|Photo courtesy of Petr Kratochvil|
It's just that these supposed-answers-to-our-problem solutions sometimes cause even more problems. You know what I mean? In the case of the energy-saving CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps), it's the mercury in them and the so-called "dirty electricity" they produce, as per Dr. Magda Havas, the foremost "authority" on the subject.
The question is: who do you trust? A researcher who has relatively few backers, or the EPA who, we all know, always puts the safety of the American people first (cough, cough).
My answer? I don't know. I can give you the facts about CFLs and you can research the suppositions.
- Save energy, using up to 75% less energy than a standard incadescent bulb.
- Save electricity costs -- about $40 over the normal lifetime of the bulb.
- Product 75% less heat than a standard lightbulb.
- Contain mercury. However, each bulb has about 4 milligrams of mercury encased in the tubing. Compare this to the 500 milligrams of mercury in the old glass thermometers we used to use.
Why recycle CFLs? Well, some of the parts are reusable. Plus, by recycling, you prevent the release of mercury into the environment.
Why use CFLs? One statistic states that if every home in the United States switched just one incadescent lightbulb with an Energy Star CFL, the energy savings would equal enough to light 3 million homes for 1 full year! Annual energy cost savings -- $600 million! A reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 9 billion pounds per year (which is equivalent to approximately 800,000 cars)! So, as you can see, there is significant reason to make the switch. But what happens if you break one?
Here's the really sticky part...the part I really do not like! Cleaning up a broken CFL is a pain in the neck. The EPA has a detailed "How to Clean up a CFL" article on their website (thanks for pointing this out, Becky!). It gave me a headache just to read it! I'm going to be extra careful to never have to need this article, but I'm guessing everyone should print it out and hang it inside the cupboard door where you keep your lightbulbs...just in case.
- It has the same light output as a 40W incandescent bulb, but lasts up to 25x longer.
- It uses less energy than a CFL, consuming 9 watts, which equals a 77% savings in energy used.
- It has a durable design with no filament.
- It contains no mercury (woo hoo!)
- It is cooler than a CFL, which means it is significantly cooler than a standard lightbulb.
- It's expensive.
At this point, we still have a choice as to how to light our homes, although if the government has anything to say about it, that choice will be taken away eventually and we will be forced to buy non-standard incadescent bulbs. But isn't it good to know that GE and other companies are already developing alternatives to the CFLs for those of us who are skeptical about the "dirty electricity" or fear one of our children or grandchildren breaking one of them?
Going green. Like I always say, you have to use some common sense.
Keeping it green and healthy,