The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 27, 2008


Shedding Light on Compact Fluorescent Light

Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (CFLs), most commonly those bulbs with small spiral tubes, have a number of benefi ts over standard incandescent bulbs. CFLs use 70% less electricity than traditional bulbs and can last 10 times longer. At current electrical prices, a $2 CFL will save about $50 over the lifetime of the bulb (about 5 years), and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 500 pounds.


Like all fl uorescents, CFLs contain mercury, and therefore require recycling and some care in handling. The 5 milligrams (mg) of mercury in a CFL is less than half the amount released into the atmosphere by coalburning power plants to produce the electricity used by a standard bulb over the CFLs lifetime. (By comparison, old round thermostats contain 3000 mg of mercury, and a mercury thermometer contains 500 mg.)

In Carlisle, recycling CFLs is simple and convenient. Town residents can leave CFLs and other items containing mercury with the attendant at the Transfer Station during any visit. After drop off, bulbs are stored in a shed for collection by a state approved, licensed recycling company that uses advanced extraction processes to recover as much mercury as possible. The extracted mercury is then reused in a variety of medical and industrial applications, while unextracted residue is safely contained and disposed of.

Should a bulb break before disposal, air out the area where the break occurred for 15 minutes, then carefully scoop up the remains without touching them with your hands — don’t vacuum or sweep with a broom — and package them in a plastic bag for recycling .


CFLs must be used properly to achieve their rated Shedding Light on Compact Fluorescent Light lifespan. The two main causes of burnout are cycling on and off too frequently and overheating due to inadequate ventilation. In enclosed fi xtures, new Refl ector CFLs (R-CFLs) are becoming popular because they are designed to withstand higher temperatures. They look like small standard fl ood light bulbs, so they are also good for indoor track lighting. Models are also available for outdoor use.

An often-heard complaint about CFLs is that they create a harsher quality of light compared with the light from incandescent bulbs. A few dollars more will buy a CFL bulb with softer lighting quality. The differences in lighting characteristics continue to diminish as CFL technology evolves. Technology is also forging ahead in the development of other options. One promising lighting alternative is the highly effi cient light-emitting diode (LED), a type of solid state lighting (SSL) that doesn’t use electrical fi laments or gas. Currently, LEDs are practical for low-light applications such as fl ashlights. However, the Department of Energy expects that by the year 2025, LEDs will be the preferred method of lighting in homes and offi ces, replacing CFLs and incandescent bulbs.

Worldwide use of CFLs is increasing dramatically. Japan already uses CFLs for 80% of its lighting, and CFLs provide 50% of Germany’s lighting. In Australia, standard incandescent light bulbs will be phased out in favor of CFLs by 2010. A year ago, the Canadian government announced plans to ban the sale of incandescent lamps by 2012. Home Depot will stop selling incandescent bulbs by 2011 in favor of CFLs. A legislated phase out of incandescent bulbs will begin in the US in 2012.

Hardware stores sell an assortment of CFLs in various shapes and sizes. Check out O’Connor’s Hardware in Billerica, Costco, and Wal-Mart for best prices, which are often less than a dollar a bulb. Following the guidelines for CFL use and disposal makes CFLs a reasonable choice for lighting our homes in today’s climate conscious world. Δ

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito