1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

CFL's really any better?

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Jags, Jun 20, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,893
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    I am posing this as a question because I really don't know the answers and am hoping to get both sides of the story here, as many of us would be categorized in the "green" column if we were to be queried.

    Are CFL (compact florescent lights) really any better for the environment considering they have a fair amount of mercury in them?

    I have tried to consider both sides. First, being much more energy efficient and second, having mercury as a component. If we all start using them, how much "more" mercury will we be adding to the dumps in several years as they start to die and need replacement. As well as the process of extracting mercury from ma earth? Is this just a trade off, one pollution vs. another or is there a distinct advantage?

    Just trying to figure it out.

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2006
    Messages:
    8,956
    Loc:
    base of Mt. Rainier on the wet side, WA
    Ignoring the environmental impact of disposal as most americans do, they are fantastic. Less watts and nice light. I only have a couple of incandescents left in the whole house, I'm a big fan.
  3. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,893
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    But Highbeam, thats exactly what I don't want to do - ignore the collateral damage (I learned it from Craig %-P )

    I realize that there is a huge increase in light output per watt, but what the "real" trade off?
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    27,990
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    The "real" trade-off is that there is four milligrams of mercury in those bulbs, but twenty-five milligrams of it in your wristwatch battery.

    Take'em both the the haz mat site at the landfill.
  5. bmstove.com

    bmstove.com New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2007
    Messages:
    45
    Flouresent lights are evolving technologically like everything else. I can't remember the technology but I think it starts with an A, (maybe Aron) but these flouresents have a fraction of the mercury of standard flouresent bulbs. Just look for them when you are shopping and you will find them. They are well marked. Considering the comparison given between the watch battery and the light bulb, it really is not as big an issue as it seems. With the new bulbs coming out this issue is being eliminated. Just pay a little more for the more friendly bulb and sleep well at night.

    Jack
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    27,990
    Loc:
    Northern Virginia
    I can't ever see any discussion of Mercury without remembering in high school when we rolled the stuff around in the palms of our hands marverling at the stuff. Given to us by the science teachers of course.

    And it has to be a coindence that I made it to 60 years of age.
  7. GVA

    GVA Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2006
    Messages:
    2,140
    Loc:
    Waxhaw, NC... Formerly North shore Mass
    This could turn into the paper or plastic question posed to us (when we had an option 10 years ago) at the grocery store........
    Hg is a bad element no doubt about it, BB you may be lucky when you rolled it around in your hands....
    Anyway take the CFL out of the pic how many people have the old t-12 lamps in the basement and toss those bulbs out in the trash when they start to flicker????
    or the watch batteries..... Etc...
    The populous may need to be educated more on everything that they use and discard each day.... Just like everything else, there are those who know and those who don't care..........
  8. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2005
    Messages:
    917
    Loc:
    Deltaville,VA
    If you are getting your electric from a coal fueled power plant, then consider the amount of Mercury they are emitting daily. Its enough to get into the food chain. Hence, the warning about eating chunk light tuna.

    So, if you are using less electricity by using CFL's, then the power plant will burn less coal. Burning coal in the US alone dumps over 50 Tons of Mercury in the air every year. Wonder how much China is putting out?


    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010815080358.htm
  9. Jags

    Jags Moderate Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2006
    Messages:
    14,893
    Loc:
    Northern IL
    AHHHH, see, this is the kind of stuff I was looking for.
    So CFL's DO actually have a smaller "green footprint". Thats what I needed to know folks. Thanks, yet once again.

    Oh, just to respond to my source of electric, I have alot in common with Hogz, I can see the twin cooling towers of my neighborhood nuke plant from my yard.
  10. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    47,002
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    If CFLs can be made as well as the Osrams from Europe, then maybe. But a lot of the cheap crappy ones burn out within a year or two. There's a batch of small electronics in each of these too. Just because the waste from them is sitting in China, doesn't make them more green. This can mean a lot of crap still going into manufacture and then into landfills a couple years later. For that reasons, I'm still hoping for a super-led lamp to be made that puts out equal lumens to the CFLs at a competitive price.
  11. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,429
    Loc:
    Hayden, ID
    To be noted that value is dropping every year due to new capture technologies and the type of mercury not captured is less dangerous and reactive than other mercury types.

    Something to look at when buying CFL's is that their quoted consumption is not their true consumption. You must also consider the consumption of the ballast.

    Best bet for lighting is T8 or T5 tube lights where you can as they use less energy per lumen than CFL's. Also carefully consider the color range of the lamps you install. Daylight bulbs will make the room look brighter with less power usage.
  12. jpl1nh

    jpl1nh Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2007
    Messages:
    1,572
    Loc:
    Newfields NH
  13. jpl1nh

    jpl1nh Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2007
    Messages:
    1,572
    Loc:
    Newfields NH
    and those who don't care to know! :grrr:
  14. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2006
    Messages:
    1,327
    Loc:
    Silver Spring, MD/ Munising, MI
    I prefer the daylight (high color temp) CFL bulbs to the standard sickly yellowish/pinkish "soft white", but they don't seem to sell them cheaply in bulk. Only one at time, usually in small sizes. I don't think they cost any more to make, but everyone thinks that CFL's should match the spectrum put out by incandescent bulbs (as if it was a design choice by Edison, rather than simply the black-body spectrum at that temperature). Anyone who's ever taken a no-flash photograph indoors with a daylight color balance knows how ugly incandescent light is. So why is it the standard for modern lighting?

    I just had my first CFL failure, BTW. It died after only 3 months, albeit in a (protected but not fully enclosed) outdoor fixture that was known for eating incandescents. Now I'll have to test that GE 5-year warranty. Both fixtures in that area of the house used to eat bulbs, one finally died and when I replaced it I could see that the wires had completely corroded and then burned through. Real nice. I assume CFL's are even more sensitive to bad fixtures than incandescents.
  15. WarmGuy

    WarmGuy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Messages:
    492
    Loc:
    Far Northern Calif. Coast
    I like the yellowish "warm white" lights for general illumination, but find that the more natural spectrum bluer ones are much better for reading.

    I started with CFLs a long time ago (some at $16 each), and have had many fail, but I think the newer ones are much better. I've had some replaced by warranty (GE?) and the company didn't even require that I send the old ones back.

    We've used them in our bathrooms despite the warnings about use in a humid environment.

    I used one in a motion-sensor light, but, as expected, it didn't last more than a year.

    I saw some on sale for 75 cents each last weekend -- a brand that I've had success with. One problem is that many of the lights in our house are only for only a few minutes at a time (e.g. stairs, hallway). But with prices at 75 cents/CFL, I think I'll replace those too.
  16. mayhem

    mayhem Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,938
    Loc:
    Peru, MA
    I use em all the time...I have 30 at my last count in my house, I replace my incandescents with them as they blow out (incidentally Sylvania incandescent bulbs last about 1/8 what a GE incandescent bulb lasts). All my outdoor coach lights (4) are 30w CFL's in partially enclosed housings...haven't had one burn out yet...they've been installed since late 2002 so we're at about 4.5 years. They don't like the extreme cold...turn them on at about 10-20 below plus wind chill and its like you lit a pair of candles, but after about a minute they're up to temperature and shining brightly no matter what the conditions are outside. I'd convert my prow floodlights to CFL too, but I can't find a PAR-30 sized CFL flood so I'm stuck there...I put halogens in those since they're about 18' up and the 75w halogens put out a serious amount of light.

    I have yet to have a CFL bulb go out on me...my mother's house got a case for free from the electric company back in the early to mid 80's when CFL was cutting edge technology and they were $18 apiece...they're still all working.

    Personally I've tried the different spectrums and find that my eyes prefer the warmer light if an incandescent bulb (about 2700k if I recall corrrectly), I found the local hardware store carries CFL's and they are subsidized by the electric company so I can usually get them for a buck or maybe two each. The daylight bulbs are too blue/white for my ee to be comfortable...pretty mcuh just like an old fluorescent tube.

    I wouldn't wory about the mercury in the bulbs. As others have pointed out, the offset in lower power usage over the life of the bulb makes it a net gain for low mercury (if that makes sense) in the environment.
  17. burntime

    burntime New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Messages:
    2,395
    Loc:
    C'mon hunting season!
    I buy mine at a Ace Hardware, they have rebates so its like a buck for a 60 watt bulb. I have them almost everywhere from the soffits and outdoor posts to the indoor lamps and lights. Saves like 20-25 a month on the bill. I run 337 watts vs 1405 with regular bulbs. Wow, after I figured it out that is a big difference. I see electric bills approx 55-80 bucks without the central a/c. Bonus is they last much longer so you don't have to replace. I have most of them going for 7 years now! I do use regular bulbs by the front porch light where I want instant on but other than that the bulbs are great.
  18. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2006
    Messages:
    1,327
    Loc:
    Silver Spring, MD/ Munising, MI
    Well, don't worry about the mercury, but don't throw the bulbs in the trash either. Just like you don't pour used motor oil down the drain, or throw out NiCad batteries, etc. Then you get the best of both worlds.

    Maybe things like CFL's should have an RFID chip in them, then the trash collection folks can have a reader to check for hazards.
  19. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    47,002
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    There are a few reasons, some psychological. Warm light is more like fire and candle light. It makes flesh tones look better and more flattering. High spectrum bulbs are often not flat spectrum. It it has a blue or green bias it can make skin look pale and sickly and food look less appealing.
  20. DiscoInferno

    DiscoInferno Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2006
    Messages:
    1,327
    Loc:
    Silver Spring, MD/ Munising, MI
    I guess I think that sunlight should be the "gold standard", and it's a lot whiter than "soft white" although it is less blue than my one "daylight" bulb. There is a middle ground color temp. that goes by "bright white" or something like that. Haven't had a chance to compare that to the others.
  21. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2005
    Messages:
    917
    Loc:
    Deltaville,VA
  22. keyman512us

    keyman512us Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2007
    Messages:
    804
    Loc:
    North Worc. CTY MA
    As to the original question are CFL's any better...on the whole I would have to say the answer is "yes". Everyone has definately pointed out some important aspects. Current trends are making CFL's "all the rage" but market forces are drifting into a "sag"....(more on that later).
    First off CFL's help out with the overall footprint, first and foremost...by reducing DEMAND. Most people don't consider what demand trully is....but if you are in the (distibution or generating) industry 5 PM on a weekday on a hot summer day can be a source of stress. ISO (Independant System Operators) the unsung backbone of the power grid trully do an amazing job keeping the lights on...and most people take it for granted. When "peak shaving" gets called upon to lighten the load...the equation gets tricky. This is the biggest reason utilities "subsidize" CFL's for instance. Putting the mercury issue aside for a moment and quoting a previous poster citing how much the wattage use drops, when you multiply that times thousands of households...it really is a benefit. Not having to "call upon" natural gas fired peak shaving saves $$$.
    If you ever ponder the question of PV on your house...or why they should be on every home rooftop...read on:
    Unfortunately, we as a "technologically hungry society" have offset the "good" by having every "fancy gizzmo known to man" that draw "standby power". In a recent article, an administrator for ISO New England referenced to this "People don't think of the bigger picture, over the years, we have made tremendous strides towards saving energy but the items we have today in the home have offset any gain". I don't have the article "handy" and can't quote directly...BUT it was mentioned that all the "standy use" items we have, from COMPUTERS to modems to cell phone chargers...plasma TV's...even down to those blinking clocks (How many times have they been mentioned them on the forum???) all "put a strain" on the system. How many "Power supplies do you have in your home? and how often do you unplug them???" I'll be the first to say "Guilty"...I don't unplug my cell phone charger when not in use...lol. Maybe it's not something you and I should be overly worried about... but there are people who do. Perhaps in the not to far off future... someone will make a fortune when the design a "feasible" home energy management system...but I won't take any bets on it... lol
    The mercury question??? Ultimately, the enviroment isn't going to benefit much until the "powers that be" pass legislation along the lines of "Bring it back to the store where you bought it and they will dispose of it" kinda like the way "waste oil" is treated in this state. IMHO if there was a "refundable deposit" on them...it would be that much better. Until there is a "movement" started "by the people" where collectively we agree on whats best for the planet market forces will prevail. Call it "G3(Geo Global Green)"...lol Looks like I just came up with a blog topic...lol
    People are slowly starting to "Think globally and act locally" but everything takes time. If people really looked at what goes into a landfill they would "accelerate their efforts". The amount of mercury in flourescents in general has been sharply curtailed to say the least. Ever wonder why the ends of a four foot T-12 lamp are green in color??? With everything that goes into a landfill...mercury is the least of our worries.
    While the fact that CFL's being used is great news... we could very easily do better. In the late 80's and early 90's, (working in the trade) there was a "new rage" that sadly fell by the wayside. It was the predecessor of the CFL... they called it "PL's". They were IMHO the best idea ever...but quickly abandoned. I don't even want to imagine the dynamics of the market forces. The beauty of the PL was it was "size capable"... It comes in many size ranges 3 watts and up... 11 & 13 probably the most popular. A lot of fixtures were manufactured (geared towards commercial apps.) to use PL's and retrofit kits were available. Seven or eight years ago I bought an adapter and bulb for like $7 at HD for the basement. I use the basement quite frequently...more than most people "kinda like a hallway". Being lazy I never wired up a decent switching arangement because the vast array of 4-foot lighting I turn on and off from the circuit breaker. Easiest way until I thought up a decent switching plan for the lights... I thought it would be nice to have a "steady burn fixture", something I could leave on 24/7 to walk out to the truck etc. I have been through 3 bulbs in seven, almost eight years, adapter is fine...and when I got bored in code class...I figured out with a five watt bulb it costs like $2.46 a year to be on all the time. Yeah...I'm sold on the PL concept. Thats probably why HD doesn't carry them anymore...lol
    The basic beauty of a PL is about equal to CFL but you only buy the electronic "once". If the industry was serious about saving the enviroment...they would separate the bulb from the base. But hey... "Gotta make a profit". lol ;)
  23. WarmGuy

    WarmGuy Feeling the Heat

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2006
    Messages:
    492
    Loc:
    Far Northern Calif. Coast
    I do it this way, too, but think about it, it makes more sense to replace them now, before they go out. You start saving electricity right away. I just can't bring myself to throw away a bulb that works fine.
  24. TMonter

    TMonter Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,429
    Loc:
    Hayden, ID
    Something else to look at when purchasing Florescents is the CRI. The higher the CRI, the closer the output of the bulb is to sunlight.

    I've found high CRI bulbs light a lot more pleasing and bright.
  25. begreen

    begreen Mooderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    47,002
    Loc:
    South Puget Sound, WA
    Good suggestion TM, high CRI bulbs do make things like food look better. WG, I wouldn't go replacing occasional use bulbs or bulbs that are turned on and off frequently or used for short times. Typical applications would be like closets, bathrooms, etc. Incandescents work better in these applications.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page