CFLs: The Lowdown
Barry Fritz, AD Environmental Officer of Fermilab, has written a detailed explanation of CFLs. Below is a shortened version of his work, at times copied exactly and at times paraphrased. Information about disposing CFLs locally was added by BCEC. You can read it in its entirety at the Fermilab website: http://www-bdnew.fnal.gov/esh/newsletter/cfl.html.
Compact Fluorescent Lights
- Energy Savings.
A CFL consumes roughly one-quarter of the power required by an incandescent bulb to provide the same amount of light. For example, a “100-watt” CFL runs on only 23-30 watts. A CFL saves about $30 in electricity costs over its lifetime. There is a secondary energy savings because CFLs generate about 75 percent less heat, so air conditioning loads are reduced. Both savings are reflected in your electricity bill.
CFL bulbs have various types of glass coverings over the fluorescent tube, making them similar in function and appearance to spotlights, floodlights, and decorator (e.g., round) bulbs. CFLs also may give you some added flexibility in how you light a room. Have you ever wanted more light in a given location but run into a wattage limit on your fixture? CFLs can help you get around that because they use less power. For example, if your fixture limit is 60W, you can safely get the amount of light given off by a 100W incandescent by using a 23W CFL.
Tips for choosing and using CFLs
- Look for the government's blue ENERGY STAR label.
- If you're replacing a bulb that's operating on a dimmer or 3-way switch, look for a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) made for this use – otherwise, the CFL will not perform properly or last as long as it should.
• If you’re replacing a bulb in a recessed fixture in your ceiling, select a reflector CFL for this purpose. Note that reflector CFLs may take longer to warm up than a regular CFL, but they will offer bright light and perform better in your recessed fixture.
- Choose a bulb that offers the same lumen rating (amount of light) as the one you are replacing.
- Select the color that works best for you. Warmer colors (equivalent to 2700 to 3000 degrees Kelvin) are appropriate for most rooms, but a cooler color (3500 to 6500 K) may be preferable for task lighting. Cooler color tones are generally referred to as "bright white," "natural," or "daylight."
- Replace bulbs where lights are typically left on the longest for maximum energy savings and maximum bulb longevity.
- Most CFLs take a few seconds to come up to maximum brightness, but some manufacturers now offer “instant on” bulbs in some wattages. Choose one of these if you find that little delay objectionable.
- Although a CFL won’t create as much heat as an incandescent bulb of the same lumen rating, the base of a CFL can get hot if it is put in a totally enclosed fixture. Avoid doing this because it can significantly reduce the lifespan of the CFL.
CFLs contain an average of 4 milligrams of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. While this is a small amount of mercury (far less than in a typical fever thermometer, for example), you should handle CFLs with caution to avoid breakage. If you should happen to break one, guidance for cleanup can be found in the fact sheet at http://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf. Cleanup does not require anything particularly hi-tech.
There are good local disposal options for Batavia. You can drop them off during operating hours at Batavia City Hall in a box outside the billing department or at the Public Works Department on 200 North Raddant Road. Also, any Home Depot will accept unbroken CFLs at their return or service desk.
The conversion to CFLs actually helps rid the environment of mercury even assuming that they are eventually disposed of improperly. Most of the mercury that humans release into the environment comes from combustion of coal to generate electricity. Over its lifetime, the typical CFL will avoid about three times as much in mercury emissions through its savings on electricity than it would release if placed in a landfill. Of course, proper recycling would contain all the mercury.
Want to know more?
See the Energy Star website (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls), which also has a page where you can pledge to change x number of light bulbs in your home to ENERGY STAR CFLs (http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=globalwarming.showPledgeHome).