Why are they taking my light bulbs away?
Moving to more efficient lighting is one of the lowest-cost ways for the nation to reduce electricity use and greenhouse gases. In fact, it actually will save households money because of lower utility bills. Ninety percent of the energy that an incandescent light bulb burns is wasted as heat. And yet, sales of the most common high-efficiency bulb available—the compact fluorescent (CFL)—amount to only 5 percent of the light bulb market. Earlier this year, Australia became the first country to announce an outright ban by 2010 on incandescent bulbs. The changeover in the United States will be more gradual, not mandated to begin until 2012 and phased out through 2014. However, don’t be surprised if some manufacturers phase out earlier.
How do I save money, when a CFL costs six times as much as an old-fashioned bulb?
Each cone-shaped spiral CFL costs about $3, compared with 50 cents for a standard bulb. But a CFL uses about 75 percent less energy and lasts five years instead of a few months. A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12 percent discount to estimate the savings.
I’ve heard that CFLs have mercury in them — isn’t that bad?
Consumers are rightly concerned about the toxic substance mercury that helps CFLs produce light. Even though the amount sealed in each bulb is small — one old-fashioned thermometer had about 100 times as much mercury — contact local trash collection for disposal instructions. Environmentalists agree that more work must be done on bulb recycling programs. Right now, you can return any CFL to any Ikea store for recycling, and the Environmental Protection Agency and Earth911 have sites you can search for other recycling programs near your home.