Save the planet, switch to CFL

Through our stages of technological evolution, we have come to a point where in certain aspects, we an say that we have reached a position where being environmentally friendly does not come at a cost.

Why choose CFL?

Incandescent lamps are very "inefficient" at producing light. They produce too much of heat and infra-red lights and hence waste energy while doing so.

On the other hand, Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFL) are more efficient as they do not waste much energy in generating heat or infra-red or ultra-violet.

We should also know that "Wattage" is NOT the criteria for knowing which light source is brighter. In theory (as well as in practice,) a 20W CFL will give the same amount of luminosity as a 100W ordinary incandescent bulb. Thus for the same light, you save over 80% of your electricity bills. Amazing!

CFLs can be simply fitted onto a standard bulb fixture and they come in various colors… Bright White, Sunlight, Sodium, Bulb-Colored, etc. Newer CFLs can also be used with a dimmer!

CFLs last over 10,000 hours on an average. However, buying CFL from a reputed brand ensures that they last long. Most brands also provide "warranty" on these lamps for a period of about a year.

The only catch: CFL cost almost 10 times that of a standard bulbs (out here in my city!) This is a longer initial setup cost, but, given the energy saving and much longer lifespan of CFL, it is a much better alternative.

Lastly: It is our duty to save energy and help our planet live longer.  There are various governments that has either banned the use or promoted the phasing out of traditional incandescent lamps.

I am proud that my entire house is now fully illuminated by CFLs.

9 Replies to “Save the planet, switch to CFL”

  1. Do you get paid for forwarding CFL marketing propaganda or are you just another one of the many green idealists who have been mislead by it themselves?

    “In theory (as well as in practice,) a 20W CFL will give the same amount of luminosity as a 100W ordinary incandescent bulb. Thus for the same light, you save over 80% of your electricity bills. Amazing!”
    Sorry, but these are just inflated PR statements with little foundation in reality. Check manufacturer catalogues and you will find that a 100W incandescent bulb gives 1330 lumen at 220 Volt and 1710 lm at 120V, whereas the very best CFL 20W tubes give CFL only 1200 lm and poorer quality tubes even less.

    Other limitations which make them even less effective, economic, attractive, usable and eco-friendly:

    • All CFLs also lose output with age so you either need to buy a stronger one, e.g. 27W to replace a 100W incandescent, or replace them before they expire naturally, in order to get as much light as from the incandescent you had before.
    • Most have poor power factor (around 0.5) making them use about twice the power they are marked with – which you end up paying for indirectly by a higher kWh-price even if it doesn’t show on your energy bill as watts used.
    • Even if some of the best have gotten softer and more incandescent-like recently, CFLs still have a mediocre colour rendering (CRI 80-83).
    • Sensitive to heat and cold (except those extra expensive special purpose lamps) and don’t work well in downlights and closed luminaires.
    • Most can’t be used with dimmers, sensors, timers or fans. When dimming those expensive few that can be dimmed, you will only get an even more grey and dull light.
    • Flicker or start-up flicker should not be a problem with newer CFLs with electronic ballasts which light up gradually, but some time to reach full output is hard to get around since it takes a while to excite the elements that produce the light even though newer ones give more light sooner than they did just a couple of years ago.
    • Varying life span. While good ones may last a long time (though at reduced output) many cheap CFLs do not reach their promised lifespan, especially not if used in the wrong luminaire (light fitting).
    • CFLs use more energy and pollute more in production, transportation and recycling than other lamps.
    • Contain mercury and have to be handled and recycled with care.

    See my site for referenced details. http://greenerlights.blogspot.com/

    1. Somehow, I agree to ALL your points. 🙂 However, this is the case with every new technology that comes up. And if we, start refuting all of them, we will never get to anywhere.

      I am not a stupid green idealist, rather am a practical entity who knows that to change the system you need to be a part of it. 🙂

      Every new technology in its infancy, appears to be going nowhere, however, in time as the process of implementation and usage gets refined, it becomes more usable.

      Say for instance when Edison Lamps were first created – they were even worse than what we have now. It’s production caused a hellfire among green fundamentalists as the production of one filament alone caused pollution more than 10 homes using kerosene lamps.

      But, did we stop there? Did you stop there? Are you not using incandescent lamps (if not CFL)?

      Ask yourself? All the limitations that you have stated are limitations imposed by greedy, materialistic manufacturers – those that cannot think beyond profit. But, I am pretty sure that the field of research and some more time, will propel things even farther.

      In theory things are brighter, but less bright in practice. This is a sign showing that we need to improve, and not a sign that we need to stop.

    2. Now I will go point-wise:

      • All CFLs also lose output with age so you either need to buy a stronger one, e.g. 27W to replace a 100W incandescent, or replace them before they expire naturally, in order to get as much light as from the incandescent you had before.
        This is true for incandescent lamps as well, but to a lesser extend. Perhaps, in time, as more will start using CFLs, it will be a lot better than the good it already is.
      • Most have poor power factor (around 0.5) making them use about twice the power they are marked with – which you end up paying for indirectly by a higher kWh-price even if it doesn’t show on your energy bill as watts used.This is surely not the present case.
      • Even if some of the best have gotten softer and more incandescent-like recently, CFLs still have a mediocre colour rendering (CRI 80-83).
        I wonder how a CRI value of 80 and above is poor! See: http://www.efi.org/factoids/cri.html
      • Sensitive to heat and cold (except those extra expensive special purpose lamps) and don’t work well in downlights and closed luminaires.
        Where? When? 😮 Ones that we use (I am no billionaire,) are just perfect for our use in as high as 42 degree celcius ambient temperature.
      • Most can’t be used with dimmers, sensors, timers or fans. When dimming those expensive few that can be dimmed, you will only get an even more grey and dull light.
        You are right here. Sadly, it will take more time for the technology to catch up for dimmer users.
      • Flicker or start-up flicker should not be a problem with newer CFLs with electronic ballasts which light up gradually, but some time to reach full output is hard to get around since it takes a while to excite the elements that produce the light even though newer ones give more light sooner than they did just a couple of years ago.
        You are right again! And I am OK with a minute of lesser light if it helps the planet!
      • Varying life span. While good ones may last a long time (though at reduced output) many cheap CFLs do not reach their promised lifespan, especially not if used in the wrong luminaire (light fitting).
        Could not validate this. (1) Reduced output? (2) CFLs around me lasts an average of 2.5 years.
      • CFLs use more energy and pollute more in production, transportation and recycling than other lamps.
        This is again true for all lamps. And CFL being newer, will take time to settle.
      • Contain mercury and have to be handled and recycled with care.
        This is same for all tube-lights.
  2. Hi again, thanks for your comments. Here are some comment on your comments. I hope they will suffice to answer your questions.

    You’re correct that all new technology needs time before it gets better. However, CFLs have had a couple of decades to improve and the best ones by leading manufacturers have become better in most regards. But as it is a chemical light and not a glow-light, there are limits to how much you can improve light quality, which I believe CFLs have reached now, just as there are limits to how much you can improve output for incandescent lights. It’s a simple matter of quantity vs quality.

    Compare it with synthetic fiber. The best microfiber produced today is definitely improved in quality compared with the crude scratchy polyester of the 60s. But it still isn’t silk. They are two different products, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. CFL light may be acceptable where quantity is more important than quality (e.g. at the office) but not where quality is more important than quantity (e.g. at home, in an art gallery, retail store etc). 

    * All CFLs also lose output with age so you either need to buy a stronger one, e.g. 27W to replace a 100W incandescent, or replace them before they expire naturally, in order to get as much light as from the incandescent you had before.
    “This is true for incandescent lamps as well, but to a lesser extent. Perhaps, in time, as more will start using CFLs, it will be a lot better than the good it already is.”
    Incandescent lamps lose perhaps 5%. Since they don’t last as long this will not be noticeable, whereas CFLs keep losing more and more light the longer they last. This already has been improved in the best brand lamps but they still lose output with age (see my site for more details http://greenerlights.blogspot.com/2009/03/4-summary-lamp-type-pros-cons.html).  

    *  Most have poor power factor (around 0.5) making them use about twice the power they are marked with – which you end up paying for indirectly by a higher kWh-price even if it doesn’t show on your energy bill as watts used.
    “This is surely not the present case.”
    According to a utility representative I talked with recently it is and if CFL use increses they will be forced to raise the kWh-price even more.
    http://greenerlights.blogspot.com/2009/03/3g-cfl-analysis-power-factor.html 
    However, power factor is one parameter that can be improved, even though it currently costs more. 

    * Even if some of the best have gotten softer and more incandescent-like recently, CFLs still have a mediocre colour rendering (CRI 80-83).
    “I wonder how a CRI value of 80 and above is poor! See: http://www.efi.org/factoids/cri.html
    Incandescent light has CRI 100 (check manufacturer catalogues). That the lighting industry (and anyone who copies the info they issue) calls CRI values of 80 “high” does not mean much, as they naturally wish to make their lamps seem better than they are.

    Do your own spectral analysis with the back of a CD or DVD:  Hold it under the sun or a under a non-reflector incandescent lamp and you should see the whole spectrum as an uninterrupted rainbow. Do the same with your CFL and I bet you will see 3 distinct colour bands with the wavelengths in-between missing.  

    Even the extra expensive so-called ‘full-spectrum’ CFLs with CRI over 90 don’t give a full rainbow like incandescent lamps do, although it covers more of the spectrum by containing 5 instead of 3 phosphors. No matter how much manufacturers try to copy incandescent light, FL/CFL light can never be anything but a dead composite light that just doesn’t glow and make colours come alive like incandescent and halogen light does. 

    However, not everyone is as sensitive to quality differences so those who don’t notice or care are of course free to use whatever light they prefer.  
      
    *  Sensitive to heat and cold (except those extra expensive special purpose lamps) and don’t work well in downlights and closed luminaires.
    “Where? When? Ones that we use (I am no billionaire,) are just perfect for our use in as high as 42 degree celcius ambient temperature.”
    Again, read my site for more info. Over 50 degrees C they start failing, so you obviously had luck if your luminaire had enough air flow to not overheat your CFL. See how long it lasts though. (One should always mark the date on them and save the receipt if they go out early.) 

    *  Most can’t be used with dimmers, sensors, timers or fans. When dimming those expensive few that can be dimmed, you will only get an even more grey and dull light.
    “You are right here. Sadly, it will take more time for the technology to catch up for dimmer users.”
    The only thing that will happen when technology is improved is that they get more affordable. But the colour problem won’t change. As the CFL is not a glow light / blackbody radiator, it has a fixed colour temperature that is determined by the phosphor coating inside the tube. Those won’t change just because you dim it. Whereas incandescent light gets redder and more candle-like when dimmed and whiter when you turn it up, something we humans are used to and perceive as natural. 
     
    *  Flicker or start-up flicker should not be a problem with newer CFLs with electronic ballasts which light up gradually, but some time to reach full output is hard to get around since it takes a while to excite the elements that produce the light even though newer ones give more light sooner than they did just a couple of years ago.
    “You are right again! And I am OK with a minute of lesser light if it helps the planet!”
    But it doesn’t. That’s what the global anti-lightbulb campaign wants everyone to believe so that consumers can keep consuming, thinking they’ve done their bit by switching a few lamps. But lighting is only about 3% of a household’s total energy use (in north Europe and Canada, don’t know the figures for the rest of the world but it can hardly be more). A good brand CFL save at most half of that with light loss and power factor taken into consideration, poor quality CFLs even less. You can easily save that tiny amount by other means, e.g. installing dimmers and turning lights off when leaving the room. 

    * Varying life span. While good ones may last a long time (though at reduced output) many cheap CFLs do not reach their promised lifespan, especially not if used in the wrong luminaire (light fitting).
    Could not validate this. (1) Reduced output? (2) CFLs around me lasts an average of 2.5 years.
    (1) The reduced output mentioned in the beginning: the longer the CFL works, the more light it will lose. Professional lighting designers and the lighting industry are well aware of this and use the term ‘economic life rate’ to calculate the time when lamps need to be changed due to this gradual light loss.
    (2) 2.5 years sounds like way short of the 6-12 years promised (if used an average of 2.7 hours a day). 
       
    * CFLs use more energy and pollute more in production, transportation and recycling than other lamps.
    “This is again true for all lamps. And CFL being newer, will take time to settle.”
    It is not true for incandescent lamps, which are very simple to produce because they don’t contain as many components, and can be produced locally. Even LEDs are simpler to manufacture. CFLs are not new and they are complicated to manufacture because they are based on a complicated technology and contain various rare minerals which first have to be mined out of the ground.
    http://www.savethebulb.org/Energy%20Wasting%20Lamps.pdf 

    * Contain mercury and have to be handled and recycled with care.
    “This is same for all tube-lights.”
    Correct, but long tubes in ceiling luminaires can’t easily be knocked over or thrown in the trash can like CFLs can and are being. Office tubes usually get recycled correctly. Home CFLs do not yet have good recycling rates even in countries with otherwise good recycling routines. In countries without developed infrastructure and where people may have more pressing matters than safely recycling their lamps, CFLs are likely to cause an environmental disaster we can’t even imagine!
    http://greenerlights.blogspot.com/2009/03/3d-cfl-analysis-mercury.html

    If you’re keen on new technology, why don’t you defend Halogen Energy Savers (which save up to 30%), infra-red halogen (which saves 45%) or LEDs (which may potentially be more efficient and durable than all other lamps but still have quality problems) with the same fervor? When LED lamps get decent enough – which should be soon – I predict CFLs will be nothing more than a short side-note in the history of lighting. Or known as The Lamp That Poisoned the Planet.  

  3. Yes,
    LED is going to be future, in terms of economy, ecology and power savings. CFLs are here not to last and simply, quite simply to pollute. I dont really support Incandescent Lamps for the amount of energy use up or thier efficiency, but in no way does the CFLs prove better in terms of overall efficiency, not just power efficiency. We must be more responsible for our earth, and not be mislead more importantly. I’m not well equipped to comment largely on CFLs or on Indandescent Lamps or LEDs, but my limited knowledge does allow me to suggest LEDs as a better and more economically viable alternative to CFLs, which are here to go in the near future. CFLs just cant prove to be the illumination technology for the future.

    Lokking forward to learn more.
    Arpan Jha

  4. Ok. So now what? How do you propose that we can change? How can we make some alternative or improve upon the Edison Lamps?

    By now you must have realized that I am not “one of the many green idealists who have been mislead by it themselves…” and that is because I am listening to you. I will personally research and cover a detailed article on better lighting technology in conjunction with you. 🙂

    I am careful with CFL. Can keep it as temporary solution and am ready to shift to LEDs. 🙂 (In fact, all my battery powered emergency lighting are now LED based)

  5. Yes, you seemed like an intelligent and reasonable person who would recognise the hitherto suppresed facts when presented with them, that’s why I’ve taken the time to write this much.

    If we want to save the planet we must either make major changes in our lifestyles and/or switch to renewable energy sources a s a p. Since lighting is only about 3% of home energy and home energy is only about a quarter of total energy use, changing a few lights at home won’t make much difference either, although of course every bit is helpful.

    What will make more of a difference is upgrading road-, office- and retail lighting since those are often on all day and/or all night. There is a massive waste there!  Heating systems in the cooler parts of the world leave much room for improvement. Building energy efficient eco-houses still hasn’t caught on large scale although the technology has existed for two decades. Ground heat could be installed and save most of the up to 80% of home energy that goes towards water and space heating in cooler regions, but those cost more than the average household can afford to invest. Same with solar panels in sunnier regions.

    Germany has a unique system where wind- and solar energy is subsidised and utilities mandated to buy back excess electricity from individual users. Phasing out lead in petrol was easy and led to no losses for anyone, phasing out petrol and mandating alternative fuels could be done too if the political will was there. Mandating that all coal emissions must be cleaned before let out into the atmosphere could also be done. It is these larger issues governments should be working on, rather than chasing peanuts that will at best only make the most minute difference and at worst make things worse than before.

    But then they risk rocking the boat so it’s easier to focus on something harmless like lighting, thereby pleasing manufacturers who have been lobbying for this for a long time as they no longer make a profit on incandescent bulbs, whereas the CFL market is estimated at 80 billion!

    If you still want to change your lights, I’d recommend LED if you don’t mind the lower quality, and Halogen Energy Savers or infrared halogen if you do. 

  6. For the sake of brevity of the topic and to remain within the purview of “the most eco-friendly lighting technology”, I would not like to stray on to discussions on alternative energy source.

    So, LED and likes are an alternative; so is Halogen Energy Savers/Infrared Halogen. Tell us more about your “personal experience” with these, as I do not want to know what Google has to provide.

  7. Yes, of course, sorry for going off on a bit of a rant there.  

    * I have had good experience with Halogen Energy Savers (which come as standard A-bulb, candle and reflector lamp). They look exactly like their incandescent equivalent and have the same light properties but give more light per watt while costing only slightly more.

    * Infrared halogen with integrated transformers are hardly on the market yet so I’ve not had any experience of those, but all halogen light is top quality light by nature, though low-voltage halogen may be somewhat whiter and brighter than a typical incandescent lamp.

    * LEDs I’ve only seen the cool-white type and those I didn’t like due to personal preference for warm-white light. Warm-white LEDs I’ve only seen as decorative tube lights and those looked incandescent-like enough for outdoor and commercial use but are not something I would have indoors at home until colour is improved more. I’ve been trying to find warm-white retrofit samples for indoor illumination and will be happy to let you know what I think when I do. Or you may wish to aquire one yourself and see what you think?

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