Lights out for Edison’s bulb

CFL lamp. photo / climatelab.org

You may have heard that Congress passed legislation in 2007 to slowly phase out incandescent bulbs and replace them with fluorescent bulbs. In fact, incandescent lamp production in the US is almost none existent (see Washington Post 9/8/10 article on Winchester GE plant closure). Obviously, green legislation is enacted with the environment in mind – fluorescents use significantly less energy than their incandescent counterparts, and they have a longer life span and lower heat output.

However, there are many who don’t want to be restricted in their bulb choices. The Associated Press reports that several states, including South Carolina and Arizona, have considered passing legislation to protect them from federal bans against incandescents.

Incandescents have been the standard light bulb product since their 19th century invention, and people have grown accustomed to their warm, yellow light. In contrast, fluorescents have long been used in commercial applications, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) have only recently been available for use in most residential fixtures. CFLs are now available in a white variety of wattages, color temperatures and shapes, and they can replace almost any incandescent bulb.

Unfortunately, CFL’s large initial cost scares many consumers away. Many also feel that they do not have the same soft lighting as incandescents. Additionally, because fluorescents contain mercury, breakage of CFLs exposes consumers to the toxic chemical; CFL bulbs should be returned to proper refuse facilities, but most consumers throw them in their household garbage, contributing to the pollution of the environment. While they have positive attributes, CFLs are not the ideal lighting solution.

LED Lamp. Photo / ccrane.com

Unfortunately for incandescent lovers, it’s going to be an uphill battle. But manufacturers are continually improving alternative lamp technology. LED (light emitting diode) lamps are improving, and they will eventually become the ideal solution because they have extremely low energy usage (half of a comparable fluorescent), they require no warm-up time, environmental factors do not affect their performance, and they have no toxic mercury content. While they are commercially available now, the price is extremely high.

Until the price of LED lamps improves, consumers should attempt to adopt fluorescent lighting and grow accustomed to the different look and feel. Using “warm white” bulbs will most closely replicate the color temperature of incandescent bulbs. And when disposing of fluorescent bulbs, contact your local waste collection agency by visiting Earth911.com. Your local Home Depot and Lowes  may even offer CFL bulb recycling at their stores.

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