Category: Energy, Video

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

13 Responses to “So Why Haven’t CFLs Caught On?”

  1. agentlion says:

    10 dimmers/home? are you shitting me? Who did they ask – VC in silicon valley?

    They’re overthinking the issue – here’s why:
    When you walk into Lowes or Wal-Mart or RiteAid to get a new lightbulb because your kitchen is currently dark, and there are 3 times the amount of incandescents vs CFLs on the shelves, and the incandescents are significantly cheaper, it’s no wonder why the CFLs just sit there. (only the up front cost are cheaper, obviously – but that’s the only one that matters to most people making a quick decision)

  2. winstongator says:

    When you realize the CFL lasts 10X as long as the incandescent, and you can go 2+ years without buying a replacement bulb, and you don’t like those trips to Lowes to just pick up a couple bulbs, the CFL’s gain traction.

    I started with the bulbs that stayed on the longest – in the basement for the dogs during the day, outdoor lights we might leave on all night some nights, or the bulb over the oven we leave on nearly all the time. I also replaced the bulbs that were the most pain in the ass to replace. Soon after I started replacing everything and swapping out a couple dimmers (we only had 5 to start).

    Convenience and lack of replacing should be a bigger selling feature.

  3. ironman says:

    Despite the math that supports the cost savings for operation, CFL manufacturers have largely put inferior products on the market – you just can’t walk into a random store carrying CFLs and walk out with a lamp that puts out the equivalent quality light that an incandescent bulb does. Add their longer warm-up times and much-less-than-advertised life expectancy and you have a product that consumers aren’t excited about.

    And then, there’s the matter of the extra energy that’s required to support their use, which is not good for power companies. For every consumer paying for the 13 watts the typical CFL burns, the utilities are having to generate 28 watts to provide the electricity to run them. It could be that the utilities are subsidizing the inferior products they are solely for the sake of staying on the good side of the politicians who get campaign contributions from their producers and the environmentalists who front for them.

  4. ZenRazor says:

    Failure rate on CFLs is much higher than advertised. I’ve seen a few stories on the quality control issues. Two of the nine CFLs I installed failed within six months. Thinking that they would have extremely long lives, I of course installed them first in the most inconvenient places. It’s not easy being green.

  5. johnnyA says:

    Are these the CFL light bulbs be GE with all the poison Mercury in them? The ones that if you break one in your house then you have to call a HAZMAT team to come to apply a scorched earth policy to the premises? The ones that don’t give off a decent light?

    The ones that make you realize that CO2 measuring 350-parts-per-million in the atmosphere is such an insignificant number that you don’t want to bother w this $8 light bulb BS.

  6. NOOO_COMMENT says:

    Well, I’ve been using circular fluorescent lamps since 2001. UNLESS you turn ‘em on and leave ‘em on, they DON’T last but about 8 months. So, don’t put ‘em in the bathroom if you make frequent trips, and don’t put them in a closet you search frequently. If you leave ‘em on, they will last about 3 years.

    I even had the electronics on a cheapy ($1.00) CATCH FIRE, so I can’t recommend those.

    Also, if you like to listen to SW or AM radio, you can pretty much forget about listening to long distance stations. These little corkscrews full o’ Mercury will wipe out (via interference buzz) any hope of ever hearing anything but the closest stations, digital or not.

    The light color/temp has improved dramatically in the past two years, though.

  7. Agree with JohnnyA on the clean-up issue. I’m not sure anyone is really aware of the proper clean-up procedure but you can see it at – – “If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away.”

    Have you ever been inside a Home Depot or Lowes when one of the bulbs is dropped by a customer? They go into code red mode.

    Also, I’m not sure I buy the 10x life claim. I installed 20 CFLs around the house in 2008 and 3 have gone bad already.

  8. magellan says:

    Regardless of ones views about climate change, anyone with a calculator can figure out that a CFL is a better deal than an incandescent bulb by a longshot. I bet you can probably get a good idea of someone’s financial literacy from the ratio of CFLs to incandescents in their home.

    Also, as I understand it, the mercury emissions from power plants to make the extra electricity for one incandescent bulb will emit 4 times more mercury into environment than a CFL contains.

    Finally, as to safety, we all probably have products in our homes with 10-100 times the mercury content of a CFL. Examples include laptop lcds, thermostats, switches in appliances, switches in cars, and many more. Heck, most contact lens solutions use mercury as a preservative. The main thing with mercury and CFLs is to make sure you recycle them and don’t throw them in the trash.

  9. pglau says:

    He hits on the main points:

    CRI – color rendition is crap although getting better. Try putting a Compact Flash in your bathroom where your wife or girlfriend tries to put on make up and see how well that goes over… Most people can put their finger on the color quality issue, but they can sense that it’s not quiet right. (I do a lot of photography, so I’m hyper sensitive to it.)

    Longevity: I’ve found this to pretty much be a myth particularly in environments where they get turned on and off. Essentially, they’re little switching transformers and they don’t like the abuse of being turned on and off. The ones I’ve had as back porch lights (which are left on pretty much 24/7) last forever, the ones in my office hallway that get turned on and off seem to last less no more than 1 year.

    On the plus side where not ‘watt-for-watt’ equivalent in their ratings, they are certainly very efficient. If you really want false ‘wattage’ comparisons, play around with LED bulbs which are gross examples of false advertising.

    That said, with the coming of high wattage LEDs, I think the big move will be toward wide angle LEDs. Some of these new ‘high power’ LEDs are crazy bright. They do suffer from some of the came CRI problems but this is being worked on as well. (‘warm white’ LEDs currently last only a fraction as long as ‘normal white’ LEDs. Warm White LEDs are roughly equivalent to tungsten in color, ‘normal white’ are more like daylight balance which most people are not used to seeing in a household bulb.)

  10. jasonch says:

    I’m an infrequent commenter but a big fan of The Big Picture and Bailout Nation.

    As I’ve seen my power bill fall considerably as a result of switching to CFLs. A couple of years ago, I did a study and I calculated that with not very much usage (about 4 hours / day) these bulbs pay for themselves within 3 months. I’ve experienced a failure rate of probably around 10%.

    Here’s a shameless link to an interactive visual model that I built that I think you’ll like:

  11. as has been pointed out, above, the Quality of the Light, from “Fluorescencents”, anywhere found, including CFLs, is atrocious.

    the Hg issue is little publicized, either the CFL-source, or the Coal-Fired eGen-source, which, to me, is one, the great many, Failings of this currents crop of “Greens”..

    and, Contra to the Idea that the Incandescent/CFL ratio is indicative of Financial literacy, I would say that that ratio is indicative, rather, of those who continue to confuse Finance for Economics, and, secondarily, those that do not understand the systems architecture that is surrounding them, their usage of it, and how CFLs, contrary to Mad Ave., are not 1 for 1 replacements for Incandescents.

    pglau, above, brings up LEDs, and does well for doing so. going forward, b/c of LEDs, Optics, both in Lenses and Coatings, will be a growing segment of the Economy. They, way moreso than CFLs, will be the star of a well-lit and more Efficient atmosphere, for us all.

  12. drollere says:

    correct answer: it’s in the correlated color temperature. “daylight” color has a cct of around 6500, while most incandescents have a cct below 3000.

    the human eye generally does not like “dim” light, such as delivered by the typical indoor light fixture (around 50 lux), to be “blue”. incandescents are a yellowish light, and this is very attractive, even at very low illuminances.

    also, fluorescents are not genuine broadband or near blackbody radiators, they generally have spiky spectral profiles that distort color rendering — those puce drapes, for example ….

  13. Brendan says:

    While there are several issues with the CFLs, I’d list the first three in this order: 1. Quality, 2. Quality, and 3. Quality. Like most more advanced devices, it’s better than it’s predecessor if, and only if, you’re buying a quality product. Incandescents will still have their place, but the reality is that most people don’t need them. There needs to be more stringent quality control, and the companies that make false claims need to be prosecuted (there are plenty out there). The problem is that we let any piece of Chinese crap go on the shelf virtually unregulated, which is inevitably the cheapest model, and thus the first version of the product that anyone tries. That’s not to say that everything the Chinese make is crap, but the Chinese will sell you crap if you let them, and we sure do let them when it comes to CFLs. The same is true for no-name lithium-ion batteries. There still isn’t enough competition from North American or European manufactures to keep them honest (by the American definition of honesty… it’s a cultural thing). That’s quickly changing now that Australia (who will want a quality Chinese product) is due to ban them next year and our neighbors to the north and California are phasing in the ban on incandescents by 2012. I suspect there will be a lot more players in the North American market, now. Wider adoption = more competition. So of course many have had a disappointing first experience when they buy their first budget CFLs. And now we want people to try them again? Without forcing it, fat chance. To paraphrase Dubya, fool me once, shame on you, fool me… uh… you don’t get fooled again. Well, you know what I mean…

    I have good quality CFLs on all of my lights that aren’t dimmed, except my laundry room light, which is only on for a few minutes at a time and gets switched on and off a lot and is not practical to change without changing the fixture. After buying three different brands, I’ve learned that you have to do your homework. I know that dimmable CFLs exist, but I haven’t taken the time to research which ones are good, which, due to the reasons above, is necessary. I’ve had all of these for several years, and have had only two fail. The first was my fault (I put it on an outside light that had a dimming photosensor that I was unaware of, and it died instantly; removing the photosensor I haven’t had another problem). The second bulb was one that my GF got for free on earth day at the university campus where she works; that one lasted about 2 days because it was cheap junk (made in China, of course) they were giving out for free. You get what you pay for.

    Oooh, and I heard if you rub a the tube of a CFL that burnt out from use, the genie, exhausted from creating all that light, will pop out and pay your electric bill. Of course that might also be a wives tale, like about half of the posts here.