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Thread: Why you think CFLs suck (and how to change that)

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Why you think CFLs suck (and how to change that)

    Have you ever decided that it was time to save energy and switch to compact fluorescent bulbs (you know, those funny shaped energy saving lights)? I'm guessing that the switch wasn't as exciting as you hoped it would be. Dim light, maybe flicker, and long warm–up times.

    No more.

    The new CFLs are comparable to "regular" light bulbs (incandescents) AND save you a lot of money over their lifetime.

    I've written a blog post on why you should change to these new lights (and it doesn't mentioned the word sustainability once!) Read it and let me know what you think. You can also download a spreadsheet that allows you to calculate the lifetime costs of different bulbs — and you'll be surprised how much money a CFL can save you.

    Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use about a fifth of the energy of a normal (incandescent) bulb to produce the same amount of light, so switching to CFLs means more money in your pocket every month (lower energy bills). Even though they are more expensive to purchase, the upfront cost of a CFL is recovered within six to twelve months (depending on the price of your electricity). Incandescent bulbs only last for about eight months, while CFLs can last for up to 4 years or longer, which is an extra saving (fewer bulb replacements).

    A lot of people say they do not like CFLs because the light is not nice, they flicker, and take time to warm–up. With the new CFLs all of these problems have been solved. They have quick start–up times, no flicker and good light quality. Make sure you choose a light marked "warm white" if you prefer the yellower colour of incandescents. CFL quality can vary quite a bit so buy a good quality bulb like the Phillips Genie or Osram Dulux SuperStar.

    Read the full article, "Some lights are more equal than others" on The Art of Engineering blog

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    What is the position on toxic waste with CFLs?

    I vaguely recall hearing ordinary flourescent tubes should require special disposal - something about nasty chemical contents?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    What is the position on toxic waste with CFLs?

    I vaguely recall hearing ordinary flourescent tubes should require special disposal - something about nasty chemical contents?
    I haven't done a lot of research on this yet. The main "ingredient" that can be problematic is mercury. From what I've read (unconfirmed) the quantities of mercury in CFLs are lower than the amounts released into the atmosphere burning coal. I know CFLs typically have less than 5ug of mercury.

    Also, if they are disposed of properly (recycled), then it is not an issue. In South Africa there are very few electronic waste disposal services. Pretty much all electronics (CRTs and batteries in particular) should be disposed of properly, but at the moment that is rare in most parts of the world.

    I'll try to find out more about this for you.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Yeah. That was it - the mercury.

    It was a "by the way" kind of dinner conversation - along with how salt is too toxic to be registered as a pesticide, probably. One's never really sure of the actual significance of stuff that floats up like that - sometimes you need to take it with a pitch of salt... But it all finds its way into the memory banks.

    The trouble is normally extracting the exact detail.
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    It was a "by the way" kind of dinner conversation - along with how salt is too toxic to be registered as a pesticide, probably. One's never really sure of the actual significance of stuff that floats up like that - sometimes you need to take it with a pitch of salt... But it all finds its way into the memory banks.
    The thing is, it is an issue which is often raised. It is like the whole issue of urban legends — why do they stick, even if they are not true? If there is enough sentiment in a certain direction, it is hard to change the momentum of it.

    The trick is to talk about it lucidly with a message that is stickier than the commonly known one. That is really difficult, and I'm trying to get there. Energy efficiency and recycling require action, and getting people to do something seems to be quite difficult (but I'm working on it... )

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    Sorry, I'm side-tracking you. If the mercury content was a major issue, I'm sure the manufacture of flourescent light tubes would have been stopped by now.

    I did a fair crawl around looking for mercury related info - particularly in relation to fluorescent tubes. I found two maybe worth mentioning -
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Here is the most useful resource which I have found so far (from EnergyStar): on CFLs in general, and on mercury in CFLs (pdf).

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Another interesting fact sheet on mercury in CFLs. The most interesting thing is the graph with mercury emission comparisons (between a CFL and an incandescent). CFLs only cause about 2.4mg to be emitted, while incandescents cause about 10mg (over 5 years) — and that is going straight into the atmosphere. The few milligrams in the actual bulb can be safely recycled.

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    Site Caretaker Dave A's Avatar
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    I think that seals the deal. After adding the mercury content in the CFL and taking away the reduced mercury emissions from burning coal, the CFL results in less mercury into the environment. And (bonus) handled correctly it's contained and potentially recyclable.

    A win/win all round. Perhaps they just need to add a "clean up" advisory on the packaging?
    The trouble with opportunity is it normally comes dressed up as work.

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    just me duncan drennan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave A View Post
    A win/win all round. Perhaps they just need to add a "clean up" advisory on the packaging?
    That, and in SA the government needs to provide the facilities to dispose of these. Throwing them into the garbage with everything else contaminates the disposal truck, and the landfill. One of the things that I'm trying to figure out is how to make recycling really easy, and electronic waste is a pretty important aspect of that.

    Seems like I have some content for another blog post forming here....maybe need to do some reading on ROHS too, as this is currently having a large impact on the electronics industry.

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