A Philosopher's Blog

CFLs and Me

Posted in Law, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on March 12, 2011
Image showing both a fluorescent and an incand...

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By law, incandescent light bulbs shall no longer be allowed. This leaves CFLs and their brethren as the remaining options.

I first tried CFLs quite some time ago, mainly for two reasons. The first was that they were supposed to save money. The second was that they were supposed to last a long time. As far as the money savings went, I did not notice any real change in my electrical bill. This was no shock-after all, the savings are supposed to spread out over the life of the bulb. As far as lasting a long time, the damn things seemed to die far more quickly than my old light bulbs. Plus, they had some other annoying features as well, like a slow light up and they seemed to glow (like the colour out of space) long after they should fall dark. I also found out that they contain mercury. This means you do not want to have one break near anything you want to be free of mercury (like your body) and that you have to take them someplace special to dispose of them (like Pluto or Lowes). I did wonder about how much the burning of gas to take the bulbs back as they died would offset the savings in energy.

I am looking into LED lights, mainly because they are supposed to last a long time and save energy. Presumably when I buy some, they will either go off like flash bangs or shoot laser beams around the house.

Like many others, I am a bit sad at the passing of the classic easy bake oven-it relied on the inefficiency of incandescent light bulbs to work its magic. Like most girls, my sister had one and I remember the little cake things she’d try to make in it. No doubt they will come up with some new models-maybe one that can burn the mercury from the CFLs to warm the tiny treats.

I’m  okay with updating light technology, though. However, I am inclined to think that this should be a matter of choice rather than of law. After all, no one had to pass a law outlawing 286 processors or CRT TVs. As the technology improved, people switched by choice (well, that and planned obsolescence). Since I am a rational person, I want light bulbs that last a long time, save me money, do not harm the environment, and provide good lighting. I will, of course, buy the product that best matches my specifications.  This seems sensible enough.

Interestingly, however, the light bulb has become a political battle point with folks on the right lashing out against the law (which was signed by George Bush in 2007). They are casting it as a matter of liberty. As noted above, I think that relying on the market to replace obsolete technology seems preferable. However, I suspect that the motives of some folks fighting for the old light bulbs is not altruistic. Some have gone so far as to claim that the law is being fought so as to keep energy consumption and power company profits up. In any case, it is interesting to see such a battle being manufactured over light bulbs.

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18 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on March 12, 2011 at 10:07 am

    “However, I suspect that the motives of some folks fighting for the old light bulbs is not altruistic. Some have gone so far as to claim that the law is being fought so as to keep energy consumption and power company profits up.”

    What about the people who are getting rich forcing others to buy light bulbs that they don’t want? Why are you not suspicious of their motives?

    • magus71 said, on March 12, 2011 at 11:25 am

      All people who promote Greeness are pure and right. All others are fools.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm

      I am. As I was running today, that popped into my head like a light bulb. If we have to switch to the CFLs, then the makers of those products stand to make a nice bit of change. Also, I am sure there will be a profitable disposal business cropping up.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on March 12, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Via Instapundit: http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/116636/

    Somehow, I’m reminded of this quote from Robert Heinlein:

    Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.

    • magus71 said, on March 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

      Liberals are the most miserable people I’ve ever met. I’m not sure if it’s because the world disappoints them so, or be cause they have an inherant misery which tilts them toward liberalism. I suspect it’s the former. The liberalism gets bred in in college and the world never quite fits that equation so it causes a lot of existential angst.

      By liberalism I mean it’s current-day form; control everything and all people all the time and despise those doing better than most. Oh yeah–and let’s not forget to bash on the US in a disproportionate manner to countries that commit genocide.

      • Asur said, on March 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

        If you bash too much on the genocidal countries, they might kill you. Hitting problems at home is safer.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 12, 2011 at 1:53 pm

          True. A tolerance for criticism is one of our strengths. Countries that do not allow it, tend to suck badly.

          • magus71 said, on March 14, 2011 at 5:46 am

            “Within the intelligentsia, a derisive and mildly hostile attitude towards Britain is more or less compulsory, but it is an unfaked emotion in many cases. . . . English left-wing intellectuals did not, of course, actually want the Germans or Japanese to win the war, but many of them could not help getting a certain kick out of seeing their own country humiliated . . . ” ~George Orwell

            This goes for the American Intelligencia, too.

      • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm

        Wow, that is quite a loaded definition. I can see why such people would be miserable. Fortunately, there are very few people who meet that definition.

        • magus71 said, on March 14, 2011 at 4:59 am

          Just an observation. You yourself seem to be getting more miserable.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 14, 2011 at 3:48 pm

            Not at all. Have you seen my 5K times lately? While I am getting older, I’m actually improving my times. I’m rather happy about that.

        • magus71 said, on March 14, 2011 at 5:45 am

          And not at all, Mike. Besides my observations, it’s been proven in several studies.


          In 2004, 44 percent of respondents who said they were “conservative” or “very conservative” said they were “very happy,” versus just 25 percent of people who called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal.” (Note that this comparison uses unweighted data — when the data are weighted, the gap is 46 percent to 28 percent.)

          • Adults on the political right are only half as likely as those on the left to say, “At times, I think I am no good at all.” They are also less likely to say they are dissatisfied with themselves, that they are inclined to feel like a failure, or to be pessimistic about their futures.

          It doesn’t matter who holds political power. The happiness gap between conservatives and liberals has persisted for at least 30 years. Indeed, the difference was greater some years under Bill Clinton than it was under George W. Bush. Democrats may very well win the presidency in 2008, and no doubt many liberals will enjoy seeing conservatives grieving out about that — but the data say that conservatives will still be happier people than liberals.

          Several studies show the same thing for religious vs non-religious. Measured for 30 years and always the same results.

          If Aristotle is correct about the primacy of happiness, conservatives seem to be doing measurably better in life than liberals.

          Actually, I find the whole subject of liberal and conservative psychology. I stand by my observations that being a liberal is detrimental to happiness. And so does science.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on March 14, 2011 at 3:52 pm

            While the results are interesting, it is well worth delving into the causal factors at work. For example, it might be claimed that conservatives claim they are happier than liberals because they are less concerned about the plight of others who are not as well off. Then again, it might actually be the case that the conservative mindset is a causal factor in happiness and liberals are as sad as you say because the liberal mind is happiness defective.

            For Aristotle, happiness is a state of excellence in virtue. As such, more would be needed than people merely claiming they are happy. As Aristotle made a point of noting, people see many things as happiness (wealth, health, honor, and so on) and generally in error.

            • magus71 said, on March 15, 2011 at 1:05 am

              I’m aware of the weaknesses of any study of populations. However 30 years of this study are very convincing. That’s about as much as we could expect form any study of people’s feelings.

              This, combined with my personal observations, convince me it’s true.

  3. FRE said, on March 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    A couple years ago, I did considerable research on CFLs and traditional fluorescent tubes. The reason was that I was having a new house built and wanted good indirect lighting. Here are some of the things I learned.

    Every time a fluorescent light is turned on, regardless of whether it is a CFL or traditional tube, the filaments lose some of the electron emitting coating. The light fails when too much of the coating is lost. Thus, fluorescent lights have a longer burn life if they are seldom turned on and off. The rated life of CFLs assumes a certain number of on and off cycles; I don’t remember how many. Therefore, it is not appropriate to use them in places where they are frequently turned on and off; unfortunately, the law does not take that into account and the information does not appear on the package. You may want to hoard incandescent bulbs. The EPA recommends leaving CFLs on unless they will be off for at least 15 minutes.

    There are two numbers used to define the quality of the lights. One is the color temperature in degrees Kelvin. The higher the number, the bluer the light and the lower the number, the yellower the light. You can select the color you like by the color temperature number printed on the package.

    The other number used to define the light quality is the color rendition index, abbreviated CRI. Unlike incandescent lamps, fluorescent lamps do not emit a smooth and continuous spectrum. For example, a lamp could emit what looks like pure white light but be totally missing light in the yellow range in which case, in theory, yellow cloth could actually appear black. The CRI is a measure of the light’s ability to render colors accurately; it ranges from 0 to 100. Low pressure sodium lights are monochromatic and have a CRI of 0. A good incandescent light has a CRI of 100. High quality fluorescent lamps have a CRI of 90 or greater, but the ones typically used in offices have a CRI of 60 to 70 which is poor quality. If you want high quality light, you will not be satisfied with a CRI much less than 90. For traditional fluorescent tubes, the CRI should be printed, as a 2-digit number, on the package. For CFLs, if the number is on the package at all, it will be rounded to only one digit. Thus, you cannot be sure of the light quality when you buy a CFL. To get really high quality fluorescent tubes, it may be necessary to order them over the Internet since they may not be available locally. You can also get high quality CFLs by using the Internet. Try visiting the following:



    The amount of mercury in a modern fluorescent lamp is trivial. It seems odd that people are more concerned with the mercury in fluorescent lamps than they are with silver amalgam dental fillings which are about half mercury. Coal contains mercury, so coal-burning power plants emit mercury vapor. Using fluorescent lamps actually reduces mercury pollution, even if the lamps are improperly disposed of, because the amount of power they save reduces mercury emissions from power plants.

    Many CFLs deliver practically full output immediately when switched on. Older or low quality CFLs may light up annoyingly slowly. With modern electronic ballasts, traditional fluorescent tubes light up instantly and have zero flicker.

    Except for places where the lights are not used much, my house uses only fluorescent lamps, mostly traditional tubes. All are very high quality (CRI > 90) and I am very pleased with them. However, if you get mediocre fluorescent lamps, you may not like them at all.

    I hope readers will find this information useful.

  4. umesh bawa said, on March 13, 2011 at 5:30 am

    May be it’d be your illusion, but i think, that you need a revision for folly felony.. such like this one. you might be landed at wrong airport.. back to reality check it out… its something different..

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