What to Know About Low Energy and Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

CFL 1I’ve written about Compact Fluorescent Bulbs and other energy efficient lighting before, but this informative article from Green Building Elements was too good not to share:

Guest Post: What to Know About Low Energy and Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (via Green Building Elements)

Industries and retailers are causing a lot of confusion by referring to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) as ‘low energy light bulbs’. This creates confusion as there are other types of low energy light bulbs, like LED (light emitting diode) bulbs, which are becoming more commonly used in…

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Worried About the Mercury in Compact Fluorescent Bulbs?

cfl-bulb-recycleThis is an update of an article I wrote for another blog in 2008:

Everyone knows that switching out your light bulbs to CFL saves money, but many people are concerned about the mercury in them.

According to John Balbus, M.D., Chief Health Officer at Environmental Defense, CFLs contain less mercury than was in the old-fashioned mercury thermometers. And even broken, he says the exposure rate is about equivalent to a “can or two” of tuna fish.

In addition, when compared to the total life cycle of incandescent bulbs, from production to the amount of energy from a coal-burning plant needed to power the bulb over its life, CFLs are responsible for far less mercury in our environment. According to Popular Mechanics:

Approximately 0.0234 mg of mercury—plus carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide—releases into the air per 1 kwh of electricity that a coal-fired power plant generates. Over the 7500-hour average range of one CFL, then, a plant will emit 13.16 mg of mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb but only 3.51 mg of mercury to sustain a 20-watt CFL (the lightning equivalent of a 75-watt traditional bulb). Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.

But even if there is less mercury used in the total production, the CFLs do have a small amount mercury inside each bulb. Clearly, we want to avoid throwing spent bulbs into the regular garbage where they can easily break and end up in our landfills. Yet it can be inconvenient to collect the used bulbs for delivery to Miami-Dade’s Home Chemical disposal sites.

This is why Ikea, Home Depot and Lowes have set up light bulb recycle programs in their stores. The Environmental Coalition of Miami and the Beaches (ECOMB) has also set up a drop-off collection site at its offices: 210 2nd St, Miami Beach. (They ask that you call first if dropping of CFLs, batteries or ewaste.) And to make recycling your compact fluorescent lighting really easy, Smart At Bulbs offers free pick-up in the Greater Miami area.

Industries have been recycling mercury for years. Now with easy options like those noted above, consumers can too. We can all make the switch to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs with less worry about mercury in our environment.

Top Five Autumn “Green” Tips For South Florida

Happy Mabon! While it may not feel like it to those of us in South Florida, today is the Autumnal Equinox – the first day of fall. Media sources are full of energy-saving tips for those in the north to “winterize” their homes; but what about the Sunshine State? Are there any seasonal “green” recommendations for us? YES! Here are my top five favorites:

1. Change your light bulbs. The difference may not be as noticeable to us so close to the Tropic of Cancer, but our days are getting shorter too, and we will be using our lights more through the winter. Lighting accounts for approximately one-fourth of our home energy costs. More interestingly for a state that battles the heat 9 months of the year, incandescent light bulbs give off 90% of their energy as heat, not light. If you have not done it already, replace your incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Each CFL bulb can reduce energy use by up to two-thirds, last many times longer that incandescent, and can save you up to $50 over the life of the bulb.

2. Start a compost pile. Even in South Florida, deciduous trees lose their leaves, so why not turn this “lawn waste” into nutrient-rich soil and fertilizer for your winter vegetable garden?  Reduce waste, great for your garden and saves you money.

3. Check the air pressure in your tires. Cooler temperatures lower tire pressure and that, in turn, lowers fuel efficiency. So check your tires and make sure that they are properly inflated.

4. Conserve water. South Florida autumns also mark the start of our dry season (mid-October through mid-June). While it is important to conserve water all year long, autumn is when we need to reduce your lawn-watering schedule to no more than once per week. The most popular grasses used in South Florida are both heat and drought resistant. Over-watering is actually bad for them.

5. Adjust the thermostat. The recommended air conditioning setting is 78 degrees while the heater should be set at no warmer than 68 degrees.  By installing a programmable thermostat, you can save additional energy and money by automatically adjusting the temperatures while you are away or sleeping. According to the EPA the typical homeowner can save around $180 annually, or more than twice the average cost of the new thermostat.

Light Bulb Finder – There’s an App for That!

Still not sure if CFL’s are worth it? Trying to find the newest LED? This free app for iPhone and Android helps you make the best – and greenest – choice for your lighting fixture.

LIGHT BULB FINDER is a free mobile phone application that makes it easy to switch from conventional light bulbs to energy-saving equivalents with the right fit, style and light quality. View bulb images, cost, savings, and environmental impact. Create shopping lists, and buy bulbs directly through the app or at local stores.

Excellent use of QR codes too.