“When you weigh the pros and cons of compact fluorescents, the mercury issue is important, but it should not deter anyone from going out and buying them because the benefits far outweigh the potential risks,” says Jeff Deyette, an energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington-based environmental group (www.ucusa.org).
First, compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) help fight global warming because they use less energy while providing the same amount of light. For example, a spiral CFL saves up to 75 percent in electricity cost in comparison to incandescent bulbs. Less energy use equals less pollution.
According to Energy Star, a program run by the Environmental Protection Agency, if every US?home changed out just one incandescent bulb to a CFL, the US would save enough energy to light three million homes, as well as prevent greenhouse gas emissions equal to that of 800,000 cars.
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Second, CFLs last longer, so you don’t have to replace them as often. Less energy use equals lower energy bills.
There are many different types of CFLs: spirals, A19s, G25s, and Deco/CCs are just a few. While most CFLs fit in every application, a CFL bulb can be larger than a standard incandescent bulb. Inspect your lamp shade, harp, and socket to ensure that your lamp can accommodate the CFL you’re selecting. When choosing a bulb, look at the watt equivalent rather than actual watts to achieve the brightness you desire. Also, read the package and make sure the CFL is made for dimmers, if this is the application you need.
All fluorescent lights contain a small amount of mercury — about 5 milligrams per bulb. In comparison, an older thermometer contains about 500 milligrams of mercury, about 100 CFLs-worth! Plus, using CFLs helps prevent mercury from being released into the air from coal-burning power plants.
In addition, the mercury in CFLs can be recaptured if the bulbs are recycled. Many municipalities offer free recycling service. For more information, go to www.epa.com, or call 1-800-378-6998 for waste disposal companies in your area. Also, Mercury Disposal Systems, Inc. offers lamp and battery recycling. You can simply order, fill, seal, and return a prepaid container. Your property will then have proof of recycling to show that you are in compliance with state regulations.