Saturday, October 06, 2007

Talk About An Exercise in Futility Part 2

In a nod towards helping the environment, I recently purchased some compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to replace the incandescent indoor floodlight bulbs that burned out in my kitchen and basement ceilings.

From what I read, not only do CFLs last far longer than regular incandescent bulbs, they also are more energy efficient and give off less heat, which means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Sounds like a real win/win, right?

I installed the first one in my kitchen ceiling, which operates on a dimmer switch. I turned up the dimmer switch to maximum and the bulb shone very brightly. I slid the dimmer switch down to reduce the brightness and the bulb starting flickering wildly. I unscrewed the bulb and noticed the small print near the grooved part of the bulb with the words "Not for use with dimmers." I looked on the packaging for the bulbs and saw the same language there, but it was not particularly conspicuous, being in small print at the bottom of the package.

"That's just great!" I thought to myself. I spent a lot of money for the batch of CFLs and they were practically useless to me, as my basement floods are on dimmer switches too.

And I couldn't just throw them in the trash either. As I read in the October 2007 issue of Scientific American, CFLs contain mercury and cannot be thrown out with ordinary trash. While the amount of mercury in each CFL is small, "about equal to the amount of ink on the tip of a ballpoint pen", as Scientific American describes it, when you toss them all into a landfill, the mercury combined from all of them can leach out into the water supply and become a health hazard.

On the positive side, I will be able to use the CFLs to replace the incandescents in our bathroom. The lights in there operate on a dimmer switch too, but a couple of months after we got our bathroom remodelled, the dimmer stopped working and the bulbs shine at maximum brightness no matter what the setting on the switch.

Still, I will have to check to see where I can drop my CFLs off locally for recycling when the time comes to replace them.


Stardust said...

Yeah, we bought those bulbs too and can't use them with fixtures that have dimmer switches, nor three-way lamps either. But we don't have dimmers in the bedrooms or bathrooms so can use the CRLS in the fan lamps in the bedrooms and the one bathroom (our smaller bathroom has those round lightbulbs.) I hate buying stuff thinking I am doing a good thing and it turns out to be "complicated". It's such a let-down.

(Another thing I find annoying though necessary is entering "the letters as they are shown in the image" when posting comments in takes me two or three tries sometimes because I am reading the letters wrong! grrrr! This is my fourth try with this comment now. They should figure out another security system.)

Harry Nads said...

Why not just get rid of the dimmer switches and put in normal switches? It's not that hard and then you can take advantage of the energy (and replacement bulb) savings.

We put CF bulbs throughout the house (we don't have dimmer switches.) I notice a big difference in the bathroom- the old globe-style incandescent bulbs would heat up real quick and affect the temperature in the bathroom. Now the temperature is not affected by the CF bulbs.

Luckily, the cost of the CF bulbs are coming down. They used to be pretty expensive. Now they are not too bad in cost... especially if you figure that the majority of the higher quality ones will last around 7 years before needing replacement.

Tommykey said...

Hi Harry,

I like having dimmers in the basement tv room, because it reduces the glare on the television screen.

Since the dimmer doesn't work in the bathroom anymore, I can use the CFLs there. I will also start replacing the regular size incandescents with CFLs as they burn out.

Poodles said...

I have seen at some stores new ones that can be used with dimmers. I think I saw them at Lowes (maybe). Here too:

Tommykey said...

Thanks Poodles. I will remember to read the packaging more carefully the next time!

Poodles said...

Yea, I did the same dimmer thing too. Why can't they all just be the same.