Friday, June 13, 2008

Make the switch

I got this video clip sent to me earlier this week...was aware of what he spewed (parts that are true at least)...poor guy comes across (to me) as an ignorant Texan man (HAS to mention Monday night football, Dimebox, and OH how wonderful coal plants are of course:)...and as a Texan myself, I was a bit embarrassed and annoyed by the guy. He does bring up one or two interesting points and some issues that are highly misunderstood regarding CFLs though...Been meaning to post on them for awhile now so I thought there was no better time than the present.

Early on this last year we decided to give CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) as Christmas gifts to promote their use. I think most people thought it was a funny present but in reality it's a very practical gift (and money-saving!). We also made sure to include info on CFLs, and where/how to properly recycle them (which is very important - more on that later) per each person/family('s) location. When we bought our house one of the first things we did was put CFLs in - a more expensive investment up front but well worth it! We researched them greatly before doing so and decided it was the best option currently out there. The way we see it, replacing your incandescents with CFLs is something that can easily be done by everyone to reduce your home's energy use and, thus, it's greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some interesting info/facts on CFLs:

-CFLs use 75% less energy than incandescents
-CFLs last 10 times longer
-CFLs are 4 times more efficient
-When you replace an incandescent with a CFL you keep a half a ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb
-If everyone in the U.S. used CFLs we could retire 90 avg size power plants
-CFLs can be used nearly everywhere incandescents can and are readily available at local home improvement stores

New CFLs give off warm inviting light (they're no longer harsh)...there are dimmable, 3-way, flood, and candelabra CFLs, as well as ones with globe and dome covers that look like standard incandescents in case you're not a fan of the spiral. There should be a CFL out there for all of your needs! REALLY!

NOW, CFLs as the guy mentions DO contain mercury...they are not perfect YET and do contain a small amount of the toxic metal...BUT here's some info on that...The average CFL contains 5 milligrams (mg) of that to the wrist watch that many of you wear - the battery inside contains 25 mg of mercury...the old wall thermostat that many of you still have in your houses or buildings may contain up to 3,000 mg, and glass thermometers contain about 500 mg...So that gives you an idea of how small the amount is...SO it would take quite ALOT of CFLs to equal any of those amounts, but ANY mercury is not good for sure! The levels have already gotten much less since CFLs came out (there are ultra-low mercury bulbs available too -check below) and the industry is saying in 8-10 years, they will all be mercury FREE so that's great news.

NO mercury is released when they are in use - only when they are broken and the concern is when they are broken HOT not cold...and any breaks are most likely to occur when they are being installed/uninstalled at which time they would be off and thus cold. AND the glass of CFLs is much thicker than incandescent glass so they are harder to break...BUT, if you happen to break one, DON'T panic - most of the mercury adheres to the glass anyway, but here's what to do:

1.) Open a window and leave the room for a bit and close the door - the longer the better as the mercury will circulate out the window(s) ...
2.) Use gloves and carefully scoop up the pieces and the powder w/cardboard and place in a glass jar with a lid
3.) Wipe down the area with damp paper towels and place those in the jar as well.

* If the breakage occurs on a rug or carpet, follow the first and second steps above, but then use sticky tape to pick up the powder and any remaining tiny pieces...

NOW that jar needs to be disposed of (as well as CFLs once they reach their end-use)...they SHOULD NOT just be thrown away because then that mercury in the bulbs can end up in our lakes and oceans, which will build up in our fish, and will then be transferred to fish-eaters...This seems to annoy some people -that they have to make an extra effort - come on - it's not that hard! Just check your city website (normally with Household Hazardous Waste info) to see how/where you're supposed to dispose of them...Most cities have somewhere for you to take them, along with your household chemicals and whatnot. Some cities even pick up your hazardous waste curbside, so check...A couple stores also take them and properly dispose of them (like the wonderful Ikea)...Hopefully more retailers that sell CFLs will do this soon too - like Home Depot, Lowe's, and Walmart...

Check locally first to purchase your CFLs, but a wide variety can also be purchased at websites like Earth Easy...they have the LOW-mercury ones that contain about 3 mg of mercury, like the Philips Alto...the Sylvania micro mini, and I believe GE has a low-mercury level one as well. This is a great site to help you find where to dispose/recycle your CFLs - but check your city website first. Here's another helpful website w/ CFL info...AND HERE is a awesome kit that you buy for $17.50 from this company - once you fill it with any broken or end-use CFLs, you simply send the pre-paid box off to be recycled - easy as pie!!

There's some interesting opinions out there that argue that CFLs actually keep a great deal of mercury out of the air as a CFL uses a very small amount of power compared to an incandescent...and most power in our country comes from the beautiful coal plants which constantly release ridiculous amounts of mercury (actually they account for about 40% of our country's emissions). Thus, CFLs can help to reduce mercury emissions from the coal plants because the electricity needed for the use of an incandescent bulb emits 13.6 mg of mercury into the air, compared to 3.3 mg of mercury from a CFL. However, all of that mercury from the coal plants that is emitted from the use of both CFLs and incandescents is unrecoverable unfortunately, but it's less mercury with CFLs...Further, the mercury inside a CFL - IF it's taken to a place where it's recycled - will be contained and recycled/reused to make new CFLs...and it will never be released into the air!

One argument against CFLs the Rep. in the clip had is that ALL CFLs are made in China...well, not ALL but yes, most of them unfortunately...some of the Philip Altos I've found are made in Mexico...Lights of America did have a U.S. CFL plant but I've read it no longer exists since 2007.

Like I said, in 8-10 years (or sooner hopefully) CFLs will be mercury free, even more efficient, and (hopefully much sooner) easier recycling of them will be available...but until then we still think they're the way to go in order to lessen our negative impact. Probably by then though, LEDs will have taken over the market as they are a MUCH MUCH more efficient light than CFLs overall...time will tell but for now go out and get you some CFLs (preferably the low-mercury ones listed above) - the pros really do outweigh the cons and they're worth making the switch, both financially and environmentally! Gosh, this ended up being REALLY long - geez! Sorry - just trying to get the info out...:) Hope I made some sense!

1 comment:

Juneau Eco Mommie said...

Juneau had a huge electricity crisis these last few monthes (our hydro-power went down in an Avalanche) It was pretty amazing to see how the whole city cut back on electricity, considering it was going to go up 500% until the hydro-power towers were replaced. Within a week, Juneau had dropped it's electricity usage to only 30% of what it had been. Amazing. Good for you to tell all to make the switch. Juneau did and it surely paid off.