Going green


Lights again.

I seem to have reached the point where the first of my compact fluorescent light globes are starting to be replaced.

Many of them I installed about two years ago, and most in the house are still going strong.

The three that have expired get switched on generally for only short periods of time, which Wikipedia notes can cut the lifespan drastically, and says:

The US Energy Star program says to leave them on at least 15 minutes at a time to mitigate this problem.

I wonder if those ones should be replaced with conventional bulbs, while they’re still available? In the supermarket it appears the range has been radically reduced since I last bought any, with an “efficient” range of Phillips incandescent bulbs pretty much the only ones left in Safeway, probably reflecting stricter rules on light globe importation and power consumption.

Another CFL that is still working, but is showing signs of wearing-out, is in the hallway outside the kids’ bedroom, and gets left on at night. Given the number of hours it’s spent switched-on (I estimate something like 4600 hours so far) that’s pretty impressive.

What to do with the CFLs once used? It’s generally known that they have a small amount of mercury in them, and therefore ideally shouldn’t end up in landfill. Reality seems to be rather different though — when I rang the council about it, they said they know of no special arrangements for them. Hmm.

As with traffic lights, hopefully domestic lighting will move towards LEDs, which not only use less power, they don’t have the short usage problems, and nor do they (as far as I know) require special methods of disposal.

Update 12:20pm. Clarified that some Phillips incandescent globes still available in Safeway.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

12 replies on “CFLs”

I put a CFL in my bedroom at my parents’ place when I still lived at home, and it’s still going strong (although maybe dimmer than originally) with intermittent use after 15 years.

I have used them for many years both in the US and here in Melbourne. Some last a very long time and others seem to burn out prematurely. Two of the ones I bought here in Melbourne have since burned out and they were in use for only about a year or so. When they first came out they were very expensive when compared to a regular bulb. I remember at one time paying about US$18 per bulb. When they first came out around 1990 they were only available with a straight tube and did not fit in many fixtures and lamps. Nowadays they are not only cheaper but with the curly tube and a much smaller ballast they will fit almost all existing sockets. They do need a minute or so to warm up to full brightness. They do not work well and are dim in cold temperatures such as walk in coolers and freezers in commercial kitchens. CFL’s and flourescent lights also can have a very slight flicker which can cause a bad reaction in some autistic people. Flourescent lights and older CRT TV screens also seem to flicker noticeably more here than in th US due to the 50 cycle power used here. In the US and Canada power is geneated at 60 cycles.

In the US we do not have the push and twist (bayonet?) light sockets, only the screw in (Edison) kind. When I once went to buy a replacement bulb here I bought the regular screw in kind without thinking and had an “aw s**t” moment up on my step stool when I realised that the socket in my ceiling light was the push and twist kind and the bulb in my hand would not fit.

Andrew, sorry, should have been clearer above. Safeway still have some Phillips incandescent globes, though they’re called “efficient” – and claim to use 30% less power. They’re still incandescent though, not fluorescent.

Jed, yeah bayonet is more common, but some devices do have Edison fittings. I’ve particularly noted it with lights from Ikea.

I remember suggesting to my local Bunnings last year that they set up a box for dropping off dead CFLs – but nothing has been done about it.

My council (Greater Dandenong) has no scheme in place for CFLs either.

But then the whole area of “E-waste” is one in need of proper implementations for recycling. (The notion of taking your old computer stuff to the Town Hall once or twice a year on a special collection day is absurd.)

Here in the UK the sale of incandescent 100w bulbs was made illegal a couple of weeks ago, apart from existing stocks. Other wattages are due to follow soon.

This has baused a bit of a public backlash (largely as a result of being a European edict, which isn’t quite the case).


It shows a good example of British public views about Europe, laws, perceptions and a lot else besides!

I presume the bayonet style of fitting usually found in Oz is the same as ours. Like there, the Edison screw is uncommon but not unknown, again due to the arrival of Ikea! (The screw is the only fiting used on the European mainland.)

As for recycling, or doorstep collections don’t talke them but our local recycling centre does (as do Ikea).

In a splendid bit of beaurocracy, though, waste can’t be deposited at the recycling centre on foot; you *have* to come in a vehicle. How green is *that*?!

AH, fluorescent lights- how pleasant! You’ve stirred up a hornet’s nest, Daniel!!
Firstly, am I the only one bothered by the pale white light those things give out? Maybe I’m just used to the brighter yellowish light incandescents give, but it is a horrid pale colour, almost sanitized light! I actually bought one for the lamp in the loungeroom, thinking it would be quite bright, but when I turned it on, it seemed so dim, I promptly exchanged it for a wonderful incandescent!
Question- why are incandescent light bulbs considered the spawn of satan? You know what I find interesting about the green movement- every time they come upon a problem, and devise a solution, the solution seems to be worse than the original problem! In this case, we have replaced a tried, tested, simple and SAFE technology, with one that is hazardous if it contents are exposed, all to stop a black balloon entering the atmosphere!
If you look at an incandescent bulb, it is a relatively simple piece of technology- two contact wires connected to a tungsten filament, encased in a glass bulb filled with a low level inert gas (argon)! Rather harmless! And what have we replaced them with- a fluorescent tube filled with mercury vapour, which furthermore emits X-Rays! An inconvenient truth, if you will! Can’t say it’s all that safe! It is sheer folly that they have been slowly phased out, looks like I’ll have to go on a scavenger hunt at Safeway sometime soon!!!!
For those of you who use CFLs because of environmental concerns, one might like to consider the poisonous effects on the Chinese workers who assemble them:
For those of you wondering how to dispose of CFLs, one might like to be aware of what to do when one breaks indoors! The proper disposal procedure is outlined at the following link, from the US Government’s Energy Star Website:
You’ll note the very precise steps, from airing the room, evacuating it, to the eventual disposal! Neat little things, huh?
To see a rather humorous display of this, here’s Glenn Beck’s visual display on what to do:
On a separate note, I’d like to pay tribute to Mike Leyland, so please stand for a minute’s silence while the Leyland Brothers anthem is played:
Wonder if Channel 9 will air any old episodes- super f***ing boring as Kevin Bloody Wilson says they are!!?

I have noticed the ‘reflector’ incandescent bulbs – the wide base bulbs used in downlights – seem to have survived the legislated push to CFL’s at my local Safeway

In terms of CFL’s and their application, there are only a few lights at home that are used constantly each night. Most others are only flicked on for brief periods and and then quickly off, and are not really suitable for this type of bulb. In my experience using a CFL in one of those applications shortened the bulb life and resulted in that hideous dull light that Andrew V correctly pointed to (despite it being the ‘equivalent’ of a 75W incandescent bulb) as there was insufficient time to gain the full brightness (a LED lamp would have been okay in such a circumstance)

In the end I swapped bulbs with a more the CFL in a more permanently lit location and gained a stock of incandescents for those lesser used ones whilst I still could. There are other applications where incandescents are the only ones suitable – lights with dimmers, pilot lights in fridges and ovens – what does the legislation say about these applications?

Very interesting video links above! The average person using CFL’s and fluorescent tubes is most likely unaware of the personal and environmental hazards of clean up and disposal of these lights. Others probably do not care about recyling or think these elaborate cleanup and disposal procedures are a waste of time and will likely just clean up any mess in the usual way and dispose of the mess in the trash with little if any containment. I have worked in many supermarkets, commercial kitchens, and bakeries and I cannot remember any place that saved burned out or broken fluorescent tubes for special disposal or recycling. They were just thrown into the dumpster or trash compactor with the regular trash often being smashed in the process. Most people have probably seen what a powdery white broken glass mess a broken fluorescent tube can make. I have seen many a shattered tube on a supermarket or kitchen floor or in a food display case and nobody was ever evacuated from the area and the mess was just cleaned up and thrown away.

There was a company in Dandenong featured on the news earlier this year (??) with a technique for recycling and collecting the materials from old fluorescent tubes although I have seen nothing more from them to date – basically they all end up in the rubbish – highly unlikely the US Energy Star guidelines will be followed!!

Although CFLs are more efficiant, they could still raise energy consuption, see ,a href=>viva Las Vegas.

A lot of CFLs appear dimmer as the way they distribute light is different to incandescents – this is especially true of the ‘bar’ type CFLs, which distribute light mainly to their sides. This suits horizontal mounting, but is not so good for lamps and the like, which tend to point the bulb downward. For these applications, a spiral CFL is usually far superior.

Colour reproduction is also much better these days – but don’t bother with Bunnings 10-packs, anything with ‘white/cool white’ – seek out 2700k or below ‘warm white’ CFLs – much better.

I also tend to go one wattage up, ie if seeking a “60W equivalent” CFL – buy the 75w equivalent instead. This means even in the late-life fade fluoros sometimes get you’ve still got plenty of light, and it’s only another 2-3W draw (eg 11W vs 13/14W).

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