LEX MM article for January 22 issue.
Compact Fluorescent Lights Pay Off in Many Ways
It’s a fact: Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are an inexpensive and easy step you can take to reduce energy use, and thereby energy costs, in your home. By reducing your home energy use, less electricity is generated from sources such as hydroelectric dams, coal, natural gas, oil, and nuclear power plants. Here are some important things you need to know about CFLs:
Household Efficiency - Lighting accounts for close to 20% of household energy use (USEPA estimate). Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition members who have switched to CFLs have seen their household energy use reduced by about 15-20% before adopting any other energy-saving measures. The exciting thing about all energy-efficiency technologies is that they keep getting better.
Energy Efficiency – A single CFL saves over half a ton of CO2 over the life of a bulb. If every household in the U.S. adopted CFLs, we could retire 90 average-sized power plants. CFLs are generally rated to last from 6,000 to 15,000 hours, with most having an expected life of 10,000 hours. Used for 5 hours per day, this is equivalent to 4 to 8 years of use. In comparison, typical incandescent light bulbs are usually rated to last from 800 to 1,000 hours. (The frequency of on-off cycles and the operating environment will affect actual lifetime.) In general, spiral bulbs offer the most light for the least money. They are more likely to fit in common light fixtures than other styles.
Mercury emissions – By cutting our electricity use we reduce mercury emissions into the atmosphere. Mercury is a heavy metal that is a neurotoxic byproduct of coal-burning power plants. With regard to CFLs, mercury is integral to the functioning of fluorescent lamps; all fluorescent lamps contain a small amount of mercury, generally about 5 milligrams or less, which can be reclaimed from the lamps when properly recycled. (The amount of mercury in an average CFL bulb is less than 1/5 the amount found in a common watch battery.) A coal-fired power plant emits 13.6 mg of mercury to produce the electricity required to use one incandescent light bulb. Compare this to 3.3 milligrams for a comparable CFL…and CFL bulb technologies are using less and less mercury! Look for CFLs that contain 2 milligrams of mercury or less, making them particularly environmentally responsible relative to conventional compact fluorescents. Check out http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/25_44_3006 for a guide to low mercury CFLs (i.e., those containing under 2.0 mg).
Recycling – Every fluorescent light bulb, regardless of mercury content, should be recycled at the end of its life, and not disposed of with other trash. Home Depot and Wanamaker’s Hardware in Arlington Heights accept CFLs from any manufacturer for recycling. (Note: Never send CFLs to an incinerator (Lexington trash is incinerated)).
Visit this excellent website for frequently asked questions on CFLs: www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/promotions/change_light/downloads/Fact_Sheet_Mercury.pdf
The most recent science tells us that unless we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million (ppm), we will cause huge and irreversible damage to the earth.” (CO2 levels in the atmosphere are now at about 387 ppm, up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.) Brought to you by the Lexington Global Warming Action Coalition (www.lexgwac.org).