And a light bulb came on…

This is a reprint from several years ago.

I’m sure most of you have seen compact fluorescent lights (CFL) in the stores, and I’m relatively sure that like our family, you have been using them in your homes and/or offices.

Back when we changed from standard filament bulbs to CFLs our home electric bill dropped about $20/month. Apparently we leave lights on a lot around the house. Still, most everyone should be able to notice at least a moderate drop in their electrical usage since a 60-watt CFL only uses 13-watts of power. That is less than 1/4 the power used for the same amount of lighting.

I have to say the perceived light from these bulbs has greatly improved in the past 5 years as well in my opinion. When we began replacing bulbs as they burnt out in our home, we would only get the 100-W versions (really only 23-W) since they only seemed to actually put out what a ‘normal’ 60-W incandescent bulb did. Now, we can buy the 13-W CFLs and they provide plenty of light to read by in a small room.

In our experience, you still ‘get what you pay for’ with the CFL bulbs. The no-name bulbs that are less expensive also seem to fail sooner and don’t provide as much light as the name-brand bulbs available for just a little more.

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to using CFLs as replacements for tungsten-filament bulbs. CFLs do have mercury in them, which can be poisonous to people and animals. To protect us in everyday usage, most CFL manufacturers have begun putting a layer of plastic around the actual CFL tube to prevent mercury from escaping.

However, even with the breakage protection, there is still the problem of how to dispose of the bulbs once they wear out (after a few years). Some larger cities have begun offering recycling for these bulbs so that the mercury does not get to a landfill and then possibly into our water. Thankfully, Lowes will take the bulbs for recyclying locally. Please think about the environment and the future before tossing a CFL into the trash.

Another option is to use light emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LED lights for common use are still very expensive at about $20 per bulb. Also, they are not available that I’ve seen in stores yet. My search for LED bulbs led me to the Internet, where I found quite a few spotlight bulb replacements and very few Edison-type bulbs.

LEDs are great in that a 9-watt using bulb can replace a 100-watt standard bulb, and they can last up to 20 years or more. These bulbs contain no mercury like the CFL bulbs, so there is less pollution or poisoning risk as well.

To summarize, if you haven’t converted to CFL bulbs yet you might consider it to reduce your utility bill and energy usage. Please think of the environment before tossing them out though. If you can afford it, you might also consider the LED technology and its advantages over CFL bulbs.