Friday, July 31, 2009

Compact Fluorescent Lamps -what are the real costs?

Jack, thanks for Your informative article, Compact Fluorescent Lamp.

Here’s a CFL concern I’ve been thinking about but really haven’t seen addressed elsewhere…

When I flip a wall switch at home to turn on one or more CFLs, I often hear a pretty large arc in the switch: “snap!”. It’s not just one switch, this happens on different circuits. I suspect that CFLs perhaps have a rather high inrush current, and this may cause accelerated wear of switch contacts. Time will tell whether a few years down the road people will begin to discover that light switches are failing prematurely and need to be replaced. Bad switch contacts can pose a fire hazard, but many people may never recognize such a problem or its risk. Among those who do, many may never decide to seek repairs.

CFLs offer attractive savings in energy use to the consumer, but I don’t see that the disadvantages of CFLs are being addressed seriously in the public square.

It would be good to see more evaluation and discussion of these CFL concerns:

  • How much health risk does accidental CFL breakage pose to consumers?
  • At a national and global level how much mercury is projected to be released into the environment through CFL disposal? How might we manage CFL disposal to minimize this environmental damage?
  • What is the risk of fire and smoke damage due to failure and abnormal overheating of CFLs?
  • How does the rate of catastrophic failure compare between CFLs and incandescent bulbs?
  • How do CFLs impact the reliability of electrical switches?
  • How can CLF manufacturers and users address the unpleasant color rendering of many CFLs in home environments?
  • Do CFLs pose a risk of UV damage to fabrics, home, and office furnishings?
  • How do all these risks impact the long term economic, environmental, and health costs of CFLs?
  • How will widespread adoption of CFLs impact power generation and distribution (-an issue raised in Your report)?

Thanks again for Your report, which is a helpful contribution to this discussion.

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