Author Topic: Oh the humanity, 40 and 60W incandescent bulbs are being discontinued in the US!  (Read 20710 times)

DougStache

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Yesterday afternoon a friend of mine linked me this article, which states that 40W and 60W incandescent bulbs are being discontinued in the U.S.  I was glad to hear this news; it should be easier for people to make the right decisions when buying light bulbs.  Naturally, I laughed at all the idiots it mentions who are going out to stock up on incandescent light bulbs before the year ends.

Well, turns out my friend was one of those idiots I was laughing at.  His logic?  Breaking a CFL in your home releases mercury, and mercury will kill you dead.

I guess I'll have to stop smashing CFL's and inhaling that sweet sweet mercury.

amused_bouche

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Naturally, I laughed at all the idiots it mentions who are going out to stock up on incandescent light bulbs before the year ends.


My (otherwise Mustachian) mother did this. And then tried to pawn some of them off onto me. Her reasoning was that she hates the light that LEDs give off.

Headdesk.

gecko10x

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Alright, I'll bite.

While I agree with the idea that they should go away, I'm not very fond of this. I don't like CFLs - mercury (however small), hassle of disposal, poor life vs. claimed. So, what should I put in my seldom-used fixtures? A CFL that I don't want? Or an LED that isn't cost-effective? Seems like a poor choice to me.

Daley

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The thing that always gets me with this topic is that incandescents aren't disappearing under this law. What is disappearing is the traditional tungsten filament bulb, and only for general lighting fixtures (you can still get 'em for appliances). In its place, there are still new higher efficiency incandescent-based halogen bulbs for not much more per bulb. Yes, they're more expensive than the tungsten, but their filament life is considerably longer too.

I'm still not on board either the CFL or LED bandwagon due to mercury and e-waste concerns, but I'm also not flushing money down the crapper on lighting costs or sacrificing my sweet, sweet tungsten glow, or even scrambling around trying to buy up the old bulbs before they disappear. I'm using those halogen replacements with dimmers which extend bulb life expectancy dramatically, and just using less lighting in total. People don't need their houses visible from space at night, and the net effect is about equal.

nawhite

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Just to clarify a couple of misconceptions about the mercury in the bulbs.

Yes, CFLs do contain small amounts of mercury. About 5mg in old CFLs, less than 2.5mg in new CFLs. 5 mg, if all collected, would form a sphere about the size of a period.
When a CFL shatters, between 17% and 40% of the mercury contained may be expelled into the air, the rest will remain condensed to the sides of the glass (clean up the glass with gloves)
Of that 17-40% of mercury that every gets into the air, only about 1/3 of that will be released into the air within the first 8 hours (clean the glass up within 8 hours, with disposable gloves)
Of that 33% of 17-40% of 2.5 mg that may be expelled into the air within 8 hours, you aren't going to breath all of it. The best numbers I can find for how much mercury will enter your body when you break a CFL bulb come from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection which puts the number at about 0.07 micrograms (0.0007 mg). A typical 6 oz. tuna fish sandwich contains 48 micrograms of mercury (0.048 mg), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So, breaking one CFL and properly cleaning it up will give you a mercury dose less than 1/6 that of eating a tuna fish sandwich.


Guizmo

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But what if I break a beaker's dozen all at once?!?!

Will somebody please think of the children!!!!

Daley

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Just to clarify a couple of misconceptions about the mercury in the bulbs.

And when you limit the focus and scope like that to single bulbs, it doesn't seem like a big deal... but there's a lot of ifs to that statement. Such as, if the person who broke the CFL bulb knows how to safely clean it up in the first place, or if they care enough to do the job right in a public space.

But the danger with CFLs isn't on the individual scale... it's the bigger picture impact. What about the tons of mercury that goes missing and unaccounted for in manufacturing every year, where do you think that stuff winds up? Your same study cited those numbers as expected averages, but they also frequently found far more mercury in the bulbs than reported by the manufacturer. When the bulbs are designed so cheaply and their lives shortened dramatically via short on durations that most people don't get much greater life expectancy out of them than traditional tungsten, what then? How many consumers do you figure are smart enough to know what usage situations shorten those lifespans in the first place? Do you think they care? Heck, how many of them do you figure are actually aware that there's mercury in the bulbs in the first place? Or of the neurotoxicity of the metal? How many of those burnt out bulbs do you figure actually make it back to a recycling center that can do mercury recycling in the first place instead of a landfill? Where do you think some of that mercury in the tuna comes from to begin with?

Ignorance and stupidity fuel the environmental catastrophe of CFLs, and handwaving away those concerns as being unimportant because there's very little danger on the individual level should be right up there with the SUVs should be driven because they're safer argument.
« Last Edit: December 31, 2013, 02:03:51 PM by I.P. Daley »

Mr.Macinstache

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Sort of old news, they've been phasing them out for years now, thanks to the green police. 100w, then 70 and so on. Ironically we now have mass production of mercury laden CFL's. The irony is rich there. Say hello to the unintended consequences of authoritarian market control.

I don't think we ought to ban light bulbs. Present the consumer with a choice that will reduce their electricity bill with an affordable product and they voluntarily make that choice. It looks LED's might be the ticket if the price has come down on them.

nawhite

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Just to clarify a couple of misconceptions about the mercury in the bulbs.

And when you limit the focus and scope like that to single bulbs, it doesn't seem like a big deal... but there's a lot of ifs to that statement. Such as, if the person who broke the CFL bulb knows how to safely clean it up in the first place, or if they care enough to do the job right in a public space.

But the danger with CFLs isn't on the individual scale... it's the bigger picture impact. What about the tons of mercury that goes missing and unaccounted for in manufacturing every year, where do you think that stuff winds up? Your same study cited those numbers as expected averages, but they also frequently found far more mercury in the bulbs than reported by the manufacturer. When the bulbs are designed so cheaply and their lives shortened dramatically via short on durations that most people don't get much greater life expectancy out of them than traditional tungsten, what then? How many consumers do you figure are smart enough to know what usage situations shorten those lifespans in the first place? Do you think they care? Heck, how many of them do you figure are actually aware that there's mercury in the bulbs in the first place? Or of the neurotoxicity of the metal? How many of those burnt out bulbs do you figure actually make it back to a recycling center that can do mercury recycling in the first place instead of a landfill? Where do you think some of that mercury in the tuna comes from to begin with?

Ignorance and stupidity fuel the environmental catastrophe of CFLs, and handwaving away those concerns as being unimportant because there's very little danger on the individual level should be right up there with the SUVs should be driven because they're safer argument.

You are right. If a person is willing to accept a lower overall light level like you do, then tungsten bulbs on a dimmer can use less electricity than CFLs. Absolutely. Unfortunately, most people aren't willing to accept lower light levels (I'm not currently but I'm experimenting). I'm not saying that they shouldn't, but your solution is based on a lowering of light levels which I don't think most people will accept. This leads us to the question of how to you get a given quantity of light and what are the environmental effects of that lighting. In areas where electricity is generated from coal, the energy savings of a CFL result in less coal being burned and thus less mercury being released. On average, over the average life of a CFL, the energy savings will result in saving about 10mg of mercury being released into the air. Add back the 5mg we put in the bulb and we are at a net benefit of 5mg of less mercury released into the world by using CFLs in areas powered by coal.

In areas not powered by coal, it becomes a personal choice. Do you value the electricity savings and decrease in electricity generation externalities (damming rivers, nuclear fuel disposal, fracking, etc) more or less than the environmental impacts of additional mercury times the probability that you will break a bulb and not clean it up or recycle it correctly?

To me personally, I value the lower need for electricity greater than I value the negative impacts of me breaking a bulb and not cleaning it up or of my recycling center doing it wrong.

To each his own. Eventually LED's will be just as cheap and we can forget about this. In the meantime, assuming you need a particular level of light in your house which is greater than that offered by dimmed tungsten lamps, if you get electricity from coal, use CFLs. If you get electricity from some other source, decide whether it is better to use more electricity or to possibly release more mercury.

Daley

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In the meantime, assuming you need a particular level of light in your house which is greater than that offered by dimmed tungsten lamps, if you get electricity from coal, use CFLs. If you get electricity from some other source, decide whether it is better to use more electricity or to possibly release more mercury.

I'm glad we've got some common ground here, but your numbers and net benefit solutions still rely on too many if factors while ignoring the greater picture. The net gain of environmental mercury in your situation is based off of the assumption that the lifespan numbers of these bulbs by the manufacturers are actually being met, and it's clearly not. Most people are lucky to get more than 2500 hours out of the things before pitching them because they've grown too dim or they've begun to fail from cheap caps or frequent short-on cycles. This isn't a minority usage issue, either. CFLs on a statistical whole don't live up to the real world life expectancy promoted and factored on these environmental studies.

It also ignores the PF rating of these cheap CFLs that usually run somewhere around 0.6 at best. By the time you adjust for actual generator load to meet the VA requirements of a CFL, the effective power draw difference between them and the new long life, higher efficiency tungsten-halogens with a natural 1.0 PF rated at the same lumen becomes marginal. Pile on the low QC of most of the CFL bulbs being manufactured to get the prices down cheap enough and the average added mercury levels in excess of what's stamped on the package on top of all the other points, as well as the additional environmental cost of mining and extracting mercury deliberately for use as well as the consequential additional "lost" mercury pollution in the industry versus mercury pollution as an included consequential pollutant of coal as a power source? That supposed environmental net gain of CFL usage per lumen provided on a coal grid kind of vanishes. It might be there with traditional tungsten under optimal lab conditions, but not the higher efficiency incandescents in the real world.

This argument also completely ignores the additional environmental toxins and energy required in manufacture or added non-recyclable waste materials, as they don't count the plastics and other miscellaneous heavy metal pollutants from the electronic waste or additional heat energy required for more complex glass envelopes that go into CFL production versus incandescent technology.

No matter the power source, CFL isn't the winner it's claimed to be. If we were actually serious about the environmental impact of our lighting choices instead of the illusion of concern lacquered up in a nice greenwashing veneer, the only light bulbs that should truly be banned from the marketplace for general public safety and environmental protection reasons are CFLs.

Jamesqf

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Personally, I much prefer the guality of light from daylight LEDs, or good CFLs.  It's much closer to natural sunlight, or at least the sunlight we get here in the Great Basin.  Incandescent bulbs are closer to oil lamps, or torches.

I also have to wonder why people get upset about the mercury in CFLs, but never seem to wonder at all about what all that tungsten might be doing in the environment.

Daley

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I also have to wonder why people get upset about the mercury in CFLs, but never seem to wonder at all about what all that tungsten might be doing in the environment.

I've actually given that point quite a bit of thought, and treat it as a lesser evil... especially when I can get an incandescent to outlast a CFL by a considerable margin by using a dimmer.

As for light color, natural daylight might be more aesthetically pleasing, but the increase in blue light actually disrupts the circadian rhythm. That oil lamp light temperature is less disruptive to sleep patterns:
http://justgetflux.com/research.html

totoro

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I have absolutely no problem paying more for incandescent light per hour and 60 watts are going to be available in Canada for the near future anyway.  I'm going to stockpile a supply of 40 watt chandelier lights just in case.

The light from CFL's is hideous imo.  Hideous. I'd rather keep bees and make my own candles than use CFLs.  I have chosen a southern exposure for my home because of the quality of light and heat it affords without the need to turn on artificial light or heat during the day.  All of our main room and bathroom lights have dimmer switches.  Dimmed incandescent lights are beautiful.

I suspect these choices are of greater benefit to me and the world than the CFL vs. incandescent bottom line.

ender

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The light from CFL's is hideous imo.  Hideous. I'd rather keep bees and make my own candles than use CFLs.  I have chosen a southern exposure for my home because of the quality of light and heat it affords without the need to turn on artificial light or heat during the day.  All of our main room and bathroom lights have dimmer switches.  Dimmed incandescent lights are beautiful.

I have had a lot better success with CFL's in indirect lighting situations but otherwise completely agree on CFL light quality. I'm not really a fan in direct lighting situations like kitchen tables/chandeliers.

lentilman

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Just as an aside, a homeowner in Maine broke a CFL and called the State to get instructions on cleaning it up.

An account of her side: http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/story.html?id=aa7796aa-e4a5-4c06-be84-b62dee548fda&p=2

An account from the state: http://web.archive.org/web/20070930013236/http://www.maine.gov/dep/rwm/homeowner/pdf/prospecthistory.pdf

($2k for the Hazmat cleanup)

Jamesqf

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...especially when I can get an incandescent to outlast a CFL by a considerable margin by using a dimmer.

I honestly wish someone could figure out what your problem is.  In the 20 years or so that I've had CFLs (and I have several that predate the now-standard twisty shape), I've had maybe 2 or 3 fail.

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As for light color, natural daylight might be more aesthetically pleasing, but the increase in blue light actually disrupts the circadian rhythm. That oil lamp light temperature is less disruptive to sleep patterns:

Might apply to lights used in the middle of the night, or if you keep irregular hours.  For me, I think it keeps me closer to summer patterns, and avoids the winter hibernation effect.

Just as an aside, a homeowner in Maine broke a CFL and called the State to get instructions on cleaning it up.

Yes, we've seen that damn thing over and over.  All it proves is that there is no limit to the amount of stupidity that can be produced by several morons acting in concert. 

Daley

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...especially when I can get an incandescent to outlast a CFL by a considerable margin by using a dimmer.

I honestly wish someone could figure out what your problem is.  In the 20 years or so that I've had CFLs (and I have several that predate the now-standard twisty shape), I've had maybe 2 or 3 fail.

What you're failing to understand is that an incandescent running at about 60% of its rated wattage can run near indefinitely without burning out. I've got 40W incandescent bulbs pulling ~25W that easily have close to 10,000 hours at this point (and counting)... so realize I have no "problem" other than your lack of comprehension that incandescent bulbs have the capacity to actually outlast CFLs when properly cared for.

Jamesqf

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What you're failing to understand is that an incandescent running at about 60% of its rated wattage can run near indefinitely without burning out.

I think you're missing the point.  First, running those bulbs at less than design wattage is going to make them much less efficient at converting electricity to visible light, so I'd argue that that's not properly caring for them.  Second, it's not how long you can make one last - run one at say 5 watts and it'll last forever, putting out a bit of infrared, but no visible light.  It's why you and some others have (or claim to have) a problem with CFLs burning out early.

Just for instance, my oldest CFL is in my bedroom reading light, which has been used an average of an hour or two a night for about 25 years.  So that's somewhere in the range of 9-18K hours, easily on a par with your derated 40 watt bulbs.

gecko10x

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Regarding CFLs burning out: I have tried every brand I can source locally. I have some that are probably 7-10 years old that still work. But in the last 7 years, I have had at least 20 fail FAR earlier than they should- like shorter than an incandescent.

lentilman

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Regarding CFLs burning out: I have tried every brand I can source locally. I have some that are probably 7-10 years old that still work. But in the last 7 years, I have had at least 20 fail FAR earlier than they should- like shorter than an incandescent.

I have had the same experience. 

lentilman

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Just to clarify a couple of misconceptions about the mercury in the bulbs.

Yes, CFLs do contain small amounts of mercury. About 5mg in old CFLs, less than 2.5mg in new CFLs. 5 mg, if all collected, would form a sphere about the size of a period.
When a CFL shatters, between 17% and 40% of the mercury contained may be expelled into the air, the rest will remain condensed to the sides of the glass (clean up the glass with gloves)
Of that 17-40% of mercury that every gets into the air, only about 1/3 of that will be released into the air within the first 8 hours (clean the glass up within 8 hours, with disposable gloves)
Of that 33% of 17-40% of 2.5 mg that may be expelled into the air within 8 hours, you aren't going to breath all of it. The best numbers I can find for how much mercury will enter your body when you break a CFL bulb come from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection which puts the number at about 0.07 micrograms (0.0007 mg). A typical 6 oz. tuna fish sandwich contains 48 micrograms of mercury (0.048 mg), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

So, breaking one CFL and properly cleaning it up will give you a mercury dose less than 1/6 that of eating a tuna fish sandwich.

Tox values for inhalation and ingestion are not equivalent, of course.

Another way to look at the situation using the numbers from this set of assumptions is that one bulb will release 0.33 mg mercury into the air in the first 8 hours after breaking. (2.5 mg x 40% x 33%)

The threshold in Maine for airborne Hg is 300 ng/m3.  So the broken bulb will poison a closed volume of 1100 m3 (much larger than a typical bedroom).

 

impaire

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And here I was coming to the Wall of Shame and Comedy to post a little fluff (http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/cf68/), and find an informed discussion which will alter our lighting choices. Thanks everyone, in particular I.P. Daley and nawhite, for a good discussion on which to base my own research.

Daley

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I think you're missing the point.  First, running those bulbs at less than design wattage is going to make them much less efficient at converting electricity to visible light, so I'd argue that that's not properly caring for them.  Second, it's not how long you can make one last - run one at say 5 watts and it'll last forever, putting out a bit of infrared, but no visible light.

And yet, I've found that so long as you don't dim the incandescents much past about the 50% threshold, the overall lumen output is about equal between a 25W incandescent and a 40W running around 25W (or a 40W against a dimmed 60W running at 40W, 60W against a 100W running at 60W, etc.). The light might be a touch more orange, but I've got science defending that choice. As far as light output goes, they're about equal.

It's why you and some others have (or claim to have) a problem with CFLs burning out early.

Just for instance, my oldest CFL is in my bedroom reading light, which has been used an average of an hour or two a night for about 25 years.  So that's somewhere in the range of 9-18K hours, easily on a par with your derated 40 watt bulbs.

Spoken like a true early adopter.

No, that is not our problem. As many others in this thread and elsewhere have pointed out, modern CFL failure is a result of cheap components and poor quality control, and most people's experiences wind up with CFLs barely outlasting incandescents in usage. You don't even have to ask Gecko and Lentilman here, they've already confirmed, as has Spork (and others) elsewhere in an unrelated thread. If you're so confident in CFLs not being problematic, I challenge you to replace each and every CFL you already have in your house with current generation, commodity CFL bulbs. Not the high-end $10+ a piece jobs, either. Buy what the average Joe uses because he's told they'll save him money and are more environmentally friendly, which are the cheapest CFL bulbs available that are subsidized down to the high-efficiency halogen price... use them, and get back with us over the next 12-24 months with your findings.

Honestly, I don't understand the hate out of you on this topic. Higher end technology is not always the answer, and you should be able to appreciate that there are people out there who are using less electricity efficiently with what is effectively 100 year old technology. By choosing less light and warmer light (quality over quantity - which has scientific support as being a less disruptive light source after dark), we get our light out of cheaper bulbs that do less overall environmental damage and can be made to last just as long as the high-tech alternatives. This is a win-win-win-win situation. Less electricity is used, less manufacturing costs are required, less shipping costs are necessary, and there's far less heavy metal pollutants from birth to death of the bulb when practiced by people like myself. This is the very definition of MMM's idea of badassity by fighting against hedonic adaptation, letting logic and math lead the choices made by cutting through the rhetoric and marketing BS, and doing the right thing for everybody... while also saving more money for yourself.



And here I was coming to the Wall of Shame and Comedy to post a little fluff (http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/cf68/), and find an informed discussion which will alter our lighting choices. Thanks everyone, in particular I.P. Daley and nawhite, for a good discussion on which to base my own research.

I'm glad to hear you've found the discussion illuminating.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 10:03:11 AM by I.P. Daley »

Jamesqf

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No, that is not our problem. As many others in this thread and elsewhere have pointed out, modern CFL failure is a result of cheap components and poor quality control, and most people's experiences wind up with CFLs barely outlasting incandescents in usage.

But that is the issue, as there apparently are many people whose CFLs don't fail prematurely.  So what's the difference?  Also remember to account for the squeaky wheel syndrome here: the people with new CFLs that aren't failing aren't likely to be posting to complain about that :-)

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If you're so confident in CFLs not being problematic, I challenge you to replace each and every CFL you already have in your house with current generation, commodity CFL bulbs.

That'd be pretty unMustachian for an individual like me, though it might be a good experiment for an organization like Consumer Reports or EPRI.  Indeed, I don't expect to ever buy another CFL, as any that do burn out will get replaced with LEDs.

I will admit that I can't fairly comment on the quality of new CFLs, as it's been maybe 5 years since I've gotten any, and the last few were freebies, courtesy of the then-employer's Earth Day fair.  I've even relegated a few to infrequently-used places like closets, in order to put LEDs in their place.

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Honestly, I don't understand the hate out of you on this topic.

Honestly, I don't understand why you're perceiving what I've written as 'hate'.  I've just pointed out that my experience seems to be considerably different than yours.  My CFLs do last, and do give (subjectively) better quality light.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 12:15:54 PM by Jamesqf »

Daley

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Honestly, I don't understand why you're perceiving what I've written as 'hate'.  I've just pointed out that my experience seems to be considerably different than yours.  My CFLs do last, and do give (subjectively) better quality light.

It's pretty easy to misinterpret as such, because you've take your own personal experience with CFLs as baseline reality to defend the official CFL defense materials built on hypothetical lab hours and nitpick apart anyone who doesn't agree with your conclusions that coincide with those statements, then question the wisdom and intelligence of the choices that individuals like myself and others have made that contradict your own - baffled by how we could reach such a contradictory stance. Have faith that I'm not alone here and that some real research backs these statements, and also have a little faith that some of us incandescent defenders aren't bat guano nutjobs who hate the planet. DougStache's friend might be a bit nutty, but at least he isn't as nutty as DougStache himself for trivializing the dangers of CFLs in the first place.

Device failure isn't a squeaky wheel minority issue, but nobody likes to talk about it in the industry because it hurts profit margins. What's better than suckering someone into buying a $12 lightbulb that doesn't last any longer than a $2 bulb due to a designed failure weakness from the act of power cycling? Passing that $12 lightbulb off as a $2 bulb to the customer while getting another $15 in subsidy kickbacks from governments and utilities! The fact that they frequently die sooner than the cheaper alternatives in high usage areas are just gravy. You want proof of this? You don't need Consumer Reports, just live in an apartment complex for a little while. I personally see on average one to two broken CFL bulbs in the dumpsters every month... and those are just the ones I'm lucky enough to see at the top of the garbage heap. There's no telling how many actually get tossed, but I'm not about to go dumpster diving just to find out.

Have a multimedia rich presentation on the subject by Paul Wheaton that hits on quite a few similar points: http://www.richsoil.com/CFL-fluorescent-light-bulbs.jsp

My own personal experience and common sense independently lead me to further research which only cemented my conclusions: CFLs are a terrible idea. I reached those conclusions long before I even found that linked bit or any other similar compendiums floating around... and I know I'm not the only one. Incandescents are already more efficient than we realize, and they only grow more efficient as science improves the filament design. I'm just thankful that the US hasn't been so stupid as to listen to the CFL defenders and ban incandescent lighting outright.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 01:42:50 PM by I.P. Daley »

AlmostIndependent

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I guess I'll have to stop smashing CFL's and inhaling that sweet sweet mercury.

Thanks for ruining my favorite pastime. :/

Jamesqf

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It's pretty easy to misinterpret as such, because you've take your own personal experience with CFLs as baseline reality...

Pot, meet kettle :-)

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Have faith that I'm not alone here and that some real research backs these statements, and also have a little faith that some of us incandescent defenders aren't bat guano nutjobs who hate the planet.

Sorry, but I don't work on faith.  But let me ask, though, why your 'real research' showing CFL failures should be preferred to the at least equally real research - not just my personal experience - showing the lack of such failures?

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DougStache's friend might be a bit nutty, but at least he isn't as nutty as DougStache himself for trivializing the dangers of CFLs in the first place.

Let me also ask this: if CFLs are dangerous because of their mercury content, why aren't the anti-CFL people also up in arms about all the standard fluorescent lights, or the mercury vapor lamps used for street & industrial lighting?

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Incandescents are already more efficient than we realize, and they only grow more efficient as science improves the filament design.

Sorry, but you just lost all credibility there.  Incandescent lightind isn't efficient, and can't be.  It's the fundamental physics of thermal radiation.

Daley

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Pot, meet kettle :-)

We've repeatedly been down this road before... I pull out documentation, you dismiss it for X reason, you provide no documentation to back your own opinion of why those you disagree with are wrong, wash rinse repeat. I'm not a big fan of this cycle.

You're a smart guy, I don't want you (or anyone else) to take my word for it. But I am (like I have in the past) suggesting you dig more on your own and keep an eye on the bigger picture and look past the shiny happy CFL stats that are always waved around by environmentalists. Nothing I have said is difficult to confirm as factual and much of the evidence can be replicated with very little effort and money to crunch the numbers yourself. Look at annual bulb sale numbers. Examine the known and documented flaws to the technology. Look at the peer reviewed scientific studies. Look at CFL prices in countries that banned all incandescent sales and then discontinued price subsidies. Get a Kill-A-Watt and a light meter and experiment with some bulbs. Look at the documentation regarding the known issues with power cycling of fluorescent lighting. Examine the average percentage of household electrical bills that are actually dedicated to lighting versus climate control and appliances. Try some modern CFLs and power cycle 'em a few hundred times. Investigate the working conditions of these CFL factories and the mercury poisoning rates in the populous surrounding them, as well as research into the power source these factories use (it's coal, by the way) to manufacture these bulbs in the first place. Look into the difference in natural resources and raw materials to manufacture and ship these bulbs in comparison to their simple tungsten counterparts, and conveniently get overlooked in the environmental impact calculations that only focus on energy used to produce light over its lifetime or if they are included get heavily padded by the unrealistic bulb life expectancy that doesn't happen in most household usage situations. Look into an industrial concept called "planned obsolescence".

These are all things I have actually done, by the way. My comments aren't based off of five minutes of time on Wikipedia and having a single CFL burn out on me. I dearly love and respect science, but I also know that statistics can be used to prove anything with sufficient data omissions... once you look at the complete picture instead of the picture painted by the bulb manufacturers, the CFL argument falls apart like a house of cards in a hurricane, and it even raises valid concerns about the potential long term costs and impact of LEDs. If you want to beat on the wolframite/tungsten as a blood mineral issue in defense of mercury, how about we talk about the impact of using yttrium, terbium, and europium for triband phosphors?

As for your question, it's a straw man. Anyone capable of thinking for themselves and truly understands the CFL debate wouldn't be in great favor of any form of mercury-based lighting. I'm not fond of traditional tubular ballast, CCFL, HID, or even induction, but there's still a significant divide in the technologies that you ignore. The biggest failing point in fluorescent bulbs is not the mercury and argon gas payload or the phosphors themselves, but the ballast and the electrodes. I may not like the other fluorescent lighting products either for a multitude of established and documented reasons, but the thing that separates most of them from CFLs? Two things: 1) at least you can replace the ballast with most of those alternative styles when it fails, with induction providing the longest lifespan and being the least evil of all types across the board as it's electrode-less; 2) industrial lighting has very different requirements than home lighting, and home lighting goes through considerably more power cycling, the Achilles heel to fluorescent electrode longevity.

If the official solution to making CFLs meet their rated lifespan is to needlessly waste more electricity running it than you might have otherwise used in the first place with a "less efficient" lightbulb only using it as you needed it? Wait a second (or 900 as the case may be). Clearly, there's a glaring problem there, and even the Mythbusters have a problem with this. In situations with long, steady industrial lighting situations, some of these can and are more efficient than incandescent and I won't deny that, but not in the home under average home usage conditions. CFLs aren't induction lamps, they don't have replaceable ballasts, they're sealed units with cheap Chinese electrolyte capacitors stuffed into a tiny area that runs very hot, and they can't survive anywhere close to their rated lifespan (that all these safety and savings numbers are built off of that CFL defenders trot out to make their case) without using even more lighting/electricity than you might otherwise need in the first place.

You can keep picking and making snarky comments, or you can do some research yourself and learn something new.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2014, 09:22:31 PM by I.P. Daley »

ender

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I had a $10 CFL burn out today after less than 2 years total ownership.

I doubt it saved the money "they" said it would over it's lifetime. And obviously it didn't last as long as it was supposed to.

And yes it pisses me off to know I could buy incandescent bulbs for a fraction the cost which would, in my experiences, also last anecdotally as long as most of the CFLs I've owned.

GuitarStv

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Weird that everyone is having CFLs burn out so frequently.  I've been using them for more than 10 years everywhere in our house, and think I've only replaced one.  We would regularly go through about 3-4 incandescent bulbs each year.

BlueMR2

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Weird that everyone is having CFLs burn out so frequently.  I've been using them for more than 10 years everywhere in our house, and think I've only replaced one.  We would regularly go through about 3-4 incandescent bulbs each year.

At both places I've worked the last few years we burned through CFLs quite fast.  I wonder if it's a quality of power thing.

My CFLs at home are lasting fine.  Of course, my home incandescents last a really long time too.  The most used light in the house (bathroom) has never been replaced in the 4 years I've lived there.  None of the bedroom incandescents failed either, but I did replace them with CFLs to scavenge those incandescents for future use elsewhere (we have a number of light fixtures that are fully enclosed and the current generation of CFL and LEDs say to NOT use them there, not sure what I'm supposed to use once I run out of incandescents  :-)  ).

Mr.Macinstache

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I have incandescent that are 5 years and going strong. I want to save money but am reluctant to switch due to cost and risk of light failure, and the fact that i'll hate the light quality.

LED's come in all different colors... is there no warm color on the market?

Cromacster

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LED's come in all different colors... is there no warm color on the market?

There are LED's that come in the warm colors.  Home Depot has quite a few that fall in the 2700k range sold as soft white I believe.  They also have Daylight options, which is more white and industrial.

StarswirlTheMustached

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Weird that everyone is having CFLs burn out so frequently.  I've been using them for more than 10 years everywhere in our house, and think I've only replaced one.  We would regularly go through about 3-4 incandescent bulbs each year.

My theory: they don't make 'em like they used to. 10 years ago, CFL bulbs were very high quality to convince early adopters.
Anecdote: The last CFL I bought failed in a matter of months.  Maybe quality control is just not what it used to be.

Alternate theory: power quality. Have you seen the ballast circuitry in a CFL? It's doesn't look like it'd stand up to abuse very well. If you've got a good, clean constant-voltage sine wave coming off your line, then you're probably going to have a longer-lasting bulb than if you've got a noisy, clipped or wandering waveform. I don't suppose Jamessqf and I.P. Daily have oscilloscopes, though.

Alternate theory #2: CFLs hate humidity. (they used to advise never to put them in a bathroom, for example.) Where are you guys? Could climate have an effect? They also hate overheating, and fixtures can play a big role in that.

infogoon

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Regarding CFLs burning out: I have tried every brand I can source locally. I have some that are probably 7-10 years old that still work. But in the last 7 years, I have had at least 20 fail FAR earlier than they should- like shorter than an incandescent.

Me too. The discount store-brand ones seem to be the worst offenders. The build quality just isn't there.

GuitarStv

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Interesting.  I doubt very much that it's power quality related . . . our house has constant brown outs and power outages over the year.  I've got a power conditioner for my recording stuff that measures wall voltage and it bounces between 120 - 130 pretty regularly.  Considering that we replace them so rarely maybe it's worth paying for middle of the line ones rather than discount bulbs the next time we need to buy some new ones.

DougStache

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DougStache's friend might be a bit nutty, but at least he isn't as nutty as DougStache himself for trivializing the dangers of CFLs in the first place.
I had no idea the mercury in CFL's was a real thing to be concerned about; I assumed it was another thing Fox News told people to illegitimately be afraid of.

Thank you everyone for contributing to this thread.

Jamesqf

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We've repeatedly been down this road before... I pull out documentation, you dismiss it for X reason, you provide no documentation...

(sigh) As I believe I've said several times before, this is a discussion forum - that is, the on-line equivalent of casual conversation - rather than an academic journal. 

Besides, you've indicated that on this subject you've already seen any documentation I could produce, and dismissed it as "...the shiny happy CFL stats that are always waved around by environmentalists...", so what purpose would be served by going into a link & reject loop?

Quote
Nothing I have said is difficult to confirm as factual and much of the evidence can be replicated with very little effort and money to crunch the numbers yourself.

But I AM conducting my own ongoing study of CFL lifetimes (and indirectly of energy use), and have been for 20-25 years.  I've reported the results here, you say your experience differs.  So it seems to me that the interesting question is why we're getting such different results.

Quote
Get a Kill-A-Watt and a light meter and experiment with some bulbs.


Why go to that length?  Here's a simple experiment you can probably do at home.  Get one of those pole lights with 3 fixtures.  Put in an incandescent bulb, a CFL, and a good LED of the same rating.  Turn them on, and in a few minutes feel the fixture.  The LED will be barely warm,  the CFL almost hot, and the incandescent too hot to touch.  That should tell you everything you need to know about energy efficiency.

Quote
Investigate the working conditions of these CFL factories and the mercury poisoning rates in the populous surrounding them, as well as research into the power source these factories use (it's coal, by the way) to manufacture these bulbs in the first place.

Are you under the impression that incandescent bulb factories don't run off the same electric grid?  Or that mining tungsten & the other materials that go into incandescents don't produce their own emissions?

Quote
Look into the difference in natural resources and raw materials...

It's been done.  What did you say? "...the shiny happy CFL stats that are always waved around by environmentalists...", no?

Quote
CFLs aren't induction lamps, they don't have replaceable ballasts, they're sealed units with cheap Chinese electrolyte capacitors stuffed into a tiny area that runs very hot, and they can't survive anywhere close to their rated lifespan...

But in my house, they do.  Why?

Tyler

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IMHO, offering new technologies that provide added benefits worth the extra cost is great. Banning their competition is stupid and authoritarian.  Truly superior products don't require such hand holding.


GuitarStv

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Wait . . . are they actually banning incandescent light bulbs?  I thought they would have just banned bulbs that produce a certain amount of light for a certain amount of power . . .

What if someone creates an ultra efficient tungsten bulb?

Elyse

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Are you under the impression that incandescent bulb factories don't run off the same electric grid? 

Actually... many factories do have their own grid.  I work a lot on a power station inside of a papermill.  We generate a lot of our own electricity. 

No idea if these other places do this or not, but it isn't that unlikely.

Posthumane

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Wait . . . are they actually banning incandescent light bulbs?  I thought they would have just banned bulbs that produce a certain amount of light for a certain amount of power . . .

What if someone creates an ultra efficient tungsten bulb?
Not sure about the exact nature of the ban in the USA, but in Canada they ARE in fact simply enacting a standard on the minimum luminous efficacy of bulbs sold for household lighting that put out a certain amount of light. The standard can be found here:
http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/regulations-codes-standards/products/6869

So, if someone makes a really efficient incandescent bulb they will be allowed to sell if for household lighting purposes. In fact, I believe some halogen bulbs already meet this standard and therefore can be sold, but they are more expensive than traditional evacuated glass tungsten filament bulbs.

I.P. Daley - are you able to provide an estimate of how much light output you are actually getting from your incandescent bulbs which you are running below rated power? I agree with you that most people can get by with a lot less light than they currently use and I try to reduce the amount of light that I use in my home as well. I've always been under the impression though that I could replicate the amount of light from a 25 W incandescent using 1-2 W of power from an LED. With that difference in energy use the bulbs would have to last at least 400 hours for every dollar difference in price between the two of them to make using LEDs worthwhile.

Daley

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I.P. Daley - are you able to provide an estimate of how much light output you are actually getting from your incandescent bulbs which you are running below rated power? I agree with you that most people can get by with a lot less light than they currently use and I try to reduce the amount of light that I use in my home as well. I've always been under the impression though that I could replicate the amount of light from a 25 W incandescent using 1-2 W of power from an LED. With that difference in energy use the bulbs would have to last at least 400 hours for every dollar difference in price between the two of them to make using LEDs worthwhile.

Most of my general lighting is thus:

43W 750 lumen Philips EcoVantage, 1000 hour rated, single phase rectifier dimmer (cheap selenium hi/lo/off switch)
Dimmer stats: 24.8W, 0.91PF, 27VA, ~330-380 lumens-ish (I don't have a pro digital meter, but the crappy Android light meter apps report this ballpark range with the light sensors). Room brightness is about perceptively equal to a traditional tungsten 40W, but a touch warmer in color. Math says it should only be 240 lumens, but it's definitely brighter than that. *shrugs* Should clock in around a 76k hour lifespan, again by the math. I have yet to have a cheap 1000 hour tungsten bulb blow on a dimmer since making the changes. Like I've said, I've got some on dimmers pushing 10k hours. One bulb well located in a 10 by room with white/light walls is plenty for general lighting. Task lighting may be necessary depending on proximity to the bulb and involved task.

We've got a couple of the 29W EcoVantages on the same dimmers for our bedside tables. I can't remember the numbers off those. It's not bright, but I can read by it if I'm in direct light... but my corneas also haven't hardened and gone yellow yet.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2014, 08:11:42 PM by I.P. Daley »

BlueMR2

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I had no idea the mercury in CFL's was a real thing to be concerned about; I assumed it was another thing Fox News told people to illegitimately be afraid of.

Well, the amount in CFLs is enough to violate limits, but are the limits anything to be concerned about?  My parents and grandparents (and presumably most of those generations) all got to play with mercury in chemistry classes in school.  As in, directly handle (no gloves) liquid mercury.  Hasn't exactly been an epidemic of mercury related poisonings amongst those age groups and they're living longer than ever...

Spork

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Weird that everyone is having CFLs burn out so frequently.  I've been using them for more than 10 years everywhere in our house, and think I've only replaced one.  We would regularly go through about 3-4 incandescent bulbs each year.

My theory: they don't make 'em like they used to. 10 years ago, CFL bulbs were very high quality to convince early adopters.
Anecdote: The last CFL I bought failed in a matter of months.  Maybe quality control is just not what it used to be.

Alternate theory: power quality. Have you seen the ballast circuitry in a CFL? It's doesn't look like it'd stand up to abuse very well. If you've got a good, clean constant-voltage sine wave coming off your line, then you're probably going to have a longer-lasting bulb than if you've got a noisy, clipped or wandering waveform. I don't suppose Jamessqf and I.P. Daily have oscilloscopes, though.

Alternate theory #2: CFLs hate humidity. (they used to advise never to put them in a bathroom, for example.) Where are you guys? Could climate have an effect? They also hate overheating, and fixtures can play a big role in that.

hypothesis #3: CF bulbs were never designed to work with the Edison screw pointing up.  A whole lot of house lighting is made this way: bulb pointing down, screw pointing up. 

hypothesis #4: Similar to your "alternate theory" -- they've been making regular old incandescent bulbs for a really long time.  They've got it figured out.  They generally overbuild them (because voltage that's supposed to be 120v is very normally 120-125v.)  And if you pay a few pennies more, you get 130v lights (that will probably handle 140v or more) and last FOREVER.   I've never seen a 130v CF or LED ever.

I've got graphs of my power going back about 2 years.  I've never seen my voltage as low as 120v.  In fact, my average over the 2 years is 123.5v.   My (downpointed) CFs last about 6 months.  My 130v incandescents are still chugging along after 2 years.

scrubbyfish

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Regarding CFLs burning out: I have tried every brand I can source locally. I have some that are probably 7-10 years old that still work. But in the last 7 years, I have had at least 20 fail FAR earlier than they should- like shorter than an incandescent.

I have had the same experience.

+ 1.

When the government told me I would be an awesome earth citizen if I were to replace all my lightbulbs, I bought enough for every single one in my home and my two rental suites. At that time, they were $7 each. After a couple of months, and within days of each other, three of them "popped". I don't have the lingo for such things; all I know is that they made a sudden sound that caught everyone's attention, then sent an acrid smelling smoke out. An electrician looked at the bulbs, the fixtures, and my electric system, and could not make out what the heck had happened. I replaced all the bulbs back to what they had been: long-working, low-cost, non-popping incandescents.

I'm glad for it now, though, because I can't stand the lighting from the CFLs (ditto 'natural light' incandescents). Here's what I do now: I buy the "soft white" incandescent bulbs I love in a low wattage, fill only about 1/4 of the fixtures in my little home, and sit in utter delight at the warm ambient -and entirely sufficient- lighting.

When a friend was visiting recently, she realized I was perfectly happy for some lights to be on in my house, while desperately strategizing to keep other ones off. For the year I have lived in this suite, I had thought it was the placement of the fixtures that was the source of my woes; she pointed out that the type of light was different. Huh? Sure enough! I changed the bulbs and now we're all happy: guests have light in the degree and locations they like it, and I have the type that leaves me feeling warm and peaceful. Oh, us funny sensitive types ;)

GuitarStv

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Wait . . . are they actually banning incandescent light bulbs?  I thought they would have just banned bulbs that produce a certain amount of light for a certain amount of power . . .

What if someone creates an ultra efficient tungsten bulb?
Not sure about the exact nature of the ban in the USA, but in Canada they ARE in fact simply enacting a standard on the minimum luminous efficacy of bulbs sold for household lighting that put out a certain amount of light. The standard can be found here:
http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/regulations-codes-standards/products/6869

So, if someone makes a really efficient incandescent bulb they will be allowed to sell if for household lighting purposes. In fact, I believe some halogen bulbs already meet this standard and therefore can be sold, but they are more expensive than traditional evacuated glass tungsten filament bulbs.


Well, I looked it up since nobody else seemed interested in doing so.  Hey Americans, good news!  Nobody is banning incandescent light bulbs!

http://energystar.supportportal.com/link/portal/23002/23018/Article/24835/I-hear-incandescent-light-bulbs-are-being-phased-out-Is-that-true

Quote
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (the “Energy Bill”), signed by President George W. Bush on December 18, 2007 requires all light bulbs use 30% less energy than today’s incandescent bulbs by 2012 to 2014. The phase-out will start with 100-watt bulbs sold starting in January 2012 and end with 40-watt bulbs sold starting in January 2014. By 2020, a Tier 2 would become effective which requires all bulbs to be at least 70% more efficient.

This is actually a pretty sensible way of doing things.  What's being banned is inefficient lighting, not a particular type of bulb.  IPDaley, you can continue using incandescent bulbs as long as they're under 40 watts . . . which shouldn't cause you any concern at all since you're getting that level of output or less from them with your dimmers.  This legislation encourages innovation in energy saving lighting that should be provided by the free market!  It's like everybody wins . . .

ender

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Just FYI, the CFLs I just bought have rated lifespans of:

7665 hours (3-way, 7 years at 3 hours/day, $9/each)
9885 hours (normal, 9 years at 3 hours/day, $2.50/each)


I won't think about how much that cost to purchase :)

Daley

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Well, I looked it up since nobody else seemed interested in doing so.  Hey Americans, good news!  Nobody is banning incandescent light bulbs!

I already had in the past, thus my initial comment:

The thing that always gets me with this topic is that incandescents aren't disappearing under this law. What is disappearing is the traditional tungsten filament bulb, and only for general lighting fixtures (you can still get 'em for appliances). In its place, there are still new higher efficiency incandescent-based halogen bulbs for not much more per bulb. Yes, they're more expensive than the tungsten, but their filament life is considerably longer too.

I guess I was too obtuse, but I was basically trying to say the same thing you did.

This is actually a pretty sensible way of doing things.  What's being banned is inefficient lighting, not a particular type of bulb.  IPDaley, you can continue using incandescent bulbs as long as they're under 40 watts . . . which shouldn't cause you any concern at all since you're getting that level of output or less from them with your dimmers.  This legislation encourages innovation in energy saving lighting that should be provided by the free market!  It's like everybody wins . . .

Indeed it is, and I can even continue using incandescents rated above 40W so long as they're higher efficiency halogen or whatever other improvements that might subsequently be made... which I prefer anyway. When the price to switch is an unsubsidized $1.25 per bulb to make the upgrade to subsequently drop usage by another 20% or so... it may not make a significant dent in the lighting bill, but at the levels we use, no change would. It was simply a choice towards optimization and deliberately using less.

Tyler

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From the link:

Quote
By 2020, a Tier 2 would become effective which requires all bulbs to be at least 70% more efficient (effectively equal to today’s CFLs).

Meh.  Requiring all products to meet the technical requirements of one specific product (in this case, CFLs) is just another way of limiting competition.  This is precisely the way corporate lobbyists work in conjunction with politicians.  "I'm not banning your large soda, I'm just requiring that it meet the same volume content as the 12-ounce one that I happen to own a bunch of patents on." 

I'm completely supportive of energy efficient products.  I just am highly skeptical of government interventions into product markets.  There's always more to it than meets the eye.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2014, 11:08:44 AM by Tyler »