We recently bought some compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs to install in our home. They’re supposed to save energy and last much longer than standard incandescent bulbs. There are plenty of problems however:
- The bulbs are too large to fit most of our lamps and ceiling fixtures
- They’re no good for recessed fixtures
- You can’t use them with dimmers
- They take a few minutes to reach full brightness, so are no good for places (like closets) where it’s important for the light to come on quickly
In addition, there are health risks because the bulbs contain mercury. Really they should be treated as toxic waste and handled accordingly, but in practice most people are just going to toss them out. An article in the Boston Globe (High-efficient lightbulbs come with mercury risk) outlined what to do when a mercury-containing light breaks:
The Maine study, which shattered 65 bulbs to test air quality and clean-up methods made these recommendations: If a bulb breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum — even on a rug — to clean up a compact fluorescent light. Instead, while wearing rubber gloves, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the bulb broke. Use a glass jar with a screw top to contain the shards and clean-up debris.
I don’t think the CFL bulb era will last very long. I can’t wait for LED bulbs to get cheaper and am hoping they won’t disappoint like the CFLs they’ll replace.February 26, 2008