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Compact Fluorescent Bulbs


June 9, 2008 01:30 AM PST

A couple of years ago I replaced a large proportion of the light bulbs in my house with CF bulbs. Almost immediately I noticed the savings on my power bill. I justified the higher cost and almost ridiculous disposal issues by the long term savings I was going to get. After all these things are supposed to last a crazy long time (up to 10 years - it says so right on the package). I eventually replaced nearly all the bulbs in my house.

Well as of now I'm officially changing my mind on that decision. The reason? These things are dying right and left. It seems that for 3 - 4 times the money I'm getting bulbs that are lasting 1/3 the time. In fact the vanity mirror and flood types are only lasting 10 - 14 months on average for me. That is far less than the incandescents they replaced. So much for long life. Now I've got a pile of crazy mercury filled dead bulbs that I'm probably going to have to pay to dispose of. So much for saving the environment.

I think this is another case where the consumer is being sold snake oil.

Comments (9)
Ian, June 9, 2008 11:43 PM:

I don't know if you live near Seattle, but here CFLs are subsidized by Seattle City Light.

At Home Depot a four pack of N:Vision 14W (supposedly equivalent to 60W incandescent) is less than $4. The N:Vision bulbs were also highly rated for light quality by the New York Times and Popular Mechanics.

I can't speak to their durability, though. I haven't had any problems but I just put them in about four months ago.

Also, Ikea will dispose of CFLs for free.

John, June 10, 2008 12:32 PM:

I have managed to pick some up in the past with a PSE coupon.

As for durability I think I understand part of the problem. I had two more fail just yesterday. We had a bit of a wind storm and the power flickered a few times. It seems the CF electronics are not very tolerant of voltage spikes. Unfortunately I live far enough out that our power quality is not very good.

Good to know about Ikea.

David, June 10, 2008 05:15 PM:

High temperatures (like inside an enclosed fixture)
and frequent switching will also reduce CFL lifetime.

I've had one CFL die on me; judging by the smell,
one of the tantalum caps failed.

J, June 19, 2008 09:21 PM:

I just wanted to comment that Ian was bothered by the slow warm up time of CF bulbs, but I actually like it. You don't get blinded by a late night WC call or snack run.

I sort of agree that the CF movement is probably another way for light bulb companies to charge you more for light bulbs, and to get you to replace them all while feeling good about it. I haven't noticed a short life though. The main problem for me is that a lot of our lamps have shades that sit on top of the bulb, and those don't work well with the spiral bulbs.

Seems to me that the only worthwhile thing is to move to LED bulbs which are still expensive now. But at least they're a well tested solution.

John, June 20, 2008 10:22 AM:

The whole recycling thing is still such a pain. At 4.40 a gallon gas, even a drive to Ikea (a long way for me) will add significantly to the cost of these bulbs. If the power company where serious about wanting you to use these they would also provide the recycling. I should be able to just leave them in a box under my electrical meter and have them pick them up on the next reading.

Ian, June 23, 2008 11:52 AM:

Also, if you have to drive somewhere to recycle CFLs, at what point is driving causing more pollution than simply throwing out the CFLs?

On the other hand, it's estimated that even though CFLs contain mercury, their improved efficiency prevents an even greater amount of mercury from being produced in the process of creating electricity.

Don't get me started on Priuses... :-P

John, June 26, 2008 09:42 AM:

They are having a 'hazardous recycle' day in my town next month. The price to recycle CFC Bulbs: 50 cents each! Not that I would do it, but how can they expect people not to just throw these out in the trash when they make it so difficult and expensive to get rid of them?

David, June 26, 2008 05:33 PM:

LEDs are less energy efficient than fluorescents
in the typical light bulb brightness range.
I think they also tend to be larger than
a regular light bulb.
They are more efficient in low brightness
applications, like flashlights.

What happens when the power company networks
your electrical meter so they can read it remotely?

European WEEE legislation requires manufacturers
to bear the cost of electronic waste disposal;
presumably, they pass the cost on to their customers at time of purchase.
I wonder if the city's analyzed the cost of
people throwing CFLs in the landfill?

David, July 3, 2008 09:28 PM:

The Home Depot launches national CFL bulb recycling initiative:

I have another GE bulb which seems to be dying.
None of my numerous Globe brand bulbs have failed,
which is perhaps ironic given that Globe had to recall
some non-UL compliant bulbs in 2004.

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