Join 3,423 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Lights Out, Luthor. I said...LIGHTS OUT!
December 27, 2013 2:07 PM   Subscribe

January 1st, 2014 ushers in a new era for the U.S. population, as 40 and 60 watt incandescent lightbulbs will no longer be produced nor imported into the mainland. This turnaround follows the demise of non LED/CFL 75w bulbs on January 1st, 2013, and 2012's phaseout of 100 watt bulbs under the revised provisions to the National Energy Law of 1978. The ultimate catalyst for the greening of America? The 1973 Oil Crisis.
posted by Smart Dalek (140 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great. Just great. Now what am I going to use to heat my crawlspace to keep my pipes from freezing in the dead of winter?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


1978?

That'd be another great thing Jimmy Carter is responsible for, then?

(The other thing being the deregulation of the beer industry and subsequent proliferation of micro-brews.)
posted by notyou at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


THIS IS ALL 'CUZ 0BONG0 AND HITLERY HATE AMERICA AND THEY KNOW REAL AMERICAN LIGHT BULBS CONTAIN THE TRUTH ABOUT BENGHAZI.

I mean, yay!
posted by delfin at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


You can get 60 watt incandescents?
posted by Teakettle at 2:17 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incandescents will still be available for sale, though the nation's retail supply is expected to run out in the spring. Apart from that, lower-watt bulbs casting near-equivalent amounts of visible light will still be available.
posted by Smart Dalek at 2:20 PM on December 27, 2013


Re: crawlspace use a farm thermo cube with a small space heater. It will probably be less energy since it will only come on when needed.
posted by stbalbach at 2:21 PM on December 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


I noticed the last time I needed them, a pack 40 watt bulbs was hard to find. Thing is, that's the highest wattage bulb I can put in my outdoor lights without one of them blowing every couple of weeks. Not sure what I'm going to replace them with. CFLs look like ass in an outdoor fixture, and don't like the deep cold very much. LED? $$$! All new fixtures? $$$$
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll just sit here in the dark, then.
posted by spitbull at 2:26 PM on December 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm a bit confused about the use of the term "mainland", are the bulbs still allowed outside the continental us or something? The articles didn't seem to indicate that
posted by mulligan at 2:29 PM on December 27, 2013


Contrary to the insinuation contained within the title of this post, I have always been in favor of green energy- if we cannot break our dependence on fossil fuels, at the very least we can reduce it at the point of consumption. Energy generation is the Achilles heel of this planet. Until we can move to entirely renewable sources, we are potentially at the mercy of hostile aliens who draw their power from our inexhaustible yellow sun.

To this end, LexCorp Consumer Products will be releasing a line of efficient, affordable LED bulbs that generate light with the same warmth as the incandescents you are used to, for a fraction of the energy cost.
posted by Alexander J. Luthor at 2:31 PM on December 27, 2013 [27 favorites]


Great. Just great. Now what am I going to use to heat my crawlspace to keep my pipes from freezing in the dead of winter?

Just burn money dude. Skip the middleman!
posted by srboisvert at 2:31 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm actually down to my last unused 100w after hoarding a few boxes a year or two ago. While I support this move, it still bums me out.
posted by rhizome at 2:31 PM on December 27, 2013


When the CFDs were first being rolled out they were really shit. The light was ugly, the delay was unacceptable, and they seemed to burn out WAY faster than they were supposed to (which I assume was a ballast failure). But I haven't had any problems in the last couple of years. They're great.

Plus I like the AskMes where people break a bulb and ask whether they should call in a full EPA hazmat team or just move out and be done with it.
posted by Justinian at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2013 [17 favorites]


Speaking of which i has broke one of the long skinny pole bulbs in my garage. Is it safe to go in there now?
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:45 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think people were a lot more upset about this before. LED bulbs have gotten a lot cheaper than they were at first, and people now realize that they basically will never have to change the bulb again and they pay a lot less in electrical bills when they light up their house.

Incandescent bulbs already seem quaint, the kind of thing you'd expect to see at grandma's house.

I still have some incandescent bulbs, and I don't know what to do with them. I'll probably give them away to one of my tea-party type friends so they can show them off and make speeches.
posted by eye of newt at 2:58 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


So wait, has the problem with these been solved at all with how completely unrecycleable and full of mercury and such CCFLs are?

I realize LED is the way forward, but you can get multi packs of CCFLs for like $1.25 at the dollar store sometimes now. That's what everyone is going to be using for the forseeable future who isn't a nerd on the internet who buys LED bulbs, and especially people who aren't middle class+ and have the disposable income to blow on LEDs right now.
posted by emptythought at 2:59 PM on December 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Huh, memory lane. This is one of the things that right wingers totally freaked out about as being a tyrannical commie plot to overthrow the Constitution. Seriously, making more energy-efficient light bulbs, they were all worried it was straight from Mao.

Then a black guy got elected president, and I guess worrying about all the previous commie plots got put on the side burner.
posted by Flunkie at 3:03 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Great. Just great. Now what am I going to use to heat my crawlspace to keep my pipes from freezing in the dead of winter?

One of these infrared heater things that plugs into a light socket. Bonus: no energy wasted on light output!
posted by zsazsa at 3:03 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Or a halogen.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:05 PM on December 27, 2013


Now all we need is a giant "Mission Accomplished" spelled out in LED bulbs.


'Cuz the environment's fixed now... Right?

I don't like change.
posted by Debaser626 at 3:10 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


That you cannot get between two distant places in a single step is not a reason to not take the myriad single steps along the road.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:16 PM on December 27, 2013 [25 favorites]


My ultra libertarian father in law, who we spent Christmas with this year, could be heard loudly (always loudly) boasting to my wife about the bulbs he got at the store before the feds ban ordinary citizens from buying them.

I sometimes feel that I could identify with his point off view, but between this and his bitching about seatbelt laws, he makes that harder with every visit.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 3:30 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I, for one, think it's great to promote the spread of CFLs and the mercury contained therein.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:30 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


My husband recently bought one of the new LED bulbs on sale at Menard's (our midwestern hardware chain store with the ridiculously catchy theme song) because it was on sale.

It is lovely.

I really dislike CFLs -- even the newer ones. I just don't like the way the light coming off of them looks. Plus, I've found they burn out quicker than advertised.

The LED bulb puts out a pretty yellow glow that looks more-or-less exactly like an incandescent. Plus it doesn't heat up the room (which is an arguable bonus given that we live in Minnesota, but I guess it's better in the summertime).

If people watch for sales, hopefully they can eventually replace their incandescent bulbs with LEDs. I would skip the fluorescents altogether at this point, except for maybe garages and stairwells.
posted by spacewaitress at 3:35 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ok, I'm going to out myself as the stupid middle class American here: What the heck am I now supposed to buy?

We have a large number of lamps in my house (ok, maybe four) where the shade clips onto the bulb with a wire thingy. All the new lightbulbs I see for sale are all twisty. So, I'm going to have to replace all those lamps, correct? Or at least buy and somehow retrofit harps for them?

We have one newfangled bulb in our house, in the overhead light in our bedroom, and I HATE it -- because we put it in a few years ago and when you turn it on it starts out fairly dim and then brightens up over the next few minutes. Is this still the norm? If I put a newer "new" bulb into the light will we still have this issue?

Our dining area uses six of these "director" style bulbs (in recessed fixtures) that have become increasingly difficult to find. We've been wondering for a while if we'll need to rewire all the ceiling light fixtures because it's been so hard to find the correct bulbs. Once my supply is gone, what the heck do I use? Am I facing a major home renovation or a totally dark dining area?

Our ceiling fan uses this style bulb which are also now almost impossible to find. Fortunately, the living room doesn't need overhead light in the same way the dining room does. But, again -- what do I buy? Are we going to need to replace this fixture as well?

I have to admit that I'm surprised (and frustrated) at what a terrible job the retail mass market has done about education on this issue. As we search for the director bulbs, in particular, nobody in any store (including dedicated lighting stores) seems to have any idea what the real answers are. Normally the megacorps are very aggressive with the "New packaging, but same great item!" marketing -- I'm really stunned that there is so little info out there about exactly what the changes are. To be honest, I really have no idea even what number to look for to get the same brightness as a current 40 or 60 watt bulb (it seems like it's different between LED and CFLs?).

I don't mind the change. I just don't know what to buy now. And I shudder at the expense (even though I know it will cost less long term, $10 still feels like an enormous amount to pay for a new lightbulb when you're on a strict budget.) Very soon, I have a feeling, buying a lightbulb will go from a routine stop to something that will stress me out because I have no idea what the "correct" thing is to buy. I'll just stand there stupidly in front of the wall of lightbulbs and try to guess, I guess.
posted by anastasiav at 3:45 PM on December 27, 2013 [13 favorites]


There were some good LEDs mentioned in a recent AskMe of mine. I'm content with the Ikea LEDs -- they're not perfect but they'll do, and they were inexpensive.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:45 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately most of the lights in my life are at minimum 575w. But LED fixtures are making huge leaps now in stage lighting, and apart from the cost to productions, I really love the thought that someday I won't stand on a stage with thousands and thousands of watts of light burning around me for at least 8 hours a day. I'm thinking the theatres and studios will more than make up for it on cooling costs, which mostly exist to keep the all those lights from overheating all the other equipment.
posted by nevercalm at 3:48 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, the color temperature have gotten way better, but a little 1/4 cto (color temp orange) gel wrapped around a light works wonders.
posted by nevercalm at 3:50 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I appreciate that incandescents heat up the room. Almost any time I need more than a few minutes of light, the heat is probably welcome.
posted by wotsac at 3:55 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Go to IKEA, buy LED bulbs, done. It is insane that we waste this much energy on generating light given today's technology.
posted by odinsdream at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


odinsdream, that works great unless you have to drive five hours to get to the nearest IKEA.
posted by anastasiav at 3:58 PM on December 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


anastasiav - You'll want an LED indoor flood bulb for your dining room; they're available in dimmable and non-dimmable versions. There's also a number of flame style chandelier bulbs for your fan, which won't require rewiring.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:03 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are also sealed CFLs that have a normal bulb-like top, which you could clip the lampshades to.
posted by Windopaene at 4:07 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


40 watt bulbs are evil and must be eliminated, compared to a 500 watt 80" TV which is essential and must be purchased.
posted by storybored at 4:08 PM on December 27, 2013 [14 favorites]


An 80" TV is a bit excessive for lighting one's living room, yes, but in a nice overhead fixture makes for an excellent conversation piece.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 4:10 PM on December 27, 2013 [19 favorites]


Early CFLs were clunky, but are now much better. I dislike the curly ones, but it's easy to find bulb-shaped ones. They make CFLs in sizes for chandeliers - I got some at Ikea. The mercury in a CFL is far less than the mercury emitted by burning coal, which supplies 45% of US electricity, or oil, so it's an environmental win, plus, Home Depot will accept CFLs for recycling, so no mercury waste at all. I bought early LED bulbs, and they weren't very good, but they seem to be better and cheaper. I kind of dislike how much plastic LED bulbs have, but this may get better.

Please buy night-sky friendly outdoor fixtures so my grandkids and yours can see some stars.
posted by theora55 at 4:12 PM on December 27, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'd be fine with CFLs if they didn't give off UV radiation.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 4:21 PM on December 27, 2013


The real question is: Where the heck are our kids gonna get replacement heat sources for their Easy Bake Ovens now? And what are we going to entertain ourselves by putting in the microwave when we've run out of CDs? Huh? Huh?

And, yeah, we run a lot of CFLs and I hate 'em 'cause they get progressively dimmer and you have to replace them after a year or so, but I think I've discovered the solution: I was at a club recently, looked up and saw that the cans were LED clusters!

Turns out that DMX512 controllable LED stage lighting is cheaper per lumen than the equivalent LED bulbs for regular sockets, and is fully controllable with an open spec that's actually likely to be around for a while! I'm now redesigning lighting strategies in some of our rooms so that as we remodel them we can move to LED cans and bars, and away from the old screw-in sockets.
posted by straw at 4:23 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


For those confused about what replaces what, Amazon has a nifty clickable chart.

Here's the one you want for your lampshades.
posted by notyou at 4:23 PM on December 27, 2013 [15 favorites]


We moved to new-style lightbulbs (for most lights -- the smaller ones and heat lamps are still being made) years ago and have no complaints.

The costs fell pretty dramatically after a while, they seem to last for years, and the only real downside is that you have to store them up and take the dead soldiers to a drop off point because they are filled with toxic stuff.
posted by Mezentian at 4:30 PM on December 27, 2013


Wait what am I going to put in my lavalamp?
posted by Pyry at 4:32 PM on December 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


SO WHY DOES EVERYTHING STILL LOOK LIKE A HOSPITAL
posted by Ennis Tennyone at 4:33 PM on December 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


Where the heck are our kids gonna get replacement heat sources for their Easy Bake Ovens now?

The latest Easy Bake Ovens no longer use bulbs; unfortunately, some models cost almost as much as an actual entry-level microwave.

And what are we going to entertain ourselves by putting in the microwave when we've run out of CDs? Huh? Huh?

Ramekins.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:37 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody had to twist my arm to switch away from incandescent, I liked CFLs when they were still a specialty item. I hate being hot and I live in GA so anything that heats my home up less that an incandescent bulb is welcome. Plus, I actually prefer the light from cold-white... well, "bulb" is an anachronism, isn't it? ...Curly-Fry Lights. When I find 8000K I buy extras. 6500K will do, 3500K looks yaller to me.


> Plus, I've found they burn out quicker than advertised.

The (extraordinary) longevity claims are as bogus as EPA mileage ratings. When they first became available I noticed that the base of these things was white and big enough to write on with a laundry marker, and I developed the habit of writing the date on the base when I put one into service, so I would know how long I had been using one when it died. Looking at 8-plus years of records in a spreadsheet (compulsive? me?) I see I started out getting seven or eighy months of use out of one and am now up to about a year and a quarter. YMM, of course, V. I buy no-name imports.


> the only real downside is that you have to store them up and take the dead soldiers to a
> drop off point because they are filled with toxic stuff.

That's the second worst unsolved problem for me. I Do Not Have A Car, I Have A Bicycle, and the nearest proper drop-off point is six miles away--about half of that being on 4-lane divided road (with no bike lanes) which I will not ride on. Barring a solution to the disposal issue, the day is certainly coming when my house is entirely full of dead CFLs and I have to live in the yard.

The first worst unsolved problem is, what about Easy-Bake Ovens? (on preview, I see Smart Dalek is there ahead of me. Still has that "a band-aid, not a solution" feel to it.)
posted by jfuller at 4:42 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


That works great unless you have to drive five hours to get to the nearest IKEA.

Fortunately, the same guys who invented the LED also invented the internet around the same time. You should check it out.
posted by JackFlash at 4:48 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fortunately, the same guys who invented the LED also invented the internet around the same time. You should check it out.

"Sorry, this product is not for sale on our website, check if it is available in your local store."
posted by anastasiav at 4:53 PM on December 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


For the love of Donna Summer, what the hell am I gonna put in my lava lamps? (They want 120 V, 40 W A15 Appliance bulbs.)

I can get an LED to shine at the disco ball, but the lava lamp? We need heat and light for the lava.
posted by phoebus at 4:56 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am able to keep my thermostat at a lower temperature because I have a lamp near my desk that uses a 60-watt incandescent bulb, a lamp on my headboard that uses a 40-watt incandescent, and I have incandescents in the kitchen and bathroom light fixtures. Most importantly, I have small birds who have their own floor lamp with one 40-watt and one 60-watt bulb, a bunch of toys, and a metal arrangement that enables them to sit next to the lights and get warm whenever they get a little chilly.

I'm plenty peeod (sp?) about having to change to bulbs with mercury (I'm old enough to remember what they learned about exposure to mercury years ago) and as far as plastics go, they're the last damn thing I want heating up and contaminating the air in my apartment, so if LED bulbs have hot plastic to deal with, that really ticks me off. Birds are very sensitive to fumes from toxic plastics and all sorts of things - they can drop dead in minutes - and I can't help but wonder how much the air pollution in our own homes is contributing to the autism spectrum disorders, to learning disabilities, to cancer, and to everything else; I'm sure adding hot mercury vapors or hot plastic fumes will be a great advancement in healthy living.

I don't want to hear about the benefit to the environment, not when we can't scratch an itch without some electronic device to do it for us, when everyone everywhere has their nose stuck in an electronic device of some kind - I mean, these people walk in front of me on a sidewalk, jabbering away on their cell phone and absolutely clueless about what's happening around them, and then they just stop - stop! - when they need to push a different button or think about something. I haven't run into one yet, but it's only a matter of time.

We are insane with our electronic devices, and I'm as guilty as the next guy, but the very idea of blaming stupid 40-watt or 60-watt light bulbs is ludicrous.
posted by aryma at 4:57 PM on December 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


As far as the mercury thing goes, most electricity in the US comes from burning coal, which releases mercury. Over its lifetime, a CFL will save enough energy that it actually involves LESS mercury than an incandescent. And yes, CFLs are recyclable all over the place, and no, it's not that hard for the vast majority of folks.
posted by Slinga at 4:58 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


And, less snarkily, when looking for a replacement for something like the Director bulbs or the candelabra bulbs I mentioned above, the internet isn't always helpful -- I really need to compare the old bulbs to the new ones in order to make sure they're going to fit.

Also, thanks so much -- a nice person mefi mailed me this comparison chart outlining the similar size substitutes for the Phillips K19 Directors that our dining area lights were apparently designed to fit.
posted by anastasiav at 4:59 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The first worst unsolved problem is, what about Easy-Bake Ovens?

You can do what my mom did when I badgered her endlessly in my desire for an EBO in my nagging youth, which was to find out what they were, express wild eye-rolling disbelief that anyone would ever want such a stupid thing, and teach me to use the actual oven to make actual food.

My vibrating juvenile lust for a dun-colored puck of lightbulb-dessicated stale pancake batter evaporated forever the moment that I extracted, with some effort, from our large and decidedly not Easy-Bake oven, my first tray of chicken tetrazzini which I then served to the rest of my family with the abiding sense of queer joy that watching Julia Child instead of Hong Kong Phooey had led me to believe was a real thing one could find in the world.

"Bon appetit," I said in a rounded mid-Atlantic tone, as my father jammed a fork through the crisp tangle of broiler-seasoned pasta and parmesan, and took my seat without even removing my yellow apron with embroidered strawberries, and yeah, it was good.
posted by sonascope at 5:00 PM on December 27, 2013 [39 favorites]


"Sorry, this product is not for sale on our website, check if it is available in your local store."

I know this may surprise you, but IKEA sells more than one light bulb. Check it out. It's on this thing called the internet. You don't even have to get in your car. These guys in brown shorts bring stuff right to your door.
posted by JackFlash at 5:04 PM on December 27, 2013


Reflector bulbs are unaffected.
Appliance bulbs are unaffected.
Candelabra-based bulbs, like the ones all the ceiling fans switched to in 2007, are unaffected.
Incandescent bulbs are replaced most directly with halogen bulbs in the same form factor but a 25% or so lower wattage; see Philips EcoVantage brand, among others. Those will still be plenty warm.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:05 PM on December 27, 2013 [8 favorites]


For the love of Donna Summer, what the hell am I gonna put in my lava lamps? (They want 120 V, 40 W A15 Appliance bulbs.)

Appliance bulbs aren't going anywhere.

Furthermore, halogen bulbs are literally incandescent bulbs, but more efficient, thus not going anywhere.

(On preview, what Huffy Puffy said)
posted by dirigibleman at 5:10 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


JackFlash, I know this may surprise you, but I'm not actually stupid. Of the 12 bulbs I checked on the Ikea site, none of them are items that Ikea ships. That doesn't actually surprise me, because I know from long experience that Ikea doesn't ship a lot of smaller or fragile items. Perhaps before you belittle me, you should take a look at the Ikea website lightbulb search. As near as I can tell, the only bulb they do ship is the Ledare E12 chandelier.

Also, I know how to use the internet, and I could also order from Amazon, Home Depot, or a dozen other online sources. But that doesn't help for a lot of the nonstandard bulb sizes that the fixtures in my home use.
posted by anastasiav at 5:13 PM on December 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


In addition to what Huffy Puffy mentioned, retro/replica bulbs will still be available for theatrical purposes and private use.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:15 PM on December 27, 2013


Also, a CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury, so you'd have to break a couple hundred of them to get enough mercury to actually form a drop big enough to roll around on the desktop and make your wedding ring silver.
posted by localroger at 5:16 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Of the 12 bulbs I checked on the Ikea site, none of them are items that Ikea ships.

We like the Ikea Strala lights for our Christmas trees...and sure enough, to get them here we have to buy them on eBay, because Ikea won't ship 'em to us.
posted by mittens at 5:20 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the rush to ban incandescents, we're missing a ban on a much more dangerous lighting technology.
posted by storybored at 5:23 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Went to Menard's last week, specifically to stock up on 60 watt incandescents. My apartment has many built in light fixtures; leaving CFLs or LEDs behind would be expensive.

That said, prices on both have been dropping. At Home Depot, the local energy utility appears to be subsidizing the cost of a few makes of bulb, making them more reasonable.

And early CFLs indeed had a nasty habit of dying early. It turns out that their design requires long warmup times. Flicking lights on and off for a few minutes at a time shortens the life of the ballast considerably.
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:26 PM on December 27, 2013


Apologies, anastasiav. Just joking.
posted by JackFlash at 5:26 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


> And yes, CFLs are recyclable all over the place, and no, it's not that hard for the vast majority of folks.

Hints on how to find such places? The first result from the search string [recycle CFL athens GA] is the Athens/Clarke County Unified Government page Fluorescent Bulbs, which tells me to take them to the Recycling Division, located at 699 Hancock Industrial Way. Per Google Maps, that's 6.6 miles from me and the recommended route is all on four-lane divided highway which, as a local resident, I happen to know is clearly posted at every on-ramp NO MOPEDS NO BICYCLES.

Basically, recycling CFLs is for folks who aren't planing to give up their cars.


> Also, a CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury, so you'd have to break a couple hundred
> of them to get enough mercury to actually form a drop big enough to roll around on the
> desktop and make your wedding ring silver.

Bear in mind that I like CFLs and support the changeover.

That same government site I referenced up there says "One broken fluorescent bulb can contaminate 7,000 gallons of water with mercury." And "If you break a bulb, view the EPA website's clean-up information. The Steps to Take When a CFL Breaks instructions are 6 pages, printed, so make sure your printer has enough dead trees first.
posted by jfuller at 5:30 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


The first result from the search string [recycle CFL athens GA]

Athens has bigger problems: WHAT WILL THEY CALL THE 40-WATT NOW?
posted by mittens at 5:37 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


> recycling CFLs is for folks who aren't planing to give up their cars

The company that picks up my household recycling will pick up used CFLs at the same time.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:39 PM on December 27, 2013


The Steps to Take When a CFL Breaks instructions are 6 pages, printed, so make sure your printer has enough dead trees first.

Or you could do what I did, which is to use a broom to sweep up the broken CFL into a dustpan and then dump it into a plastic bag. And then never think about it again.
posted by Justinian at 5:41 PM on December 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: Great. Just great. Now what am I going to use to heat my crawlspace to keep my pipes from freezing in the dead of winter?
Rough service bulbs produce just as much heat (and considerably less light), last much longer, and aren't included in the ban.
posted by Western Infidels at 5:44 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Go to IKEA, buy LED bulbs, done.

I think the 200+ mile round-trip to my nearest Ikea will probably negate any savings I might realize by installing the Ikea LED bulbs.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:46 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does Walmart (or your choice of local supermarket, but I am given to understand there is a Walmart everywhere in the US) not sell alternative lightbulbs?
posted by Mezentian at 5:51 PM on December 27, 2013


Home Depot takes (unbroken) CFL's for recycling. Walmart does from time to time.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:53 PM on December 27, 2013


Clearly everyone is gung-ho to help out the environment unless it mildly inconveniences them in any way.
posted by Justinian at 5:55 PM on December 27, 2013 [20 favorites]


That's why we're making such great strides in reducing emissions and stopping global warming.
posted by Mezentian at 5:57 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


By the way, this particular round of greeniness and/or oppression came to us via the signature of noted environmentalist G. W. Bush.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:59 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Cree bulbs sold at Home Depot (unfortunately exclusively, and in-store only) are definitely the best for the money. I was not impressed by the LED bulbs at IKEA, which don't throw out 360 degrees of light, and are mostly not dimmable.
posted by zsazsa at 6:01 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes! Thank you, Western Infidels!

As for the whole mercury thing - coal may put out WAY more mercury, but it doesn't put it into your bedroom or your infant's crib.

I have 19 bulbs in my little apartment. An average home has twice that, easily. When the family's home in the evening, most lights are on. Do you seriously think the mercury vapors circulating in that house are of no significance? Do you think a bulb has to be broken before it has any impact at all and that, if that happens, just sweeping it up and dumping it in the trash is fine - and that the EPA information is meaningless?

Sorry, but it seems to me that's putting your children and family at risk. I hope you're right and I'm not.
posted by aryma at 6:03 PM on December 27, 2013


Well, I guess anti-vaxxers were played out, so now we have mercury vapors to worry about.

I assume CFLs (if you choose to use them) are a sealed system, and a quick google suggests that fact. There's minimal vapor if you break them: so don't do that.

When the family's home in the evening, most lights are on.

Do you live in a lighthouse?
posted by Mezentian at 6:08 PM on December 27, 2013 [12 favorites]


Mercury in CFLs is not as dangerous as most people think.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:09 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


These are like chemtrails ... but in your home!
posted by Mezentian at 6:11 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


LED bulbs have gotten a lot cheaper than they were at first, and people now realize that they basically will never have to change the bulb again.

If they last as long as they're supposed to they should pay for themselves in a couple of years. But if you use them in an enclosed fixture without airflow you'll shorten their lives because that rectifier in the base -- necessary because you can't run LEDs on AC current -- puts out more heat than the LEDs can take. Maybe Tesla was wrong and we should have DC in our homes after all; an ever-increasing proportion of the devices in our homes require DC current, and LED bulbs really tip the balance.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:21 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


God, primary market shoppers wake up.

These things will be available for the next 50 years at flea markets.
Every estate I go to are full of these things.

Secondary markets fulfill the void.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:28 PM on December 27, 2013


> That's why we're making such great strides in reducing emissions and stopping global warming.

Mezentian, you saved me from saying the same thing in a snarkier way. Thanks for taking the karma bullet for me!


> Does Walmart (or your choice of local supermarket, but I am given to understand there is a
> Walmart everywhere in the US) not sell alternative lightbulbs?

'deed they do. But in Athens (tiny pinprick of blue amid a sea of red) progressives had enough clout to prevent Walmart from building a store in town (Athens being co-extensive with Clarke County.) NIMBY! The nearest one is over the county line in a cluster with Lowes and Home Depot and some other big boxes. That's the location I had in mind when I first spoke of bicycling five or six miles to a proper CFL dropoff point and then another five or six miles home. Sure, you can buy the things in any grocery store or drugstore or convenience store. But getting rid of 'em, aye there's the rub. Of course, hyper-treehugger that I am, I think that's right. Any trash or garbage or waste you generate, you don't just "get rid" of it. You keep it. Under your beds, if necessary.


> Well, I guess anti-vaxxers were played out, so now we have mercury vapors to worry about.

It's just that it's the exact same alternative-weekly crowd who pooh-pooh the risk of CFL mercury now who were absolutely WE'RE-ALL-GONNA-DIE freaked out when trace amounts of mercury were first detected in tuna and other seafood. On past and present performance it will also be they who in a few years will be flopped over to pooh-poohing the risks of climate change. Heh, inconvenient thing, a long memory.
posted by jfuller at 6:33 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I guess anti-vaxxers were played out, so now we have mercury vapors to worry about.

There's not actually any need to be this condescending about people's real desire to not contaminate their houses with mercury. "So don't do that" is not a useful response to the issue of CFL breakage.

Mercury in CFLs is not as dangerous as most people think.

That link goes to a blog called "How to Spot a Psychopath," written by a journalist, not a scientist. I would trust the EPA's guidelines over his briefly researched post.
posted by limeonaire at 6:41 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The EPA guidelines are pretty much the same thing he's saying, i.e., not a hazmat situation.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:53 PM on December 27, 2013


aryma: Do you seriously think the mercury vapors circulating in that house are of no significance? Do you think a bulb has to be broken before it has any impact

Do you want to provide a citation for that? Because according to the FDA "CFLs do not emit mercury as they operate. The only way mercury could be emitted from a CFL would be if the outer glass tubing that contains the mercury were to break."
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:04 PM on December 27, 2013 [10 favorites]


Do you seriously think the mercury vapors circulating in that house are of no significance?

Where would you even get this idea?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:21 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


jfuller: "Hints on how to find such places? The first result from the search string [recycle CFL athens GA] is the Athens/Clarke County Unified Government page Fluorescent Bulbs, which tells me to take them to the Recycling Division, located at 699 Hancock Industrial Way. Per Google Maps, that's 6.6 miles from me and the recommended route is all on four-lane divided highway which, as a local resident, I happen to know is clearly posted at every on-ramp NO MOPEDS NO BICYCLES.

Basically, recycling CFLs is for folks who aren't planing to give up their cars.
"

Put them in a well-padded box and mail them there. You can print the postage and order free boxes from the USPS website. Your mail person can pick it up when they deliver your mail. No leaving the house required.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:24 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you're havin incandescent problems I feel bad for you son,
posted by vicx at 7:25 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


Newcandescent uses a bit of scare tactic marketing but they make the "rough service" normal bulbs previously mentioned.

I switched to mostly-LED bulbs (with a few CFLs still here and there) at home about a year ago, but have friends on FB who are freaking out about OMG EVIL CFL MERCURY etc.
posted by mrbill at 7:30 PM on December 27, 2013


Limeonaire, Dan at howtospotapsychopath.com is a remarkably reasonable fellow, who may, like all of us, occasionally be wrong. But he does a pretty good job of showing how he's arrived at a conclusion, and suggesting ways to check his work. If he says it's safe, there's fair odds that it's safe.
posted by wotsac at 7:31 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Who the fuck is putting light bulbs of any sort in their infant's crib?
posted by furtive at 7:32 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


SO WHY DOES EVERYTHING STILL LOOK LIKE A HOSPITAL

I call those, "prison-colored."
posted by rhizome at 7:33 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


The mercury in a CFL is entirely contained in a glass envelope which is sufficiently sealed to keep a vacuum on the interior for millennia. If you don't break it, the amount of mercury getting into your environment is zero.

If you DO break it, the amount that gets out is a few milligrams, which is not going to hurt you or your birds. You would have to take a crate of CFL's and break them all at once in order to get a dose that might, if tens of thousands of people did the same thing as part of a longitudinal study, show a slight statistical increase in adverse health effects.

The mercury is ONLY significant because if every light bulb in the world was a CFL and they all ended up in landfills and broke, then yes there would be an environmental problem but not nearly as large a problem as that we already have due to burning coal to power incandescent bulbs. So even if no CFL were ever recycled it would still be a win on the mercury front.

If you recycle your CFL's the mercury can be captured and reused instead of entering the environment, which is obviously best.
posted by localroger at 7:38 PM on December 27, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm under one of the CREE bulbs zsazsa mentioned above - $9, same size and shape as a 60w, color temp is spot on.

I've seriously considered buying a case of the things - They're that nice.
posted by Orb2069 at 7:40 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dig my 12V LED bulbs. Color temp is just right.

Does the new gen of CFLs solve the cycling early-death problem? Studies I've seen indicate higher lifetime cost vs incandescents if you leave lights on less than 10 minutes at a time.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:18 PM on December 27, 2013


My experience with CFLs is not a pleasant one, but now I know I can just throw them in the trash, since they aren't a hazmat situation. I expect to keep tossing them as they only seem to last 6 months, on average... about 1/2 of a real light bulb.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:20 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have about 40 light bulbs in my house, about 25 of which are used very regularly. (4-bulb ceiling fan fixtures in 5 rooms, yay.) When they were all incandescent I was changing a bulb every couple of weeks. It was tiresome.

At this point all but four of the regulars are CFL's -- those on a ceiling fan that's on a dimmer switch I don't want to remove. I now have a dead bulb every few months. The change is very noticeable and most welcome.

For awhile I was sticking with incandescents because they were literally free; Walgreens had some kind of periodic promotion where you could pick up a four-pack every few months for 100% off. It was when they stopped doing that I started putting in the 6-pack el cheapo CFL's.

No, they don't last forever. But don't kid yourself, on average they last one hell of a lot longer than incandescents, they do use a lot less energy, and even if the shorter than advertised life makes the price difference a wash I'm happy not to be getting out the ladder every other week to change another bulb.
posted by localroger at 8:30 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't realize how much better the color on the CFLs had gotten until recently.

I didn't buy them at first because they were too expensive; when I did outfit my U.S. apartment with them a few years ago, I was perfectly happy with the light color. Like, I put them in and forgot about them, which is how lightbulbs should work, I think. I'm a bit color sensitive and I do some fairly intricate embroidery, so I do think would have noticed if it had been as bad (at that point) as everyone says it is.

I moved to small-town China a few months ago and our apartment is all fluorescent. The color is terrible. There are three or four different types of bulb installed, so I'll wander from room to room with swatches of thread comparing them in the different weird lights and it is so annoying. The light in our bedroom is a circular tube and possibly the ugliest light I've ever seen. Very hospital nightmare.

My point is that it has gotten a lot better. I hope the lightbulbs continue to improve and that more communities will start doing lightbulb pick-up.
posted by MsDaniB at 8:32 PM on December 27, 2013


If people watch for sales, hopefully they can eventually replace their incandescent bulbs with LEDs. I would skip the fluorescents altogether at this point, except for maybe garages and stairwells.-- spacewaitress

I put fluorescents in my garage and it was a big mistake. Fluorescents are dim when they are cold, so you have to wait for them to warm up. It is a pain if you are quickly going to the garage to get something at night. Turn on the light, wait five minutes. I bought LEDs to replace them back when they were more expensive just because I didn't want to keep changing them. That's when I realized how nice LED bulbs are in comparison to CFLs.

I still have a few CFLs around. They are cheap. But if I have a lamp that isn't cheap, putting a cheap (and cheap looking) bulb in it kind of defeats the purpose.
posted by eye of newt at 9:17 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Folks, there won't be a shortage of incandescents. I just bought a pack of 100-watt-equivalent incandescents at Target last week. They use 72 watts each. The law was just the impetus for manufacturers to finally put some effort into improving incandescent efficiency, which they have done. The 60-watt equivalent will be a 43-watt bulb. Look for it on the shelves of your nearest light-bulb store, and keep buying incandescent if you prefer the light. End of controversy.
posted by stopgap at 9:26 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I still need incandescent bulbs for the three way bedside lamps. Three way led bulbs barely exist and are super expensive, and the only three way cfl bulbs I've tried didn't work. Other than that, as bulbs burn out, I'm replacing them with LEDs.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 9:39 PM on December 27, 2013


I'm going back to tallow in a cup with a hank of cotton twist for a wick.
posted by winna at 10:05 PM on December 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'll just sit here in the dark, then.

Be sure to curse it!
posted by Foosnark at 10:13 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I use a dawn light that slowly brightens in the morning by increasing the current to the bulb. It's a great way to wake up in the morning, but not so great for CFL's. I guess I'll give the halogens a try... thanks for the tip!
posted by underflow at 10:41 PM on December 27, 2013


What I hate about this is, being a renter, it is my responsibility to replace my landlords' incandescents with new LED/whatever expensive globes when they burn out, and having moved four times in the last 3 years, it's getting expensive :/
posted by Diag at 11:07 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


My first experience with CREE was a handheld 18650 Lithium-Ion battery powered flashlight. It's awesome, everything CREE is awesome so far since. I tried one in a dimmer just recently and it's great, there's like one position on the switch where it wobbles around and otherwise it's better than any torch-style light I've had.

Compact Fluorescent bulbs never impressed me; I had a nice big ring-shaped one at one point and it crackled and burned to death in a hideous stinky way. I started with the expensive supposedly better models, never had much of an issue with the light quality but plenty of breakages and burn-outs with that tell-tale crackling "WTF" sound. Fuck those things. The guidelines for cleanup are similar to the guidelines for cleaning up rodent droppings: very paranoid and risk averse, although in the case of rodent droppings there are plenty of areas in the country where the advice is tailored around not having you die from hemorrhagic fever.

The risk with CFL is cumulative and low, but we all know why "indoor air pollution" can be worse (right?) and we all know that mercury vapor is the most toxic form of mercury (right?) and that when somebody expresses concern about it in their kid's room they probably don't literally mean the bulb is in their crib (right?). Be a little more charitable and less flippant. CFLs suck in so many ways and people are liable to buy into the whole "it's no big deal so I throw them in the trash" as seen above (joke?) so let's just not do that.

I do prefer to air out the room before cleaning up a broken CFL. Mercury vapor is far toxic than a bead of mercury on your wedding ring and I believe in harm reduction. That means that I might get exposed to mercury in fifty different individually harmless ways, but you're damned right that I'll take measures to minimize that since mercury is also competing with lead, cadmium, various other heavy metals, and shitloads of environmental toxins to make me a stupider, deader person. It's nothing like anti-vaxx. The EPA doesn't spread anti-vaxx propaganda.
posted by lordaych at 11:55 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


When they first became available I noticed that the base of these things was white and big enough to write on with a laundry marker, and I developed the habit of writing the date on the base when I put one into service, so I would know how long I had been using one when it died.

BUT MILHAUS IS *MY* NAME...
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:10 AM on December 28, 2013


Diag, when I outfitted my apartment with fancy lightbulbs, I put all the incandescents into an inconvenient (and thus unused) drawer with the plan of taking my lightbulbs with me when I moved.
posted by MsDaniB at 12:37 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which of these non-incandescent bulbs is going to work well with my pulsed dimmers?
posted by Nelson at 12:42 AM on December 28, 2013


George_Spiggott: If they last as long as they're supposed to they should pay for themselves in a couple of years. But if you use them in an enclosed fixture without airflow you'll shorten their lives because that rectifier in the base -- necessary because you can't run LEDs on AC current -- puts out more heat than the LEDs can take. Maybe Tesla was wrong and we should have DC in our homes after all; an ever-increasing proportion of the devices in our homes require DC current, and LED bulbs really tip the balance.

I've thought for years that homes should have three voltages: 110V AC, 12V DC, and 5V DC. You'd still have to use AC between houses, but instead of having a million power bricks all over the house or inside devices you'd just have one high quality AC to DC converter in a utility closet. The wiring would be a bit more complicated, but it would probably save a lot of power (I bet one good AC to DC converter is way more efficient than a million cheap ones) and devices could be cheaper and sometimes smaller. Stuff might last longer, too, since a good converter would probably put out much cleaner power than the ones we use now. You'd have to use three different socket types; probably two-prong for 110V, round for 12V, and USB for 5V (but you'd probably want to combine them into a single faceplate).
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:15 AM on December 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Diag, MsDaniB has the right idea here. I like the antique, yellow, dingey glow of unfrosted bulbs, so the last time I rented a detached house, I bought my new bulbs, very carefully stowed all the original bulbs that came with the place on the top shelf of the hall closet, and took the nice ones with me. I can see this becoming a problem with rentals over the next several years as every place I've ever moved into has been supplying the shittiest low lifetime bulk incands you can find. I imagine at some point we'll have to do the same dance with the CFLs.

I did recently make the switch to LED's as the fixtures in the new apartment were causing near weekly blowouts on the incandescents. They're pretty awesome overall despite being a lot whiter than I'm used to. I just wish that since they're using a fraction of the power I could get a few super high lumen bulbs in a household/edison form factor.

If you still feel need to be a total light bulb curmudgeon then you can do what I did in our den/dining room: Hang cheap incandescent Xmas lights back and forth across the room from the ceiling and bask in the warm glow while you enjoy every shiny thing in the room sparkling like Galadriel's eyes from the LoTR movies.
posted by mcrandello at 1:23 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


and we all know that mercury vapor is the most toxic form of mercury (right?)

Not even close. The most dangerous form of mercury by far is organic compounds - mainly methyl mercury. Direct exposure to moderate or high amounts of methyl mercury from industrial pollution or dumping is very bad, especially for the fetus of a pregnant woman. 'Free' metallic mercury is mostly converted to organic mercury by water-borne bacteria; which eventually works it way up the food chain, concentrating mainly in the fats and viscera of predator fish. Which is why you should avoid eating too much predator fish if you're pregnant (or if you have a heart condition).

Long-term exposure - i.e. years of continuous inhalation - of high levels of mercury vapour is also bad for you, but still nowhere near as toxic as bioavailable organic mercury. It's a workplace hazard for people who work with mercury producing/using industrial processes, but other than that, not so much.

The amount of (non organic) mercury in a CFL bulb is tiny. Unless you're continuously breaking the things and huffing them straight off, you'll barely be above background exposure. Open a window and give it 5 minutes before cleaning just to be extra careful, but on a personal level, it's basically a non-concern. And there's certainly no mercury vapour coming from unbroken bulbs.

The biggest problem with mercury in CFL is that if you concentrate a LOT of them broken in a small space - i.e. a landfill - you increase the risk of mercury contamination of water tables, which then gets converted to organic compounds, which is a potential concern.

So safe disposal - or better, recycling of the mercury - is important because of the risk in aggregate, not because worst case you get one lungful of low dose mercury vapour when you smash the bulb on your head. That's also why thermometers etc mostly don't use mercury any more; the collective environmental damage from organic mercury is the risk, not personal risk of inorganic mercury.

Volcanoes make up half the emissions in atmospheric mercury; most of the rest comes from coal power stations. So a tiny bit of mercury contained in a sealed bulb that presents barely measurable lifetime exposure if broken, will, over its lifetime, end up with less atmospheric mercury (by reduced coal burning for electricity) that will eventually end up as bio-available organic mercury poisoning your food supply, which is much more dangerous for you.

Or use halogens, or LED bulbs. But 'mercury vapour from CFL bulbs poisoning your kids' is basically a non-event media scare. They're at much greater risk from feeding them tuna.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:17 AM on December 28, 2013 [25 favorites]


I can find 12 volt, one meter warm white (3300-4500K) led strips at home improvement stores for under 10$ USD, and way cheaper in bulk through chinese websites. They have a self adhesive backing. I power them with the PC power supplies and 12VDC wall wart transformers I have been saving for the last ten years.
posted by werkzeuger at 5:58 AM on December 28, 2013


  coal may put out WAY more mercury, but it doesn't put it into your bedroom or your infant's crib.

So you've got no air in your house, then?

Incandescent lightbulbs are basically a way of making heat with some pinkish light as a byproduct. If you need heat, get a heat element with a thermostat. If you need light, get something that produces light efficiently. The idea of "hey I rent so the power comes free" that some posters have been alluding to is a big fuck-all-y'all to the rest of us.

The whole bloo bloo bloo over your precious colour temperature is funny. Incandescent isn't a good light colour. It's not even one we've known for particularly long — my grandparents grew up with gas lights. Yes, good old searing white radioactive, toxic gas lights.
posted by scruss at 6:28 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


  I can just throw them in the trash

Please don't do this. There have been enough posts on this thread about the dangers of mercury leaching into groundwater. It may be illegal where you are to just toss them.

Oh for extended producer responsibility, where the producer has a lifecycle responsibility for disposal costs …
posted by scruss at 6:31 AM on December 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


The whole bloo bloo bloo over your precious colour temperature is funny.

I do somewhat prefer cold white LEDs to warm ones, but color temperature is important for maintaining your circadian rhythm which has a strong impact on your overall health. Of course, your standard incandescent probably wasn't the correct temperature to begin with, but arguably it was slightly better than a lot of the early CFL and LED alternatives.

That said, I'd say the issue is moot now that we have warmer LEDs.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:01 AM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: I've thought for years that homes should have three voltages: 110V AC, 12V DC, and 5V DC.

That'll never happen because it makes way too much sense.
posted by sneebler at 9:02 AM on December 28, 2013


I still need incandescent bulbs for the three way bedside lamps. Three way led bulbs barely exist and are super expensive, and the only three way cfl bulbs I've tried didn't work. Other than that, as bulbs burn out, I'm replacing them with LEDs.

I just bought a three way cfl bulb, at walmart no less, and it works fine, with very close to incandescent color. So they are definitely improving.

I like good quality, warm cfls for everything except reading lights, which is where I notice the slight color difference. Once my current batch of 60w GE Reveals burn out, I'll just research what the best rated LEDs are and buy those, regardless of cost.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:12 AM on December 28, 2013


Despite some sniping in this thread, I learned some very useful info for when my current crop of incandescents kick the bucket. Thanks much.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:56 AM on December 28, 2013


I'm also glad I read the comments so I can upgrade my lightbulbs in the best possible way. (Now I should RTFA.)
posted by immlass at 10:20 AM on December 28, 2013


Knowing people, I'm sure the majority of CFLs are properly disposed of and not just chucked in the trash. (Hey, this sarcasm detector just exploded.)
posted by entropicamericana at 10:51 AM on December 28, 2013


And knowing science, we understand that even if a lot of people don't dispose of their bulbs properly, the end result is less mercury in our environment due to less coal burning to power inefficient incandescent bulbs. There are of course good reasons to be concerned about improper disposal, but given a choice between having more mercury (and many other harmful emissions) in the air or less mercury sitting in landfills, I'll take the latter.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:58 AM on December 28, 2013


Knowing people, I'm sure the majority of CFLs are properly disposed of and not just chucked in the trash. (Hey, this sarcasm detector just exploded.)

The good news is that Home Depot will accept old compact fluorescent lights for disposal at all of its locations. This, by the way, is the law in most of Europe -- generally speaking, you can't sell anything you won't take back. Filthy commie scum.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:44 AM on December 28, 2013


What I hate about this is, being a renter, it is my responsibility to replace my landlords' incandescents with new LED/whatever expensive globes when they burn out, and having moved four times in the last 3 years, it's getting expensive :/

The alternative is: replace them with LEDs when you move in, stash the original bulb in a cupboard, and put it back when you move out.
posted by acb at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


ZenMasterThis: "Now what am I going to use to heat my crawlspace to keep my pipes from freezing in the dead of winter?"

Heat trace directly on the pipes. And if you wrap the pipes after with even a minimal amount of insulation your power consumption will go down and you'll be better protected in the case of power outage.

jfuller: "Looking at 8-plus years of records in a spreadsheet (compulsive? me?) I see I started out getting seven or eighy months of use out of one and am now up to about a year and a quarter. YMM, of course, V. I buy no-name imports."

I'm always amazed at reports like this because when I bought our house seven years ago I replaced all but the chandeler bulbs with CFLs and I've since replaced three; two of which were the globe bathroom fixture style that trades colour rendition for life. I actually want to replace a bunch of the bulbs with LEDs but I can't bring myself to replace a CFL that is still working.

phoebus: "For the love of Donna Summer, what the hell am I gonna put in my lava lamps? (They want 120 V, 40 W A15 Appliance bulbs.)"

Appliance bulbs aren't affected because neither CFLs or LEDs will handle installation in an oven.

Mitrovarr: "I've thought for years that homes should have three voltages: 110V AC, 12V DC, and 5V DC. You'd still have to use AC between houses, but instead of having a million power bricks all over the house or inside devices you'd just have one high quality AC to DC converter in a utility closet. The wiring would be a bit more complicated, but it would probably save a lot of power (I bet one good AC to DC converter is way more efficient than a million cheap ones) and devices could be cheaper and sometimes smaller. Stuff might last longer, too, since a good converter would probably put out much cleaner power than the ones we use now. You'd have to use three different socket types; probably two-prong for 110V, round for 12V, and USB for 5V (but you'd probably want to combine them into a single faceplate)."

This would be hugely expensive; like 4-5 times as expensive as straight 120V service. First off you'd need to run three times as much wire. Then you'd need larger boxes to land all those wires (and the boxes would be more complicated because you need to partition the different voltages from each other). Plus the wire needed to supply 12V and 5V DC with acceptable voltage drops is much larger than that for 120v AC. And then there is all the labour. And there would also be the not insignificant cost of two whole house inverters and two additional distribution panels.
posted by Mitheral at 12:23 PM on December 28, 2013


Not even close. The most dangerous form of mercury by far is organic compounds - mainly methyl mercury.

Seriously. Karen Wetterhahn died of mercury poisoning from spilling a couple of drops of dimethymercury onto her latex-gloved hand. I ain't a toxicologist but I think I'd call that more dangerous than mercury vapor.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 12:24 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also re: Mitrovarr's suggestion, the quality of power bricks has greatly improved in the last few years; nowadays they're nearly all switchers, therefore better than 90% efficient and capable of operating with a wide range of input voltages. Most modern devices require several power supplies -- a simple portable DVD player I hacked a few years back had a 9V primary battery and 7.5V, 5V, 3.3V, and 1.8V switching regulators. It was supplied with a 7.5V power brick which was switched UP to charge the battery) but operated fine from 12V, and the supplied power brick was rated for 100 to 250 VAC at 50 or 60 hz.

It is also overall a big win to distribute electricity over distance at higher voltage, because small wires introduce smaller losses. This is why the power lines strung between poles carry 1200 to 4800 VAC which is dropped to 240 or 120-120 by a transformer fairly close to your house. All those transformers are expensive, sure, but not as expensive as copper wire capable of feeding all thouse houses at 240.
posted by localroger at 1:56 PM on December 28, 2013


Unfortunately, I seem to be one of those people for whom color temperature is not sufficient. CFLs and LEDs may have the right temperature, but they do it by putting out a few narrow bands of light, which means that almost every object in the room appears a different color than what it would under truly white light of the same "temperature". Lots of people seem to not notice this -- heck, lots of people don't even seem to notice the difference between warm and cool light -- but I definitely do, particularly for anything that mixes a lot of colors -- browns like wood or skin, for instance. I'm sure I'll get used to the reduced color palette eventually, but it seems like an unfortunate loss, the visual equivalent of switching every piece of music I have to 48kbps. I certainly wish other people would mind more though, just to incentivize manufacturers to increase the spectrum or at least report the CRI more often.
posted by chortly at 2:01 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


chortly, even cheap LED's should perform much better than expensive flourescents for CRI because they can choose from a very wide range of phosphors to emit the visible light. (The actual semiconductor LED emits UV; phosphors are used to convert this to visible light.) You probably have to trade a little efficiency for a more even spectrum but it's much easier to achieve than with CFL's.
posted by localroger at 2:15 PM on December 28, 2013


but they do it by putting out a few narrow bands of light,

The remote phosphor approach -- most recognizably ATM in the yellow capped Philips models -- mitigates this problem completely. The resulting band may not be indentical to incandescent but it's pretty damn good, and not at all spikey.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:17 PM on December 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


After doing a little research, it's really only the fluorescents that have the narrow spikes in the spectral output. LEDs look a bit more like a bell curve, with most of the energy in the middle of the visible spectrum. Occasionally they have a bit of a bump in at the blue end. (And incandescents ramp up right off into the infrared, which is not unexpected given that they discard most of their energy as heat.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:19 PM on December 28, 2013


Yeah, clearly my impressions are a bit out of date, but while CFLs are pretty terrible, LEDs aren't super-great either, either by my eyeball test or the science. This article in Popular Mechanics has a pretty good set of spectra for a wide variety of incandescent, CFL, and LED lightbulbs (click on "View Larger" to see the spectra), showing that, as George_Spiggott says, LED light is much less spikey than CFL, but still unlike "natural" sunlight or incandescent in having a spike and valley in the blues, and a pretty steep fall-off in the deep reds. Who knows whether that matters or whether my eyeball sensation would pass a double-blind test, but certainly anyone who compared the spectra on the first page of the Popular Mechanics article would think these were pretty significantly different things -- though of course there's no reason any of them should be privileged a priori.
posted by chortly at 8:02 PM on December 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, none of those (including incandescents) are all that similar to sunlight. So I'm not sure there's any particular reason to favor the spectra of incandescents to that of LEDs save that you're used to the former and not used to the latter.

I'm sure the spikiness of CFLs produce odd results but without testing it's tough for me to say that it would be horrible. Certainly I use CFLs all the time and my eyes haven't yet fallen out in protest.
posted by Justinian at 9:50 PM on December 28, 2013


I have a creepy weirdo stockpile of 100w incandescents and by the time they run out I assume some sort of apocalypse will remove the need to switch to anything else. Otherwise, I quite like LEDs.
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 AM on December 29, 2013


Funny how many people are so concerned about the light reproduction and accuracy of their TVs -- deep reds, realistic skin tones! -- but have so little concern for the 99.9% of the rest of their visual input inside. Where are the websites with carefully done side-by-side photos of people, furniture, and wall art under different lighting types, a la all of those TV comparison sites? Even CandlePowerForums (discovered when searching for the Popular Mechanics article) is mainly concerned with the physical rather than visual aspects of lighting.
posted by chortly at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


color temperature is important for maintaining your circadian rhythm which has a strong impact on your overall health.

For the purpose of tricking your brain into thinking it's daylight out, which is what most people are trying to do, it stands to reason that a "daylight" (5000K) high-color-temperature bulb would actually be better than a low-color-temperature one. Most of the Seasonal Affective Disorder treatment lamps that I've seen in the past decade-plus have used very blueish fluorescent bulbs.

The only good use for a low-temperature (2700K or lower) bulb that I can think of, related to biorythm stuff, would be if you're trying to read right before bed. And in that case you're probably better off using an e-reader in white-on-black text mode anyway, since it avoids forcing you to stare at a light-colored background. (I have found that I go to sleep very quickly using my kindle this way, it's sort of a neat minor lifehack.)

Everyone should keep in mind that artificial lighting, even candles, is by definition artificial. It hasn't existed for very long; historically, being awake and doing light-intensive activities when the sun isn't up is the exception rather than the rule. If we invented artificial light today, it's reasonable to think that we'd probably try to replicate sunlight on a spring day, or something similarly pleasant, not the flame of a sooty candle or oil lamp.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:25 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just out of curiosity, do you know what the "golden hour" is? It's that time in late afternoon just a little while before sunset when the sun puts out the most beautiful, warm, golden light. It only lasts a short time, but people remark on the beauty of it and frequently stop for a moment in their busy lives to take a quick look at their surroundings. It's a lot like noticing a startlingly blue sky - it catches your attention - but the "golden hour" feels warm and mellow.

Which is the reason I prefer incandescent bulbs and I heartily dislike the bright white or (God help us) blue-white light of CFLs. In the bright daytime I don't need lights like I need them in the evening -

Ah, but that's just me (and a few others).

Anyway, "sunlight on a spring day" it ain't, but the "golden hour" it's fairly close to.
posted by aryma at 8:42 PM on December 29, 2013


lower-watt bulbs casting near-equivalent amounts of visible light will still be available.

Non-incandescent bulbs will never be "near-equivalent", as every woman who's tried looking at herself in a bathroom mirror with side fluorescent lights knows. Try looking at someone's face in incandescent light, and then fluorescent light. One looks more attractive. Guess which one? It's the one that everyone has now decided is a terrible idea to have in your home.
posted by corb at 1:04 PM on January 2


You can always switch to halogen bulbs: twice as efficient, same broad colour spectrum and warm colour temperature, screws into a regular threaded holder. That's about as near equivalent you can get.

What looks good has way more variables than simple colour temperature. Some of the most hideous lighting on the planet is that given off by a Low Pressure Sodium bulb and it has a nice warm 1800K colour temperature.

People should be applying makeup under the conditions it will be viewed. If you work in an office with florescent lighting than that is what you should use. If you are going to be outside during the day then you'd want lighting that mimics the bluish light of high noon.

Colour temperature isn't the only thing the golden hour has going for it. The low sun angle reduces glare and reflections. And the variation in colour is more appealing than the monochromatic daytime blue.

chortly: "Funny how many people are so concerned about the light reproduction and accuracy of their TVs -- deep reds, realistic skin tones! -- but have so little concern for the 99.9% of the rest of their visual input inside. "

It's audiophile syndrome and the eye is amazingly adaptive. Anyone who ever took pictures on slide film (which at this point is probably me and three other people) can tell you about how surprised they were at how shitty most lighting is when they first started using it because slide film doesn't adapt the way your eye does. Shoot a few hundred images under varying conditions with any camera that allows you to turn off automatic white balance to see this effect.
posted by Mitheral at 4:06 PM on January 2 [1 favorite]


Anyone who ever took pictures on slide film (which at this point is probably me and three other people)

Well there's me and my wife, so who's the other guy?

And yeah, lighting is an issue with slides the way it isn't with negative film because film labs can correct a lot of lighting sins in the printing process, but slide film is brutally honest about what you exposed it to. And incandescent lighting looks unbelievably shitty on film that's meant for outdoors and sunlight.
posted by localroger at 4:42 PM on January 2


corb: "Non-incandescent bulbs will never be "near-equivalent", as every woman who's tried looking at herself in a bathroom mirror with side fluorescent lights knows. Try looking at someone's face in incandescent light, and then fluorescent light."

You're conflating "non-incandescent" and "fluorescent" to make your usual points about the tyranny of government taking away a bad choice. Not only has CFL technology gotten much better, but we also have halogens and LEDs that do an even better job.

Bonus points for using the definitive "will never", as if incandescent light was sent down by god himself to perfectly recreate the light of the sun, and could therefore never be proven in an A/B test to be indistinguishable from current or future technologies.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:59 PM on January 2


[A few comments deleted; corb and tonypcsu, if you guys need to communicate you can MeMail each other, otherwise please let it drop. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:56 PM on January 3


« Older Meet our protagonists, Denis and Theo. Instead of ...  |  You named me... WHAT?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments