Energy efficiency is a popular subject these days. In several recent design-related magazines, newspapers and internet articles I have noticed that lighting is a big subject in relation to energy efficiency. I just wonder how that will affect the aesthetics of our homes??
As a designer, I love the warmth and ambiance those good old incandescent bulbs give off and I am all for lowering energy costs and doing what we can to better our environment. BUT do these new bulbs that I am seeing in stores and reading about provide the illumination I need to make my clients' homes “shine?”
After doing some some research I found that it’s probably not as bad as I feared. There are ways to transition into the world of the new and improved where light bulbs are concerned….
By now, you have probably heard of the Compact Fluorescent Light bulb, or “CFL”. CFLs consume roughly 30% of the power required for a similar incandescent, thus saving you money on your power bill each month. They have also be shown to radically cut down green house emissions. Okay, that sounds great, but when you are in the light bulb aisle at your neighborhood home improvement store, how do you know what to choose?? Here are some tips:
1. Choose the right kind of CFL
- These “new and improved” bulbs do have limitations. For example, the don’t like cold temperatures- they like to be warm. In fact, their efficiency goes down with the temperature. Speaking of temperature, CFLs can be used outdoors, but make sure that they are labeled as such.
- The life of the bulb can be shortened with vibration, so using them in a ceiling fan, for example is probably not the best choice.
- To achieve their level of claimed efficiency, a CFL must warm up to its “operational temperature”. This can take any where from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, during which time they are at about the same level of efficiency as our old friend the incandescent. But, most modern CFLs have an almost immediate start up time.
2. Quality, Quality, Quality
- You get what you pay for….that includes CFLs. Buy brands that you know- GE, Sylvania and Phillips, for example. The ballast quality is what separates the good from the bad. Low quality ballasts will buzz and flicker and will not last as long as their better counterparts. Spend more money up front for lasting results later.
- CFLs produce a very narrow color spectrum, but do come in “warm light” and “daylight”. This does at least give us somewhat of a choice when selecting our new bulbs. When you begin to get rid of those incandescents, buy a couple of each type of CFL to decide what works best for the spaces in your home. (By the way, just so you can sound really smart to all of your friends, this is called “Relamping”- substituting one light bulb for another in order to save energy).
3. Disposal of CFLs
Although an intact CFL will not emit Mercury, they do require a very small amount of it to function. Because Mercury is poisonous, it is very important to dispose of CFLs properly, especially if you have a broken bulb. If you happen to break a bulb, ventilate the area and clean up using latex gloves. Place bulbs, cleaning materials, etc. in doubled zip-loc bags and treat as hazardous material. Currently, there are very few CFL-specific recycle areas, but you can call 1-800-CLEAN UP to find the closest facility to you.
So, hopefully you know a little more than you did about the Compact Fluorescent and can make an informed decision when you begin the “Relamping” process in your home. Happy Lighting!
This little CFL of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! (I know, very corny, but I had to say it!)