What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

05 August 2011

Let There Be Light

There's an interesting back-and-forth, if you read environmental stuff as avidly as I do, when it comes to our light bulbs. First of all, if you've picked up a magazine or two in the past 10 years, you've probably run across one of those "Easy Ways to Go Green"-type articles, and the list surely included making the switch to compact florescent bulbs (which is one reason I've never bothered mentioning it until now; everybody's doing it!).

The disagreement comes from a few places: 1. They do contain mercury, which requires a more extensive clean-up process if the bulb gets broken, which makes some people reluctant to buy them, and others outright hostile to the idea. 2. For many environmentalists, the fear is that people will change their light bulbs and consider themselves to have done their part, without changing any other habits; meanwhile, other activists are practically evangelistic about how CFLs will save us all. So there's a bit of discord there. 3. Here in Texas, and probably in other states, there has been backlash against the government-mandated switch to higher-efficiency light bulbs starting in 2012.

Rather than try to make sense of the controversy for you (since I can't even do that for myself), I'll just do what I always do and tell you about my own life with CFLs. There was a time a few years after we got married that the price of CFLs suddenly came down enough for me to consider buying them, but I wasn't about to rush out and get all new ones when I still had perfectly-working regular bulbs in the house. So, we decided that once we were out of incandescents, then we would make the switch to CFLs. And I think the incandescents were on to us, because I remember there being a big gap in time between the decision making and the actual purchasing. But, we finally got some and have been quite happy with them, to the extent that every time we've moved, we've bought a pack of cheap incandescent bulbs to leave in the light sockets so we could take our CFLs with us. In hindsight, that doesn't really help the environment or encourage the people who moved in after us to try CFLs, but hey, I paid for those things and I want to keep them. Maybe in the future I'll be more generous with my light bulbs...

...kind of like the people who were here before us. Yep, when we moved into this apartment, we found CFLS in most of our light fixtures. And these are the old CFLs, the ones that take a few minutes to warm up once you turn them on. (Our newer ones that we put in our own lamps come on right away.) So I suppose that's a bit of a testimony as to how long these bulbs last, that we've inherited these older, slow-moving bulbs from our predecessors of who knows when. And in addition to lasting a long time, these bulbs are also purported to reduce your electricity bill; I've never paid close enough attention to tell you one way or another from my own experience, and since the A/C is currently sucking up all the energy in our house anyway, I probably wouldn't be able to spot the savings if I tried.

One word of caution, as ever: Since these bulbs do contain mercury, you shouldn't be tossing them into your regular rubbish. Go to Earth911 to find a local recycling center for these bulbs and lots of other stuff.

Do you use compact fluorescent lights? Do you like them?


The Golden Eagle said...

Some of the lightbulbs here are fluorescent . . . but my mom likes LEDs the most. According to the box the LED lamp we have in the kitchen uses only a few watts per hour and it's very bright.

Catherine Ensley said...

In California, everyone has to use the mercury-containing bulbs. It's the law. I do hope we're not inadvertently poisoning ourselves with them. I do worry that people don't dispose of them as they should.

JEFritz said...

I use the CFLs and don't really have any complaints about them. The ones I have now have been in there for at least four years, so they do last long. I know there is some special place to deposit them here (I think you can go to Home Depot and drop them off, too) but I've never had to do it yet. When I do, it's a pretty small inconvenience considering the years they've been burning.

Su said...

@Eagle: Cool! I know there are people with a preference based on the light, but I'm not one to even notice a difference most of the time.

@Catherine: The EPA says we're safe as long as they aren't broken. But yeah, once in the trash it's certainly going to break somewhere along the way, and then a whole range of potential bad things can happen.

@JE: Home Depot came up for me when I checked! I haven't had to take one in yet, either.

Gina Blechman said...

I love the them. Right before going off to college last year, I went to this eco-friendly tent and they gave me a free one, and it was like "YES! I can use this in my desk lamp and save all of the dying polar bears!" (okay, maybe I was exaggerating just a bit...) But yeah...we've changed all the light bulbs in our house to eco-friendly ones. They're brighter and make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

<3 Gina Blechman

Charlie's Church of Christ said...

this sounds terrible but the vast majority of the public doesn't properly dispose of light bulbs - they don't even know it's in there, and that in turn kills my motivation to do it properly. I know, so many flaws there, but similarly when I finish a small propane bottle for my portable grill I stop and think of the millions of campers who toss it in the dumpster, and the temptation is too great...

Su said...

@Gina: It is a nice feeling! I'm sure the polar bears think of us with fondness. ;)

@Charlie: Too true! It's hard to fight the tide of "everybody's doing it" at the best of times, and even more so when the action in question requires more time/effort.

Carole Anne Carr said...

Had to live under them all my teaching life, - hate them.

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Su said...

@Carole: Bummer!

@RJR: Thanks!

Karen Peterson said...

Personally, I can't stand CFLs. The light is harsher and they take forever to warm up to their full brightness.

I'm all for taking care of the environment, but it's hard to be willing to make changes like this when it means having to give up a standard to which we've grown accustomed.