They are rioting in the streets

Several papers over the last few days have reported the voluntary phasing out of 100W light bulbs. They are a little light on facts for my liking and could do with a little more information to help people but still. One particular group has taken up the cause of our old “beloved lightbulb” in earnest however with no less than four stories. And after seeing the actual paper today, it’s front page news (with another 5 odd pages devoted to it inside).

Oh I know I should ignore the Daily Mail but still… I just love finding comments like the one below on one of their articles (and there are many amusing comments to choose from).

“Correct me if I am wrong but I was under the impression these energy efficent bulbs let off a small amount of radiation. Surley if this is found to be true they are not environmently friendly.”

Yes, it’s called electromagnetic radiation or ‘heat and light’ as most people know it.

Now I’ve blogged about this previously here so I’m not going to expand on that much. Plus the likelyhood of any Mail readers ending up here is slim. Still, there are things I can add.

The mercury content is dropping. 4-5Mg was standard but less than 1.5Mg is now available (see here for examples). I know places to recycle them are still not common but seriously, how many can you need to recycle? Unless you have dodgy electrics that cause them to burn out, you probably aren’t looking at more than a few every five years that can sit in a draw until you can find somewhere to dump them. They are classed as WEEE now so if you are going to moan about having to recycle CFLs, you need to moan about having to recycle your old mp3 player or mobile too.

The energy cost to manufacture CFLs may not be that bad. I say ‘may’ as I can’t find any studies that prove or disprove it. This Energy Star page says manufacturers told them they use much less energy to make then they use over their lifetime. This page references data from a study from Denmark but that data is old and could well be unreliable. Bottom line is if I can’t show they use less energy over their lifetime than incandescent bulbs, others can’t show they use more. The probability is they use less.

Lastly I’d have to say I’m not actually in favour of this ban. The concerns of migraine sufferers may be valid and people should have a choice. On top of that, CFLs are just a stepping stone to other technologies (and not just LED bulbs). I do think people should be ‘encouraged’ to think about it and move to more energy efficient solutions where appropriate however which this voluntary ban is doing for now.

Update: Actually, what happens if you assume the manufacturers are telling slight porkies and rather than using “much less” energy, CFLs actually take the same energy to make as they use in their lifetime? A 20W CFL (which is 100W incandescent equivalent) will therefor use 160KWh over it’s 8000Hr lifetime. That’s 320KWh total to make and use. A 75W incandescent will use 75KWh in it’s 1000Hr lifetime. Over the same 8000Hrs as a CFL (and lets just say with zero energy costs to make) that’s 600KWh. Still about twice as much energy…

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