. These bulbs simply don't last as long as many claim. That very bulb had only been installed about two or three months ago. This is one of many bulbs, all over the house, that simply died long before expected. I just don't believe all the claims about how they are supposed to last three to five times longer than a regular incandescent bulb.

2. Cost. They are obviously worth more. I know that in terms of the environment, a little extra cost is supposed to worth it, right? But what about the fact that I had to dispose of numerous CF bulbs. They apparently contain mercury, and have huge plastic bases. That can't be good for the landfill. As well, these can't be environmentally friendly in their production. So every time one fails (long before it's time), more resources and energy are used to create a replacement. This doesn't seem right to me.

3. Are they hazardous? I think so. From what I have read, simply breaking one, say, by dropping it, could put you and yours at risk. I have read in numerous places that the contents become airborne, and are dangerous to breath or touch. Other sources say don't worry, as the bulbs only contain approximately 4 to 5 milligrams of mercury each. Oddly enough the EPA recommends that you immediately open windows, clean up the broken glass and dust immediately, but not to use a vacuum or your hands. They also recommend you then wipe the area with a wet paper towel to remove traces of glass, dust and mercury. I don't recall having those worries with the old incandescent bulbs.

4. The light they give off sucks. It's not just me either. Others have voiced the same opinion on this. These CF bulbs just don't stay bright white through their lifespan. Sometimes with half a year, they begin to give off a duller, more yellowy light. I also find them much less brighter Long before a year has passed.

So what do I do? I can't really just change everything back to incandescent bulbs. First, they do use a lot of power in comparison to compact fluorescents. Second, they are getting harder and harder to find. I think I may need to find a completely different lighting alternative. Someone told me that I should look into the new offerings in LED bulbs. No, not the single, dinky little things such as the ones on your remote control, but a group of them nested in large household bulbs. Supposedly they actually look like good old incandescent bulbs too. I need to research this more. The claims for LED household bulbs is that they last longer then both incandescent and fluorescents, while giving off a nicer, whiter light, while using little energy.

Are they costly? I guess they probably are. But some LED bulbs are providing something like 1200 lumen output. That's a 75-85W incandescent equivalent. Many reports on these lights claim that these bulbs can stay turned on for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and last for many years. There is also the claim that the energy needed to operate these bulbs for their entire life will likely cost less than the price of the bulb itself . Not bad.

LED household bulbs are sadly in their infancy. They need to be brighter. They also tend to be of the spotlight type (although good old round style bulbs exist). Since these household LED bulbs are new (in terms of household use), the general public (ya' that's us) need to hang in there a while until technology and production improve.

I going to try a few anyways. Maybe when they burn out they won't smell like I baked a Frisbee in the oven at 450.


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