Florescent Bulbs don’t work and are bad for the environment

I don’t normally agree with George Will but his op-ed in the Washington Post addressing florescent bulbs hits the mark – at least most of the time as it pertains to the bulbs. 

Climate Change’s Dim Bulbs was published April 2, 2009 and it referred to the March 28th story in the New York Times –  Do New Bulbs Save Energy if They Don’t Work?

He opens by discussing global warming, which I will not address here because truth be told, I tend to be somewhat skeptical of the progressive’s position that all is bleak and an opinion other than ‘everything causes global warming and it’s almost too late to fix it’ is met with intolerance and insults.

One more point:  you will find that there are quite a large number of scientists that are not on the oil company’s payroll who now classify themselves as skeptics and that number is growing constantly.  I live in hurricane alley and know that hurricane experts Dr. William Gray, AccuWeather’s Joe Bastardi and former National Hurricane Center Director Neil Frank are all skeptics.  But this is a matter for another post.

Here I wanted to talk about something that has been bothering me for a while and George Will addressed in his op-ed.

He enlightened me to the fact that many people are hording the incandescent bulbs as they will be phased out in 2014.   I was unaware of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act which the title alone is off-putting.  Energy Independence to me talks to the issue of importing oil.   Of course, importing oil is a security concern for us as we have been repeatedly told.  Now I have to find out how florescent bulbs play into this and what other tidbits were quietly included in this legislation.

My issues and experiences with the so-called energy saver florescent bulbs have not been the best.  They have worked great in curio’s, for example which usually remain on.  But try using them in a dimmer.  It doesn’t dim. 

I do have them in bedrooms but they take a few minutes before they sufficiently light up a room.

I had always been told that florescent bulbs do better when they remain on for longer periods of time.  Repeatedly turning them on an off, as you would in regular use, actually reduces the life of the bulbs. 

Florescent bulbs contain mercury so disposal is a huge concern. 

From George Will’s Op-Ed:

Although supposed to last 10,000 hours and save, the Times says, “as much as” $5.40 a year in electricity costs, some bulbs died within a few hours. Some experts, reports the Times, “blame the government for the quality problems,” saying its push to cut the bulbs’ prices prompted manufacturers to use inferior components.

The bulbs, says the Times, “do not do well in hot places with little airflow, like recessed ceiling fixtures,” and some do not work “with dimmers or three-way sockets.” And: “Be aware that compact fluorescents can take one to three minutes to reach full brightness. This is not a defect.” Well, if you say so. Because all fluorescents contain mercury, a toxic metal, they must never be put in the trash, so Home Depot and other chains offer bins for disposing of dangerous bulbs. Driving to one of these disposal points might not entirely nullify the bulbs’ environmental benefits. Besides, the Times summarizes the Environmental Protection Agency’s helpful suggestions for coping with the environmental dangers caused when one of these environment-saving bulbs breaks:

“Clear people and pets from the room and open a window for at least 15 minutes if possible. Avoid vacuuming. Scoop up larger pieces with stiff paper or cardboard, pick up smaller residue with sticky tape, and wipe the area with a damp cloth. Put everything into a sealed plastic bag or sealed glass jar. In most cases, this can be put in the trash, but the EPA recommends checking local rules.”

The New York Times article referred to the frustration level being felt by users of florescent bulbs – something that I was unaware of.

Irritation seems to be rising as more consumers try compact fluorescent bulbs, which now occupy 11 percent of the nation’s eligible sockets, with 330 million bulbs sold every year. Consumers are posting vociferous complaints on the Internet after trying the bulbs and finding them lacking.

Experts say the quality problems are compounded by poor package instructions. Using the bulbs incorrectly, such as by screwing low-end bulbs into fixtures where heat is prone to build up, can greatly shorten their lives.

Quality of these bulbs is definitely a concern especially as the need to make lower cost bulbs increases. 

Some experts who study the issue blame the government for the quality problems, saying an intensive federal push to lower the price essentially backfired by encouraging manufacturers to use cheap components.

Compact fluorescents once cost as much as $30 apiece. Now they go for as little as $1 — still more than regular bulbs, but each compact fluorescent is supposed to last 10 times longer, save as much as $5.40 a bulb each year in electricity, and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide from burning coal in power plants.

Consumers are supposed to be able to protect themselves by buying bulbs certified under the government’s Energy Star program. But experts and some environmental groups complain that Energy Star standards are weak, permitting low-quality bulbs with too high a level of mercury, a toxic metal contained in all compact fluorescents.

The complexity of the bulb is definitely a contributing factor.

Alan Feit, vice president of Feit Electric, says he does not think the problems experienced by the Zuerchers indicate an overall quality problem with his bulbs. But he acknowledged the difficulty of keeping tight quality control on a cheap, mass-market item. “There are 40 to 50 components that go into these things,” Mr. Feit said. “While manufacturers try to inspect all incoming materials, one little mistake may cause a performance problem.”

Victor Roberts, an independent expert in Burnt Hills, N.Y., who conducts failure analysis testing on compact fluorescents, suspects that some suppliers — many of them in China — are using substandard components.

So the bottom line for me is that these florescent bulbs were designed to save energy yet is bad for the environment.  Of course, we shouldn’t mention that they don’t make financial sense nor do they meet all of our lighting needs. 

Again, we’ve been told that they will also assist us in our quest to defeat Global warming. But let ;me reiterate – they are bad for our environment.

I am very pro-environment, but these bulbs just don’t cut it.


Update:  Upon completion of this post, I read a story on Talking Points Memo (a site I regularly read and enjoy) and they jumped all over George Will for this op-ed.   Not because he commented on the inadequacy of the florescent bulbs but for his comments on global warming.  Never mind that Will’s column addressed an article in the New York Times.  In fact, you would have thought that his column was solely about global warming.

That sums up one of my biggest issues with the Global Warming crowd.  How dare anyone differ from their opinion or wish to discuss further.  Anyone who challenges this is a denier, a flat-earther or a shill for the oil companies.  Let’s also ignore the growing number of scientists who are adding their names to the skeptics list and believe that discussion is not over.  Let’s also ignore the fact that many of the pro-Global Warming scientists need grants in order to continue their research and if they addressed questions of their extreme stance on global warming they may lose their research grants. 





3 responses to “Florescent Bulbs don’t work and are bad for the environment

  1. Yes, but the reason they “jumped” on George Will and the WaPo was because he has been writing factually incorrect articles on Global Warming for a long time and the people he has been quoting (I think it was the U of I at Chicago) have asked him and the WaPo to either print a clarification or a retraction. He and the Post have done neither. This has been going on for years, even before he went to the Post and was still with the Times.

    I use the Florescent bulbs and although they are a little dimmer than the others they aren’t bad. I don’t have any trouble with them. I have used them for a couple of years and have yet to have one break and have never had trouble disposing of one. I just throw them in the trash. However I think I have only had to replace one so far in 2 years. And I wouldn’t swear to that.

  2. My experience with the bulbs has been spotty. One didn’t work out of the box. I removed them from my bedroom because I have dimmers on the lamps and the dimmers didn’t work with the bulbs. My kids do have them in their bedrooms and if they put their lights on at night, it takes a few minutes before you can see.

    We’re not supposed to throw them in the trash because they release the mercury when they break – which they will in the landfill. The problem is that we haven’t been told about this so most people do throw them in the trash.

    We will eventually have to dispose of them at the hazardous waste locations where we currently dispose of batteries, paint, etc.

  3. Several years ago, I had a package of the bulbs fall on the floor and break. At that time, I was not aware of the mercury problem so they breakage went into the trash. I now buy the bulbs that are enclosed and I find that these bulbs work fine. As a matter of fact, our electric usage.