ECN Forum
Posted By: twh CFLs - 04/30/07 03:22 AM
Here is a criticism of CFLs:
The writer raises some interesting issues:
  • They can't be used in ovens or freezers
  • They need ventilation
  • They require more energy to manufacture
  • They have a short life if switched frequently
  • They don't fit in all fixtures
  • They contain mercury

The Energy Star site does little to dispel some of the concerns:

How many of these items are going to be a problem?
Posted By: Sandro Re: CFLs - 05/03/07 09:50 PM
Heh, and like most technology, it will evolve and improve. Remember the first computer? The first TV set?

I believe CFL's are the way to go.
Posted By: twh Re: CFLs - 05/04/07 01:06 AM
A story about a broken CFL:,2933,268747,00.html

If you break a CFL on the carpet in a bedroom, for the sake of discussion, lets say in the bedroom on your own child, what do you do?

I'm pretty sure that if a customer learned that I broke a CFL and spilled mercury in their child's bedroom, I'd be paying for a professional cleaning, and a probably a hotel bill on top of it.

That's a fairly hefty liability to install a new light fixture.
Posted By: ghost307 Re: CFLs - 05/04/07 01:06 PM
Well, first off you have lots of tiny bits of broken glass in a room where bare feet walk around.
Beyind that, I'd vaccuum everything up VERY well and call it good.

The EPA tends to go pretty wacko sometimes...just because you can assign a number that's greater than zero doesn't always mean that there's a problem. I'm sure that when you measure the PCB levels at a site and see that they're 'zero' doesn't mean that a better meter wouldn't find some.
We're gonna end up seeing 1 atom per planet and getting in a fuss about it.

Ask Walmart and Home Depot how they handle it...I'm sure that they get broken CFL lamps in their stores all the time based on the way they handle their stock. I've never seen an EPA tent and moonsuits at a store location.
Posted By: yaktx Re: CFLs - 06/07/07 05:42 AM
The writer raises some interesting issues:

They can't be used in ovens or freezers
So what? Don't use them in those places. Cars can't be driven underwater, either.

They need ventilation
Some need it more than others. Again, where this is a problem, don't use them, or change out the fixture.

They require more energy to manufacture
I've heard that claimed, and it's probably true, but who can say how much? Let's say its 5x the energy to manufacture an incandescent (I doubt it's that much). The CFL lasts about 10x as long, and use 75% less energy. Do the math.

They have a short life if switched frequently
Define frequently. 2-4 operations per day will make a negligible difference. Motion sensor lights, on the other hand, are not a good application for CFLs.

They don't fit in all fixtures
No, but they do fit in most fixtures.

They contain mercury
Yes, they do, in very tiny amounts. However, in most areas, they actually reduce the mercury released into the environment, since most utilities burn coal, which releases mercury compounds into the air. The average US resident gets 50% of their electricity from coal. This graph shows the reduction. Keep in mind this reduction applies if the spent lamp is thrown in the garbage. If the lamp is recycled (which will become easier in the future), the reduction is even greater.

I consider all of these items but the last to be non-issues. The public needs to know about the mercury, and recycling needs to be made easier, but there is no reason to panic, nor does this mean that CFLs are not a "green" technology.

Also, I do not consider PrisonPlanet to be a credible source of any sort of information whatsoever.
Posted By: yaktx Re: CFLs - 06/07/07 05:55 AM
Originally Posted by ghost307
Beyind that, I'd vaccuum everything up VERY well and call it good.

I wouldn't use a vacuum. This page gives instructions on how to dispose of a broken CFL.

Oh yeah, and don't even get me started on Fox News! (Once again, consider the source.)
Posted By: wacked Re: CFLs - 06/08/07 03:15 AM
I had a chat with a rep from Sylvania the other day concerning CFL lighting and the new legislation concerning the incandescent light bulb going the way of the Doe Doe bird. It sounds like there will not be a total ban on the incandescent, special light bulbs that can't be readily replaced will still be available ( until there is a viable alternative )
Posted By: yaktx Re: CFLs - 06/08/07 05:11 AM
I expect that is true.

Some applications where there is currently no good substitute for incandescent/halogen lighting:

Automobile headlamps
Studio photography (although I've had good luck with 3500K CFLs)
Flame-tip chandelier bulbs (Anyone ever see a flame-tip CFL that didn't look like something you can buy in a sex shop?)
Any type of spotlight (at least until LEDs improve in output, efficiency, and price)
Extreme temperatures (LEDs work well in the cold, but not in the oven)

Of course, LEDs will continue to improve, and there are other solid-state lighting technologies on the horizon. Who knows? In ten years, fluorescents may be dead as a dodo.
Posted By: Sixer Re: CFLs - 06/13/07 04:29 PM
Originally Posted by yaktx
Flame-tip chandelier bulbs (Anyone ever see a flame-tip CFL that didn't look like something you can buy in a sex shop?)

LOL! They are pretty ugly. I've never seen them in use in a chandelier but seeing them in the package on the store shelves is enough for me not to recommend them.

As for other applications of CFL's, they do have their place. Some fixtures just don't look right with a CFL in them - for instance one that looks better with a clear bulb in it.
Posted By: electech Re: CFLs - 06/13/07 11:11 PM
"They can't be used in ovens or freezers"

"So what? Don't use them in those places. Cars can't be driven underwater, either."

I think the point is if the feel-good politicians ban them entirely, or otherwise resistrict their availability (like with special taxes), we will have a big problem. Routine replacement of CFLs that were installed in the wrong application will be more harmful to the environment, not less. Hopefully this won't happen, but were talking politicians...

"They require more energy to manufacture"

"I've heard that claimed, and it's probably true, but who can say how much? Let's say its 5x the energy to manufacture an incandescent (I doubt it's that much). The CFL lasts about 10x as long, and use 75% less energy. Do the math."

Its more than "probably" true. 10x the energy/pollution would be a good starting estimate. They cost 10 times as much (visit Menards) as incandescents. They are sold in very competitive markets, meaning the cost you pay is a reflection of the materials used and the difficulty in obtaining and/or manufacturing those materials (as opposed to cost being a funtion of some huge mark-up by a monopolist) Cost in a competitive market like this = energy and pollution. More labor results in more pollution as well. An incandescent is mainly glass, a filament, and metal base, and leaded or lead-free solder. All of these are present in the CFL, but in addition you have mercury, capacitors, inductors, diodes, resistors, a printed circuit board, insulated wire, and a plastic shell. These things require energy to produce and their production and disposal results in pollution. This is dirty stuff, and the pollution is real pollution, not just CO2.

Then there is infant mortality. When one bulb out of your four pack of incandescents is "Bad From Stock" or dies shortly after installation, you have not lost much money and the environmental impact is minimal. When one of four CFLs is BFS or dies prematurely the financial and environmental harm is much greater, since you already put many times the cost and pollution up front. The number of components, and the type of parts being used near or beyond their recomended temp ratings is likely to greatly affect CFL life. I'm sure we will see reliable data on typical use lifespan in the near future (rather than open fixture life). Without proof or independent validation, I don't accept the lifespan data provided by any manufacturer as real-world.

Also, accidental breakage is a negative for CFLs. Again, cost and pollution is put up front, so if you break a bulb you have the same cost and enironmental issues as with the Bad From Stock scenario. Not good for CFLs.

All that said, I use several at home. They make sense in many applications. They don't make as much sense in others. I'll decide which which is which, thank you very much Mr government man. I plan on replacing a couple more bulbs with CFLs - dang kids can't seem to turn a switch off when not in use.

The Foxnews story on hazardous cleanup came from here:

The hazardous cleanup issue was the result of the flourescent breaking over shag carpeting - can't simply sweep it up. Anyway, the negative comments about prisonplanet and Foxnews are ad hominem and are therefore losing arguments in any serious debate. Better to argue the facts.
Posted By: mikesh Re: CFLs - 06/14/07 04:29 PM
A funny thing comes to mind in reading this discussion. I recently watched a you tube video of a couple of guys smashing flourescent tubes on each other. They should all be dead soon from mercury poisoning (not dead yeat). Now we are making a huge fuss about the even smaller amount of mercury in a CFL.
Not trying to dismiss the issue but we can get pretty caught up in the hype. I would like to see a lamp disposal method that is more ecological. Oh the burden of all those relamping projects and the smashed tubes.
Posted By: yaktx Re: CFLs - 06/17/07 04:32 AM
Just the facts, ma'am.

Sorry this is long, but it is what it is.

Better to argue the facts.

I couldn't agree more.

All facts are merely assertions until supported by evidence. If you cannot produce evidence on your own, you have to supply a citation. That citation has to be credible.

If I call someone a liar, that's ad hominem. If I can produce evidence that a person or organization has a track record of producing false or misleading information, that's critical thinking. You won't get far arguing facts if you don't have some way of discriminating between credible and non-credible sources. My way of doing that might not be polite, but it's not ad hominem.

It really irks me when someone lays out a laundry list of assertions followed by a link to prisonplanet or any of the other Alex Jones websites, even if the assertions make sense. I never said that the dubious sourcing automatically meant the assertions were false (that would be ad hominem). I admit I dismissed the points laid out above a little more curtly than was called for, mainly because I was annoyed by the spurious citation. These are all real disadvantages of CFL technology. (Even a broken clock is right twice a day!)

Truth is, if someone lays out a list of assertions with a prisonplanet link, I will always point out that prisonplanet is not a credible source of information, even if the assertions are so well known to be factual that no reasonable person could possibly dispute them.

"Cigarette smoking dramatically increases cancer risks."
"The earth revolves around the sun in 365.26 day cycles."

And I will do so even at the risk of being accused of ad hominem.

It is my experience that Alex Jones has not displayed respect for facts. He is most certainly not an authority on structural failures, and probably not an authority on CFLs, either. Even if he were an expert, his reputation does not inspire confidence. If he supplied an interesting link, it could have been linked directly.

Steven Milloy, the author of the shrill and sensationalistic Fox article, works for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an organization devoted to deceiving the public about global warming. He gets his money from polluting industries who would like to repeal the Clean Water Act, and only gets outraged about mercury pollution when he smells an opportunity to accuse environmentalists of hypocrisy. If you are aware of any facts when you start reading his drivel, they will soon be sucked out of your head and replaced with... I don't know, packing peanuts or something. Pointing this out is not ad hominem!

The best way to start a debate is to lay out the facts (or assertions, it's all good) in a neutral way. Don't make me wade through weird conspiracy rants or putrid right-wing BS to find them. Link to them directly!
Posted By: yaktx Re: CFLs - 06/17/07 04:38 AM
Independent Validation

Without proof or independent validation, I don't accept the lifespan data provided by any manufacturer as real-world.

Fair enough. I've done a fair amount of searching myself, and there doesn't seem to be any independent validation that is available to the public. I've often wondered about this myself. Over the years, I've considered wiring one in parallel with an hour meter just to check, but never gotten around to doing it. Even if I did, it would be anecdotal rather than statistically significant.

As I understand it, the claimed "lifespan" (e.g. 8,000 or 10,000 hours) is MTBF. Roughly, this means that at the predicted hour marker, 50% of the units will still be in operation. In the case of linear fluorescents, this applies to the lamp only, not the ballast. IEC 60969 is the operative standard for integrated-ballast CFLs in the EU, and covers the entire unit. Certainly, misapplication will negatively affect life expectancy. I know that nearly all CFL failures I have seen have been ballast failures.

As for the bad from stock scenario, I don't know if any data is collected on the number of BFS CFLs. I know it is far less than 25%, however!

Let's look at a parallel from the world of toilets. Many of us will recall that the Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandated that toilets sold in the US after 1996 could use no more than 1.6 gallons (6.0 liters) of water per flush. Most manufacturers hastily modified existing designs to use less water, with unsatisfactory results. Although this problem was largely fixed by 1999, it took much longer for the reputation of low-flush toilets to recover, and some people still will not modify their opinions of low-flush toilets no matter what new evidence comes to light.

Until recently, there was no way to evaluate the performance of a particular model of toilet other than hearsay, advertising claims, and the meager lists published by a few water utilities of models they had had good luck with.

Now we have a credible, unbiased, objective guide to which toilets really work. It is called the MaP study, and it's worth a read, if only for the hilarious detailed description (with photos!) of the "test media". If we had that for CFLs, it would settle a lot of debates.

As for the embodied energy of CFLs, that info is not publically available, either. The best you can find is a few educated guesses. They may be higher (and possibly better educated) than my guess, but they don't constitute proof.

Let's assume Rod Elliott's worst case estimate of 20kWh to manufacture a CFL, vs. 1kWh to manufacture an incandescent. Let's also assume the manufacturer's claimed MTBF, 1,000 h for incandescent and 8,000 h for CFL:

0.015kW* 8,000= 120kWh
0.06kW* 8,000= 480kWh
20kWh* unit CFL= 20kWh
1kWh/unit incand.* 8 units= 8kWh
120+20= 140
480+8= 488

Clearly, if the MTBF numbers are reliable, CFLs are the winner. The question is whether (and in what situations) they are reliable numbers. That is why independent scientific studies are needed.
Posted By: yaktx Re: CFLs - 06/17/07 04:49 AM
The Elephant in the Room

This is dirty stuff, and the pollution is real pollution, not just CO2.

Did you mean to say these pollutants are real toxins? I certainly hope that's what you intended to convey!

Mercury is indisputably toxic. CO2 is not, unless it displaces oxygen below a concentration of 19.5% in a confined space, and even that observation might stretch the clinical definition of toxicity. If we burn all of the fossil fuels left in the world with no restriction, the CO2 released will probably not displace enough to asphyxiate anyone. However, the few humans left living might wish it were so!

Any chemical, no matter how non-reactive, or how innocuous it might seem, is a pollutant if it is known to have deleterious effects on the natural environment. Before the present advancement of climate science, say, twenty-five years ago, there seemed to be no reason to regard CO2 as a pollutant. We can't afford to be so dismissive now.

This brings us back to arguing the facts: The debate over the banning of incandescent lighting is utterly nonsensical if the single salient fact of global warming is not acknowledged. Absent the understanding of global warming, the subject of bans falls into a deus ex machina narrative of evil, (communist/fascist, take your pick), sadistic and meddlesome bureaucrats invading our privacy for no clear reason whatsoever. Lots of people might like to view it this way, but it is not helpful. This graph puts it into perspective.

We can debate whether a specific legislative program in Australia, Ontario, or California is ill-advised (and I would tend to agree with Electech and others who fear the unintended consequences), but if you look at the big picture, it should be clear why governments are interested in lighting efficiency.

Slamming the brakes on global warming is a daunting task, economically and politically. Much of the technology to do it is expensive and slow in coming. Some of it does not even yet exist. Governments must do what they can, now, and lighting efficiency looks like low-hanging fruit. What's more, since the thermal efficiency of power generation currently hovers around 30%, every watt saved at the point of use saves three watts of fuel input.

If banning general-service incandescents is not the answer, and I'm not saying it is, what is? We can all be creative; let's come up with a better answer. Dismissing the question is not an option.

The legislator who proposed the California ban has softened his tone a bit. It seems GE is developing a super-efficient incandescent. Details are thin, of course, but it may have something to do with IR-reflective coatings. Keep the IR in, and the filament operates at a higher temperature, making it more efficient.

There may be a multitude of answers.
Posted By: electech Re: CFLs - 06/18/07 04:34 PM
Great replies. I agree with almost everything, except the concept of letting the suits decide what products we are allowed to by (I've got some libertarian leanings, can't help it. I also love my guns and don't care what other adults, consistent with not harming others, do in the privacy of their own homes. You know, all that crazy Bill of Rights stuff)

I would disagree with this statement though:

"The debate over the banning of incandescent lighting is utterly nonsensical if the single salient fact of global warming is not acknowledged"

First, but NOT foremost, because global warming may not be anything we can do, or have done, much about. We can use fewer fossil fuels. For example, Al Gore can stop jetting around the world telling everyone how bad we are - we get it now. But, our sun's output and cosmic radioation is beyond our control. In addition, there are some problems with data collection methods:

My main disagreement is with "banning" of anything by the government, and in particular something the market place has a perfect answer for. I have six CFL's at home now. It didn't take an act of congress for me to do this. I didn't even have to care one bit about the environment (though I do). As it happens, it is cheaper to use less of something than it is to use more. It is that simple. It makes sense to use CFL lighting in each of the applications I am using it in. My criticism is it seems that in the quest to get the government involved, some parties intentionally distort advantages of process/product A vs. process/product B. CFLs are good, but they are not the second coming of Christ. (the components used in their manufacture, lack of current recycling being big detractors)

Someone who cares about the environment, but calls bull.....oney on much of the global warming hype, will still find CFLs a smart choice. Producing energy produces REAL pollution. And yes it is toxins I'm speaking of. This is true whether the world is getting warmer or cooler, and whether we are the majority or a minority cause of it. Even with a heavy helping of global warming denial, we just don't need mercury, lead, benzine, sulfur compounds, etc. discharged into the air and our ground water. Its also easier to cool the house in the summer with fewer incandescents burning..

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