On paper, it makes a lot of sense. CFL's are claimed to save $30 over their useful life, and save 2,000 times their own weight in greenhouse gases. But then you start looking at the fine print. You can buy a 60 watt incandescent rated at 20,000 life hours for $1.70, but, even at Wal-Mart, its equivalent CLF goes for $12.37, over seven times more costly. CFL's require more energy in their manufacture. Incandescents generate a lot more heat, bad in hot weather, but in cold more energy will must be expended to make up for the heat the CFL's don't produce. Oh, and don't turn CFL's on and off thinking you're saving electricity; it substantially shortens the life of the CLF bulb.
And did I mention the mercury? Break an incandescent bulb, and the worst part is making sure you sweep up all the pieces when you throw it away. Break a CFL, and your in Hazmat land. The presence of mercury in the air can exceed safe limits by 30,000%. Here's the State of Maine's recommendations for precautions to be taken if you break a CFL:
- Leaving the area/room and waiting 15 minutes after breakage before returning to begin cleaning up (mercury levels in the air will have fallen from their highest levels by then);
- Using a glass container, metal screw top lid with a seal, such as a canning jar, to contain the lamp pieces, powder, and cleanup materials;
- Immediately removing the lamp breakage from the home once containerized, especially if the homeowner did not have a glass container with a good seal;
- Continue ventilating the room for several hours;
- Suggesting that homeowners consider removal of the area of carpet where the breakage occurred as a precaution, particularly in homes with infants, small children or pregnant women;
- If carpet is not removed, the homeowner should consider ventilating the room during vacuuming for the next several vacuuming events . . .
Everything in me screams that CFL's are on the side of mother, God and country, but the march of politicians legislating, with a Talibanic smugness, the virtue du jour on the rest of us makes me wonder if they've thought the thing through anywhere past writing up the self-congratulatory press release.