Lighten up!

As Earth Day approaches, I’ve been thinking of changes in everyday resource habits  that make a noticeable difference in terms of emissions and electricity use, and other than participating in single stream recycling at home, that habit has been extensive (not exclusive) use of compact fluorescent bulbs at home.

As with any new relatively new popular habit, many myths have popped up concerning their use, probably stemming from people not using them for what they were intended for: lighting spaces for extended periods of time.

I started using CFLs (only the GE brand, as that seems to be the one that I could find everywhere–Safeway, Target, Giant, True Value Hardware on 17th Street–on sale, often, purchased with a coupon as well) because I was tired of the nuisance of using incandescents for outdoor lighting. Having to screw in a new light bulb (especially in the back) every November/December/January/February (and it would be once a month, because that’s how often the thing would go out in the winter) gives you incentive to find lighting that lasts longer, so as not to have freezing fingers fumbling around with a light on a cold winter night.

Thus, the first CFLs I installed were the two outdoor lights. (Like many newer homes, you’re only supposed to use lights of up to 60 W in the fixtures, so it’s good to check the fixtures’ upper wattage limits.)

Then, one by one, I installed them (the equivalent to 40 W, although the 60 W equivalent is the most common) in various lamps inside the home. Lights which will NOT be installed with CFLs include the kitchen and dining room, because those lights are not on for very long (and rarely both on at the same time); the kitchen has the old-school fluorescent light on the ceiling, which is still going strong.

The other areas that will not be receiving CFLs are the bathrooms and the closet, for the obvious reasons that no one is in them for extended periods of time–if this is the case in your home or office, you have more than the lighting to worry about!

While I’ve been able to find GE compact fluorescents without problem, and they have worked in these relatively new fixtures without trouble, I wonder about the dimmable ones, as they seem to be more difficult to procure, even in the madness that is the Washington area. (I have yet to see them, in fact.)

Because CFL bulb prices have been dropping in recent years, it may be prudent to get one or two at a time, to have on hand to replace your incandescent when your it goes kaput (or for a bulb that tends to die at inconvenient times). After a number of lights are swapped to CFLs you may notice a difference in your electric bills, particularly in the colder months when the lights are on for longer periods.

The last issue, of disposal by recycling, is one that I’m delaying, if only because I don’t have enough spent CFL bulbs to justify taking them to be recycled, although more such places are popping up. (For now, the small box for that lone used CFL will have to do for storage.)


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