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Which Came First The Chicken Or The Lightbulb? CBC Interview

Let's save the incandescent lightbulb.

Starring my pet chickens :)

In 2008 I did some research on the importance of the incandescent...

"CFLs need to be taken to a recycler, where the mercury is recovered, processed and sent out to be re-used. There are very few curbside recycling programs for these bulbs therefore it is estimated that only five to 10 percent are actually being properly recycled. Most consumers throw them out in the trash. Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the journal Environmental Research said, "This is an enormous amount of mercury that's going to enter the waste stream at present with no preparation for it."

Another hazard from the CFL bulbs may be to taxpayer's pocketbooks. In Brittan, where they offer better recycling initiatives, it costs approximately $1,300 to properly dispose of just one recycling bin of bulbs.

There really is no efficient, cost effective way to recycle all the toxic materials in CFL's.

One CFL bulb contains: Glass with a toxic phosphor coating, gas containing toxic mercury vapor, non-recyclable plastic housing, an aluminum screw base (recyclable), solder (recyclable), ferrite coils, capacitors, carbon resistors, epoxy coated circuit rectifier, transistors, non-recyclable epoxy coated components (circuit board, epoxy/paper composites), Copper (recyclable). For a total of 10 non-recyclable materials and 3 recyclable materials.

One Incandescent bulb contains: Non-toxic glass, non-toxic argon gas, Tungsten filament (recyclable), fine metal filament (recyclable), aluminum screw base (recyclable), ), solder (recyclable). For a total of 7 recyclable materials and zero non-recyclable materials.

Another issue is that studies show CFL's require 5.7 times more energy to manufacture than the incandescent bulbs.

What about saving energy?

This leads me to explain my interest in light bulbs. I never thought much of how a light bulb worked or why they burned energy until I got my flock of chickens. Anyone who owns animals that are in need of a heated pen will know that incandescent light bulbs are a great source of heat for animals. It is actually amazing how much heat is generated by a single 100-watt incandescent bulb.

The heat from incandescent bulbs it what burns the energy. 

Almost all of the energy consumed by any 
light bulb is dispersed as either light or heat.

CFL's produce less heat thereby reducing energy consumption. However, in cold climates we can benefit from the heat produced by incandescent bulbs. Using CFL's could actually increase the cost of heating your home in winter.

From what I have gathered, an incandescent lamp turns its electric power completely into heat. Even the visible light it gives off is actually thermal radiation. Incandescent bulbs create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. The efficiency of these bulbs is around 20%. This means that 80% comes off as heat. This would translate to a 60W bulb not only giving you a light source, but also acts like a 48W heater.

It also important to note that CFL's lose some of their energy efficiencies in very cold or very hot weather. Fluorescent lamps work best at temperatures between about 15° C and 40° C.

So in reality, if you live in a northern climate as I do, summer days are long and nights are cool. By the time you need to switch on a light bulb, you can also benefit from the extra heat. In winter, your thermostat regulates the temperature within your home, therefore the supplemented heat from your bulbs will be registered by the thermostat and you will use less radiator heat.

In a nutshell, my take on CFL's is:

  • They pose a health threat in home,
  • I question if they really are efficient, especially in northern climates,
  • They contain environmental toxins which can end up in our food chain, such as tuna,
  • The cost of recycling is too high,
  • Many are not being recycled properly,
  • And it is said that on a global perspective regarding energy savings, there is considerable energy consumed in manufacturing the complicated components of CFL's.

Learn more about Howard M. Brandston

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