CFL, LED light bulbs environmentally-friendly alternatives

By
February 16, 2009

Mills Campanil

In efforts to save energy and to lower greenhouse gas emissions, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) have become a popular choice of light bulbs for consumers, including Mills College.

Though the energy saving CFL bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent light bulbs, CFLs contain small amounts of mercury, and it has some buyers worried. Pros and cons of the CFL light bulbs will let the consumer choose if the approximately $8.00 bulbs, that last about ten times longer than the approximately $2.00 conventional bulbs, are the right ones to pull off the shelf.

Each CFL bulb contains anywhere from 1.4 to 5.0 milligrams of mercury.

According to Energy Star, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy Program’s websites, 5.0 milligrams of mercury is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

On the website Snopes.com, experts address the concerns that people have about daily issues through their “Rumor Has It” blog.

The website states that although the CFL light bulbs do contain mercury, they do not contain enough to cause “grave” harm to a buyer or their family because the bulbs do not leach out mercury.

But the bulbs can be harmful to the environment if they are not disposed of properly.

Most homes dispose of their bulbs in the common household trash, when they should be disposed of in a toxic waste depot. Only about three percent of light bulbs are disposed of properly, contributing to water and environmental pollution.

Snopes.com stresses the importance of following the proper guidelines for disposal of the bulbs in order to protect the environment from pollution.

Proper disposal of a CFL bulb that breaks includes ventilating the room where the bulb was broken, while making sure no pets or children are in the room. After the room is ventilated for approximately 15 minutes, scoop the glass and bulb’s powder into a glass jar with a metal lid. It is important to wipe the area with a damp paper towel instead of vacuuming or sweeping so as not to stir the toxic particles.

CFL bulbs cannot be used with dimmer switches unless clearly marked for dimmer switch relays.

The bulbs come in a variety of shapes and sizes including a tri tube U shape, a spring, a spiral, colored spirals, specialty CFLs, reflectors, mini-swirls, chandeliers, a bullet shape, and a globe shape.

According to Energy Star, around 20 percent of the average home’s electric bill comes from lighting the home alone.

“If every one home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL bulb, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than three million homes,” states Energy Star on its website. “This would prevent the release of greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars.”

The website Gaiam Life, Your Guide to Better Living, compared the newest edition to lighting options, Light-Emitting Diodes (LED) light bulbs, to CFL bulbs.

The results showed that LED lights were better for lighting small areas such as desk surfaces and reading lights. LED lights proved to give off less light pollution than the CFL bulbs.

The LED bulb is also designed to withstand very cold weather conditions because, instead of lighting with gas, electrical filaments, or plasma, it lights with diodes.


CFL, LED light bulbs environmentally-friendly alternatives was published on February 16, 2009 in Features

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