Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green Living Feature of the Week - CFL Lighting

One of the easiest ways for environmentally conscious people to make a difference is by using Compact Flourescent (CFL) bulbs for lighting.  I've used them exclusively in place of incandescent bulbs for about 5 years now, and love them.  They are more expensive, but they last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.  More significantly, they consume about 75% less electricity.  An incandescent bulb is very inefficient; it is essentially a heating element in a vacuum tube.  Most of the energy is converted to heat; light is almost a by-product.  CFL's run much cooler, converting more energy to light.  Not only do they help the environment, they save the consumer a lot of money.

I saw an impressive statistic, that every household in the U.S. replacing one incandescent bulb with a CFL would result in the same emission reduction as taking 1 million cars off the road. 
Wow-- think of the effect of replacing ALL incandescents with CFL's! 

CFL's do contain some mercury, so they should be recycled rather than thrown in the trash.  I'm taking them to the local Home Depot; all of their stores accept CFL's.   If there is not a store locally, the Earth911.com website shows nationwide recycling locations for almost all recyclables.

The next generation of energy efficient lighting is LED (light emitting diode) lighting.  The LED runs even cooler and uses even less power than the CFL, but is more expensive.  Recent improvements in LED technology should reduce prices as production increases.


Anonymous said...

Great topic! One of the first things I did when I bought my house was to switch all the bulbs to CFL's. Love them.

People do have complaints about them though - so a couple of things to mention is the color rendering index (CRI), warm-up time, and dimming capabilities. A lot of people complain about the color of the CFL's, but really they're choosing a CRI they don't like. (This is also a complaint of LED's - that they're blue'ish - but they're getting better too). Most CFL's come in three "colors" - daylight, bright white, and soft white - which is equivalent to the warm color of an incandescent bulb.

CFL's have a short warm up time to reach their full brightness - and this varies from brand to brand. The ones in my kitchen take a couple of seconds, but the ones in my roommates bathroom take almost 30 seconds.

And then, dimming CFLs - or any fluorescent light - can be problematic. There is a special dimming ballasts that is needed - so if you need one to be dimmable - make sure the box says that it is. Dimming bulbs that do not have the ballast can shorten the life of the bulb...as will flicking the switch on and off repeatedly...

Brian said...

Excellent! I love that I haven't had to replace a bulb in my house in about three years.

Vern said...

Consumers do need to aware of the CRI rating so they can choose for their color preferences.

And a special CFL type IS needed for installation in a dimming fixture.

Very good points! Thanks!!

P.S. Some CFL's come with the coils inside a globe. They can be used where an incandescent-similar appearance is preferred.

Vern said...

I've only changed a very few. Where I like that the best is on outdoor fixtures where I have to get up on a stepladder and juggle the lamps and the fixture cover in the dark!