Thursday, January 19, 2012

Change lightbulbs to CFLs (Change 135)

According to the ENERGY STAR (a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy)  "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that's earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars."

I admit, that is a lot of energy to be saved.  The savings comes from replacing one incandescent bulb with one CFL bulb (compact fluorescent light bulb). It works about to be about 75% less energy than a regular incandescent bulb.

I had questions, though, about the other environmental implications of CFLs.  My main concern was the mercury content in the bulbs.  As long as you don't break a light bulb, you should be OK.  Break it though, and you'd better hope to have a window available to open ASAP.  You do NOT want to breathe that stuff in!  It also means that CFLs are considered hazardous waste, and cannot be disposed of in your regular garbage, but taken to a special waste depot for disposal.  How many people actually clean up broken bulbs properly and dispose of used bulbs properly?  The potential long-term health concerns worry me a little.

Great debate rages, and no one has a real answer.  Your opinion on CFLs mainly depends on which side of the fence you sit on - more concern for the environment or more concern for the perceived impacts on your health and/or wallet.  Natural Resources Canada has a great FAQ on CFLs, for those needing help deciding where to sit (

I've done my research, and I sit on the side of the environment.  To me, the potential benefits far outweigh the small risk incurred.  The Government of Canada feels the same (  By 2014, most lights will use CFL bulbs.

We've decided to start earlier.  Every time we need to replace a bulb, we will be replacing it with a CFL, rather than an incandescent one.  This will be easier on our pocketbook, and won't result in the premature tossing of perfectly good light bulbs into the garbage.

It will also make our environment a little brighter, and the air a little easier to breathe.

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