Monday, February 18, 2008

Switching the lights...

Jan and I have been replacing the lights in our homes with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL). I'm almost used to the half-second delay when you turn the switch on. And after they warm up (about 3 minutes I would guess) they are just as bright and warm as incandescent.

But I had concerns:
  • I needed larger ones than I could find at Home Depot (200-300 Watt equivalent). Solution.
  • I needed dimmable bulbs for a few places in the house. Solution
  • I had read about the mercury issues.
On the last question, I found a helpful article from Green Lantern (my favorite comic hero*)
But what about the mercury? The toxic heavy metal is integral to the design of current CFL bulbs: Electricity agitates the mercury molecules, causing them to emit ultraviolet light. That light then spurs a bulb's phosphor coating to give off visible light. But the amount contained in each bulb is barely enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen, and won't cause any bodily harm as long as simple precautions are taken. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has voluntarily imposed a limit of 5 milligrams per bulb on all CFLs sold in the United States—about 1 percent of the mercury contained in an old home thermometer. Since manufacturers are well aware that health fears are preventing the widespread adoption of CFLs, most have committed to making bulbs with even less mercury than NEMA's standard. The average CFL bulb now contains around 4 milligrams of mercury, and that figure should drop closer to 2 milligrams in the very near future. Much of the credit for these reductions goes to Wal-Mart, which has pressured GE, Royal Phillips, and Osram Sylvania to cut down on the quicksilver. [More]
This is an easy step to lower electric bills and save energy. Not cheap - but getting cheaper all the time.

[* Can you still recite the Oath?]


Anonymous said...

I mistakenly thought this was the "Oath" you were referring to:

I am all for energy conservation as a matter of economics, I just remain skeptical about the global warming part. (Was it Letterman who said this winter was so cold Al gore isn't answering his phone?)

John Phipps said...


Obviously you've never had an imaginary power ring...