Saturday, June 02, 2007

Compact fluorescent light bulbs

The latest Golden Calf being worshipped in the Cult of Global Warming is the Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb -- CFL for short.

Australia, Canada, the European Union and -- of course, California -- are either in the process of mandating the use of CFLs, or have already done so.

We are assured by High Priest Algo-Re that replacing good old incandescent bulbs with CFLs will "reduce greenhouse gas emissions", save the planet, cause lions and lambs to lay down with each other, convince Third World countries to have our children, put a Democrat in the White House and convert Muslim radicals to the Way of Peace.


There's always a snake in Eden. In this case, the snake is a wicked element called mercury.

Yes, the same element whose presence in tuna causes environmentalists to foam at the mouth like a pack of rabid chihuahuas is found in their holy CFLs -- about five milligrams worth per bulb, more or less.

That fine print will get you on the arse every time.

So. The peons are forced to convert to CFLs -- because the environmental movement and the Gummint know what's best for us -- which leads to ...

How many extra CFLs in the garbage that first year? Which adds up to how much extra mercury in various landfills that same year?

Oh, Holy jumping Al Gore on a pogo stick! We're poisoning the Earth with mercury! Think of the chilllll-dren!

So, to prevent the mercury and methylmercury poisoning of Mother Gaia, the enviromentalists will suggest that disposal of used CFLs and clean-up of broken CFLs should be paid for by the peons what bought and broke them -- two grand and change according to Ms. Brandy Bridges.

Two thousand dollars ($2000) to clean up one (1) broken five-dollar ($5) CFL. And these things are supposed to be easier on our checkbooks?!

And since people are people and don't want to drive 60 miles to find a CFL/mercury Disposal Centre -- or shell out two grand because Junior was bouncing a baseball inside the house -- they're going to quietly wrap the burnt-out or broken CFLs in a newspaper and stuff them deep in the dumpster.

Which, of course, will lead to further mercury/heavy metal poisoning of the environment.

And since the government is the government -- they will quietly criminalize the improper disposal of burnt-out or broken CFLs.


Al Gore and the rest of the Watermelon* Environmental Movement can take their mercury-laden CFLs and stuff them up where the sun don't shine.

Give me my incandescent bulbs -- good enough for Thomas Edison, by God -- and bugger off.


*Green on the outside, red on the inside.


Gabrielle Eden said...

Aha! I got here first! I made a comment on the last post about police are supposed to be kinda stupid (according to media stuff, dumb stuff). Knowing how not stupid you are, I'm going to be more nervous now when the cops are watching.

Old NFO said...

Why am I "not" surprised there is a significant cost for clean up... I'm an old fart, so I can remember playing (in our palms) with Mercury in Physics class in HS back in the 60's; but NOW they evacuate entire schools when someone breaks a thermometer. I do use CFL's cause they do burn longer, but if I break one, no way in hell I'm tellin' anybody....

Anonymous said...

No problem- just put tuna fish in your CFL.


martywd said...

Funny thing?   Similar to what 'Old NFO' recounts, back when I was a kid my dentist from time to time, when I pleaded with him, would give me a small vial of Hg to take home to 'play' with.   I'd coat quarters(this was when two bits still had some silver in them) with my bare hands of course, with the Hg which would make the quarters slimy and shiny for a while.   Soon the quarters would be dull, almost lead-like in look. Of course back then we were not all that privy to the dangers of Pb, either?   Ahhhh, those were the days, ...

Anyway, were was we?   Oh, yeah...

With the long term thought of saving some $$$ on my electric bill, I bought a bunch of CFL's at Sam's and/or Costco when I first bought my house out here in Texas a year or so ago, not much thinking about how much Hg was inside the CFL?   Now we know long term disposal of CFL's is going to be a potential issue, too.

Carbon credits, anyone?   I think I read somewhere that Algore has a company that will sell you some?

Vic303 said...

I have put CFLs in 'most' of the house lights--partly because they last a LOT longer than incans, and cost me less to run, but they also put out less heat, so my AC doesn't have to work so hard in a Texas summer.

Anonymous said...

LED lights are a much better option, they last longer and are more efficient. Expensive as hell, but worth it in my opinion.

So what would happen when a REGULAR florescent bulb breaks? They have mercury in them as well...

Regulation is not the answer.

Anonymous said...

I have CFLs in the one fixture that stays on most of the time, but
in other fixtures that get occasional use I find the warmup time is much too slow.


Bob said...

Al Gore is no Tom Edison.

tkdkerry said...


Jeebus, now I have to clean hot fudge malt off my keyboard. Wait, I don't have to call the EPA, do I?

Kristopher said...

I want a nuclear engine for my S.U.V.

Nuclear power has a really low carbon footprint.

I think I can fit a pebble-bed reactor in my Suburban.

Ambulance Driver said...

Al Gore and the rest of the Watermelon* Environmental Movement can take their mercury-laden CFLs and stuff them up where the sun don't shine...*Green on the outside, red on the inside."

Heh. Watermelon. Now THAT is richer than three feet up a bull's ass.

Babs RN said...

I remember playing with those funny little silver beads whenever a thermometer (or an old-fashioned sphygmomanometer) broke. They would keep me entertained for minutes.

$2000 for cleanup for a broken bulb? I'm thinking of going back to kerosene....

BellaLinda said...

The US government says that broken CFLs can be disposed of in a sealed plastic bag.

Even the Maine Department of Environmental Protection doesn't mandate the $2,000 cleanup this woman supposedly encountered, though they do want it recycled as "Universal Wastes"--the nearest to the woman in the story seems to be about 10 minutes away from her.

Methinks the lady got taken.

As for myself, I like them simply because the less often I have to change a lightbulb, the happier I am. We've a compact flourescent in our porch light that was here when we rented the place nearly a year ago & we haven't had to change it. We also have CFLs in our kitchen & living room that replaced burnt out incandescents.

But then, I am all for any sort of environmentalism that lets me be a little more lazy.

Gewehr98 said...

Hate to be a wet blanket in the thread, but this one's blown completely out of proportion. I'm actually surprised LawDog didn't check things out before this particular rant, he's usually better than that.

Compact twisted fluorescent light bulbs contain all of about 5 milligrams of mercury. You'd be hard-pressed to even find the residual mercury from a broken CFL tube, let alone tell the responding hazmat folks where to start cleaning up. To get enough to make a puddle of mercury worthy of a hazmat call-out, you'd need on the order of 3 grams, as found in home manual thermostats, and up to 5 grams, as found in older mercury thermometers. It would require the opening of between 100-600 CFL units to garner that many milligrams of Hg.

I've switched over to CFL in my home, and reduced my electric bill by around $20.00/month. Nobody ordered me to do it, nor do I support enviro-weeny laws mandating it, but I do very much appreciate the savings from my actions. YMMV, of course.

Matt G said...

The better solution for low power consumption is the new and beginning-to-reduce-in-price household LED bulbs. The service life on 'em is nothing short of awesome, and the power requirements make CFL's seem positively expensive to use. I'm getting ready to get a couple.

Paul Simer said...

As other posters have said, it's surprising that LawDog didn't check on the follow-ups to this story. Maybe it was written during the hype and before reason took hold.

There's more mercury in two or three of your average cans of tuna than one CFL bulb, and people INTENTIONALLY INGEST THE TUNA. Oh, the horror!

Seems to me that we right-wingers, in our disgust for the environmentalist agenda, latched onto this story as soon as it came out: "Ha! I knew that there had to be a drawback to those CFL bulbs! Never trusted 'em anyway, give me my old incandescents! Stick it in your eye, Greenpeace!"

And now those folks feel a little foolish. Well played. :-/

I like CFLs primarily for this reason: My living room has two desktop computers in it, one for my spouse and I each, and it gets WARM. Replacing our old bulbs with CFLs lowered the ambient temperature noticeably.

They're also cheap enough to run that I've placed one in the living room, dining room, and back patio, and they run 24/7/365. Keeps the place lit up at night for pennies.

BryanP said...

I'm no fan of the .gov forcing CFL's on us, but I do like them myself. I've put them just about every place I can get away with.

In my home.


No coercion, thank you. I'll bitch long and loud if they try to force people to switch.

Disposal has yet to be an issue. I've yet to have one die. The very first CFL I bought back in the late 90's is still soldiering along.

Firethorn said...

I also use CFLs and FLs. If you're concerned, you can shop around a bit and find low Hg lamps, though they haven't come up with a way for a no Hg lamp.

As many have noted, it's not actually as dangerous, and in the quoted article - I wonder if there hadn't been a previous mercury spill, or if the tester tested the exact spot of the break.

OSHA limits are for somebody working in that enviroment 8 or more hours a day, 5 or more days a week.

Poison is in the dose, in many cases a short duration exposure isn't that bad.

Shane said...

At least some incandescent bulbs are made in the US, ALL CFLs are made elsewhere, mostly China. Also, there are time where I WANT an incandescent bulb for the heat it produces. Ever lose the heat wrap tape on your pump manifold in the middle of the night? I kept the pipes from bursting by clamping a light next to it in the pump house.
Ever have to pull out the trouble light to crawl under the car in January? Been there, did that. I keep it around for just that reason. Raise a couple of rabbits or chicks for 4H and need to keep them warm? I don't trust the politicians to leave exceptions for heat producing purposes. The CFLs ARE replacing most incandescents already -- just look at some of the other posts. I can buy 4 CFLs for $1.49 at the supermarket down the road and I do -- but they aren't perfect. Sometimes I want an incandescent, like in the fridge. Market forces are at work here without the politicians butting in. Like MattG mentioned, the household LED prices are dropping. When they get cheap enough, they'll kill CFLs for most if not all uses, but I still see a need for some incandescents for a long time.

Tam said...

I always liked CFLs because I'm cheap and they last forever.

The bedroom light, where reading takes place, remains a GE incandescent, however, and work lights for tinkering with guns or whatnot are halogens.

CDH said...

I has a long discussion with a very knowledgable source about this very issue. Here's her response:

ummmmm ... semi-junk science on BOTH sides of the report here.

It's true that most CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) contain small amounts of mercury. You can minimize the amount by ensuring that you buy bulbs made by US-based manufacturers (notably GE and Phillips), who have voluntarily agreed to a step-wise cap on the amount of mercury used - the amount will go progressively down over the next several years. If you buy the Sam's brand or some other made-in-China brand, there is no such limitation. For other types of fluorescent bulbs (the long tubes like in offices or maybe in your workshop), look for the kinds with green tips (the metal is green) - they're certified to have been made by a mercury-free process.

But ... your total mercury "footprint" will largely depend on the supply sources of your electrical provider. For consumers in the Northeast, Canada, and the Upper Midwest ... AND Texas ... where the majority of electric power is generated by burning coal, the mercury emissions caused by burning coal are TRIPLE that of using, and then wasting, a CFL. In other words, if I use electricity from a coal-fired generator to light one incandesent 60-w bulb for a year, I will generate three times the mercury emissions that I would generate if I used electricity from the same source to light a CFL for a year and then pitched it in the trash.

And all the mercury emissions from the coal-fired plant go into the air, where they can spread the most and be inhaled, to do the most damage.

So nobody gets the "be nice to me, I'm green!" award on this one.

My problem with CFL's is that they do not survive nearly as many on-off cycles as standard incandescent (or STRAIGHT long tube fluorescent) bulbs. I get to spend many times as much money for a bulb I have to replace 4 times as often (6 months vs 2 years on average in my 3 experiments). Show me the benefit?

Turn your damn lights off when they are not in use and you kill CFL's. Show me the benefit? I thought the idea was to reduce consumption...(snicker)

Anonymous said...

Oh they just go run squealing and pissing when anyone finds a container of mercury or spills some. It's not particularly hazardous when it is in that form. But oh if it is the dreaded M word the nannies go apoplectic. This is the same reasoning that has made chemistry labs disappear from schools and closed down chemical supply houses that sold to home experimenters and small labs.

As for light bulbs, if you want incandescent bulbs that really last get on the net and order the bulbs from overseas that are designed to handle higher voltages. They last forever. The elements and internal parts are heavier material and they last forever while new bulbs you buy in your local wal-mart or grocery store burn out with alarming regularity. I've been told you can get much the same result using "rough service" bulbs like you would use for trouble lights in the garage.

Zundfolge said...

This is a situation that could be used to instruct these watermelons on the beauties of free market capitalism.

See people will do the "right" thing if they have a "selfish" reason to. If indeed these CFLs cost less to operate and last longer than you'll see people freely and without any arm twisting by the state buy and use them.

But no, the environmentalists show their true colors with this one. Its not about "saving the earth" its about taking your freedom and empowering themselves (probably a little enriching going on too).

Main reason I haven't switched to CFLs is the up front cost (this is a cash flow issue), but the more they push me the more I want to start buying as many table lamps as I can find and sticking incandescent bulbs in 'em.

WebFoot Logger said...

The problem with all flourescent lights is they flicker.

Most people don't notice it, but if I have to work under it, I do . . . especially if I have to work on a computer under a flourescent light: that's an invitation to a migraine headache.

Between that and the warmup time, I don't use that many CFLs.

And I don't expect the new LED lamps to be any better on the flicker.

--WebFoot Logger

Rorschach said...

CFL's won't work in your oven, what will be used in Australia in that sort of service?

LED lights have the potential to be very bad flicker generators or perfectly steady lights depending on how they are designed. But I am concerned that LED's will give very odd color rendition (even worse than fluorescents) since they put out light of exactly one frequency per diode (they have three, a red, a green and a blue diode) the spectrum will consist of three narrow spikes.

I'm not concerned greatly with the mercury contamination of a broken CFL in the home, I use them myself, but I am concerned about the amount of mercury that will find itself in landfills because lets be honest, they WON'T be disposed of properly. In fact, here in Houston, I've been unable to find out where you ARE supposed to dispose of them.

And BTW, what rocket scientist decided that putting broken glass in a ziplock baggie is a bright idea? broken glass is SHARP. It CUTS PLASTIC QUITE EASILY.

Rorschach said...

Oh, BTW, if the greens are concerned about coal fired power plants spewing forth sulfur dioxide, CO2, mercury etc. then why in hell do the greens raise such a ruckus about Nuclear Energy? That has GOT to be the cleanest form of power generation there is. Especially if you bring back fuel reprocessing like the Japanese, French and British do. the resulting waste from a MOX or Fast Breeder reactor is radioactive for maybe 200-400 years vs 10,000 and you get something like 95% of the energy out of the fuel vs 3-5% for current once through fuel cycles.

Orion said...

And remember - not everyone gets the same lifespan out of these bulbs.

I tried converting my house over to CFLs down in Tucson. Every last one of them burned out in less than a year and I replaced them with standard bulbs. I think the average number of hours of use was well under 1,000 hours per bulb.

I doubt I'll try them again for a while.


Justin said...

FWIW, I've switched over to the CFL's, and they seem to do well.

Not sure about the LED bulbs. Those things are super expensive. My hope is that the next big leap in home lighting will be printed sheets of organic light-emitting diodes. Super cheap, very power efficient, tens of thousands of hours of burn time, and free of even the marginal concern caused by mercury in the CFL's.

More info here.

Oleg said...

What's the best way of fighting this nonsense, short of exterminating the culprits? CFLs give me a headache, so I'd rather not have to use them.

markm said...

Rorschach: Modern white LED's usually aren't three colored LED's, but rather they're one blue or near ultraviolet LED plus phosphors that absorb the LED's light and emit other colors. That is, they produce white light the same way fluorescents do. They'll have the same issues with the light spectrum that some people have with flourescents, but it really depends on the phosphor mix, and they are getting better.

The trouble is, blue and UV LED's have to be made from pretty exotic materials. They are very expensive, and adding phosphors increases the cost a bit. LED's are also tiny, which means power has to be limited so they don't burn themselves up, and you need a bunch of them to equal one not-very-bright 60 watt incandescent.

OTOH, LED's have a lifetime of decades (provided they don't get too hot), and turning them on and off frequently doesn't shorten the life at all. Incandescents lose a little life with every on-off cycle (although probably not as much as leaving them burning, not to mention the electricity costs and heating), and flourescents lose a lot more.

So what I'm expecting is that, as "white" LED costs come down and the phosphors for them and flourescents get better, you'll see LED's gradually taking over the spots where lights are turned on and off frequently (hallways, bathrooms, etc.), and flourescents where the lights stay on until bedtime. But incandescents still make the most economic sense by far for a closet where you want a light once a day for a few minutes. There are also rugged-service jobs where flourescents absolutely won't do; for some of them, such as places subject to high vibration or shock, LED's might be best (if the control circuit is designed for the job), but since heat is bad for semiconductors I expect oven lights will always be incandescent.


P.S. I went through the trouble of re-registering my Blogger account with Google - and 90% of the time, they still won't take my log-in, so I don't even try anymore.

Anonymous said...

Added to the fact that almost any opthamologist/optometrist will tell you that flourescent light (and computer and television screens) will encourage the growth of cataracts........

Ed Darrell said...

Low Hg bulbs are on the way; don't be suckered in by the campaign against CFLs -- you're old enough to remember the campaign that said cigarettes are healthy, right? Same tactics, some of the same people, campaigning against CFLs, for some of the same ignoble purposes.

Get the facts:

Don't spread the hoax.

Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!! You got me as a reader, with this one!

Btw, was sent over here by 'agtiger.' I'm so new here that I don't know how to leave a clickable link to his blog. :-( So I'll leave the url...


kyrakai said...

One of the things that people who love the CFL and other fancy bulbs don't realize is that when you have an old house with old style, non-grounded wiring, and you live in one of the thunderstorm alleys, you have interesting electrical power...sometimes too little, some times too much. The CFL lights will not last, or in some of the sockets in my home, won't light at all. Praise be to the gods for the retro-technology of the incandescent that functions in most circumstances, otherwise I would be reduced to campfires, oil lamps and talk about global warming.