Sunday, September 26, 2010

CFL Lights Fail??? Pros and Cons of CFL Lights

These CFL lights are becoming ubiquitous and will be pretty much everywhere by 2012 when most most incandescent bulbs will be banned in the U.S. and Canada.  Yeah. And, even though Europe is banning the incandescent bulbs as of just a couple of days ago, it's beginning to look like we may be jumping the gun on this.

Good news first. Manufacturers have overcome some of the major issues that consumers had with earlier versions of the energy saving bulbs. Typically, these issues were mostly cosmetic in nature.

Among the bigger problems: people did not like the "light" that the bulbs created... and they weren't readily available for purposes such as outdoor porch lights and they couldn't be used in dimmer switches. These problems have been tackled gamely and the "workarounds" are now everywhere on hardware store and supermarket shelves.

OK, so here are the "PROS" of the CFL lights:

1. They last much longer (perhaps 3-7 times longer) than incandescent under perfect conditions
2. They consume less (by some 80%) electricity than incandescent, also under perfect conditions

If there are any other "PROS" I am not aware of them.

OK, so here are the "CONS"

1. Lights switched on only for a few minutes may be even less efficient than incandescent
2. People have reported headaches from sitting "too near" lamps equipped with CFL bulbs
3. There have been reports of skin irritation resulting in itching, rashes and worse, likely caused by electromagnetic radiation emitted by CFL bulbs
4. CFL bulbs take substantially more energy to manufacture - as much as 10-20 times more
5. Cool-burning CFL bulbs produce minimal heat - therefore homeowners (especially in cooler climates) need to increase their residential heating to make up for the heat that would have been produced by incandescent bulbs
6. Workers in the factories where these bulbs are produced in China are suffering from insane levels of mercury poisoning
7. CFL bulbs contain toxic mercury fumes that escape when the bulbs break (recommendations: "open the windows for 15 minutes and keep children away"; "Clean Up Mercury Spill With 'Nanoselenium' Cloth" *LOL*)
8. Need it be added, these bulbs break A LOT - adding also to their cost and manufacturing cost
9. Use in ceiling fans can cause the bulbs to fail due to the vibration
10. CFL bulbs are extremely expensive - compounded by their frequent breaking and failing
11. Long term dangers of prolonged exposure to the cancer-causing short-wave UV light that escapes from the flourescent bulbs
12. The need to equip a hazardous waste disposal infrastructure to safely dispose of these bulbs containing mercury and other toxins
13. Since residential lighting represents only +/- .8% of power consumption in Canada, our spending on CFL lighting would probably be more effective elsewhere, such as on heat-pump residential water heating, which has a lot more potential to bear fruit or, obviously, geothermal heating
14. Most of the electricity used to manufacture CFLs in China comes from high-polluting, coal-fired generators
15. And some people still don't like the light!

Several of the points above came from an article on Greenmuze called the Dark Side of CFLs.

That latter article has interesting comments, some of which support these points, and some which try to deny them.

Apparently, New Zealand has reversed its ban, presumably for many of the above reasons. Although I couldn't readily find a concise link, there are mentions of it here and there. Also, there are reports that GE is coming out soon with a much more efficient incandescent bulb. Not to mention, that super-cheap, super-efficient LED lighting has been rumoured to be just around the corner. No time to go into that in detail here.

In conclusion, there seems to be enough "CONS" as to raise reasonable doubt whether an all-out ban on incandescent lighting is a smart move at this time. In fact, it doesn't make much sense at all.


Robert McClelland said...

This list is complete nonsense. Take number 5 for instance. A 100watt incandescent light bulb produces 350 BTUs per hour. A typical gas furnace for a house produces that in about 4 to 5 seconds. The heat lost from the switch will be negligible and unnoticeable. Many of the other items are simply BS.

Offroad Artist said...

So if what you say is correct, and there are a hundred million light bulbs burning on a winter evening in Canada, then they are going to produce 35 billion BTUs an hour.
Based on your number, one furnace produces about 252,000 BTUs an hour. So in that case the heat loss in the entire country would be the amount produced by 150,000 furnaces. If there are more like a billion light bulbs burning, then the heat lost would be equal to that produced by a million furnaces. Nope, you didn't convince me it's negligible.

Robert McClelland said...

Okay then, the lower heat generated by CFLs will reduce cooling needs in summer thereby offsetting the increased heating requirement in winter.

Offroad Artist said...

For southern areas where they use a lot of A/C in the evenings, that would be more true. Here in Canada we use A/C and lights both sparingly in the summer and rarely at the same time.

Mark said...

I can confirm the point about headaches, as CFLs give me rather nasty headaches.

I now have an LED light in my apartment, but they're rather pricey, which is why I don't have more. Also, the fact that LED lights are more directional is still the biggest problem for more general usage.

Cagey_One said...

While I will agree with Robert that point number 5 is not really a significant issue, I strongly disagree with him regarding the rest of the list.

CFL's have many issues. While they DO save energy at the end-user's location, we have to wonder if that saving outweighs the manufacturing and health issues? Didn't know about the worker health issues...this is an important moral point that should not be ignored by consumers.

Personally, I'm waiting for LED bulbs to get to a better price point before I'll do a wholesale bulb changeout.

North Jersey Air Systems said...

But is there anything better than these to save energy yet?If not we have to make do with these to save as much energy as possible.