Benefits of Switching to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

By Lindsey Edwards
May 2009

The Author is a Marketing Specialist with Full Spectrum Solutions, based in Jackson, Michigan, USA

Electricity Use by Bulb Type

There is no doubt that people will always look at the pros and cons when it comes to change – the important thing is to determine whether the pros outweigh the cons. U.S. government officials have admitted to the predicament we are in due to global warming and are finally taking necessary measures to help fix what has become a global crisis.

Parts of a CFL

One of the simplest ways for people to help save the planet is by reducing their energy consumption. More than half the electricity generated in the U.S. comes from coal, and according to the Earth Day Policy Institute, if the United States shifted entirely from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFL), we could shut down 80 coal-fired power plants. As a result, this would reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, which would ultimately lessen the amount of air pollution.

There are two major reasons why consumers try to resist switching to energy-efficient CFL bulbs. One reason is because they feel the overall quality of CFL bulbs is not as good as incandescent bulbs. This might have been true when CFLs first hit the market, but the quality has progressed considerably over time. Now, CFL bulbs are available in a variety of styles with a range of color temperatures from full spectrum bulb options to sunset bulb. Full spectrum CFL bulbs are designed to simulate natural daylight around noon, which is a cool light that is good for tasks that require good color-rendition. Warmer, sunset CFLs are also available to help create more relaxed atmospheres.

The second reason why many consumers are hesitant to switch to energy-efficient CFL bulbs is because of the mercury content found in CFL bulbs. What people need to understand is that CFL bulbs contain a miniscule amount of mercury, approximately 4 milligrams, which is the size of the period at the end of this sentence. This small amount cannot even be compared to the amount of mercury that is released into the environment from using incandescent light bulbs.

Using Energy Star qualified CFLs results in less mercury in our environment. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of human caused mercury emissions in the U.S. A coal-fired power plant produces 13.6 mg of mercury to power one 60 watt incandescent bulb, but only 3.3 mg to power an equivalent CFL.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, half of the electricity generated in the United States comes from the burning of coal. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that coal-fired power plants are the largest single man-made source of mercury pollution in the United States. Mercury produced from coal-fired power plants is released into the air through the exhaust system when coal is burned. Then, the mercury falls to the earth and runs into our lakes, rivers and water sources, thus contaminating the fish we eat and possibly even the water we drink.

By simply switching out incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient CFL bulbs, we can greatly improve the quality of life for our children, our children’s children, and ourselves.


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