Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Curious NY Times article on Fluorescent Lights

A NY Times article entitled "Any Other Bright Ideas?", on the pros and cons of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), appeared in their House&Home section on 1/10. It had a lot of useful information, and provided interesting perspectives by various families that have tried the bulbs. Unfortunately, the article gave greatest prominence to the negative aspects of some bulbs, and at one point was completely contradictory. What the consumer needs is information on which bulbs produce pleasing light, yet this information was buried deep in the article, likely to be missed by all but the most thorough readers.

The kind of bulb that lights my workspace, a n:vision TCP, is described as harsh and hospital-like in one spot in the article, then as warm and pleasant in another. CFLs I've purchased in recent years don't buzz, flicker, or delay in turning on, so it was surprising to see these qualities given a high profile in the article. The stated price of the bulbs, too, was much higher than what they are being sold for locally. (see post on 1/2/08)

The n:vision bulbs are available at Home Depot, and perhaps other locations. They come in different warmths of light, so look for the color-coding on the package to find a bulb with more yellow and less of that "daylight" blue. Those with the green-colored packaging are the most pleasant indoors.

As I found out while helping a friend convert her office to fluorescents, the compact variety still take a minute or so to reach full brightness. When first turning on a 100 watt equivalent CFL, you're likely to think you got a raw deal, since it appears considerably dimmer than the 100 watt incandescent bulb it's supposed to replace. Give it a minute, though, and it will glow as brightly as the incandescent did, and use only a quarter of the energy. The 60 watt n:vision, however, instantly generates a bright light, so essentially imitates an incandescent bulb.

Some people are hesitant to use fluorescents, citing the dangers of the mercury they contain. There are various arguments against letting such a concern rule your decision: The amount of mercury they contain is minute and is sequestered in the bulb. Trace amounts of mercury are already present in our environment. Using fluorescents reduces the amount of mercury released from power plants. Anyone who has a manual thermostat or a non-digital thermometer in the house is already sequestering far more mercury than a household's worth of CFLs.
For more detail on mercury in CFLs, try and

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