Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Bright Idea?

There's been a lot of discussion recently about those compact fluorescent light bulbs (usually the swirly ice cream cone-looking ones, but I understand they also come in "normal" shapes). The New York Times reported this week that Wal-Mart in particular is setting a goal of putting at least one bulb in 100 million homes:
A compact fluorescent has clear advantages over the widely used incandescent light — it uses 75 percent less electricity, lasts 10 times longer, produces 450 pounds fewer greenhouse gases from power plants and saves consumers $30 over the life of each bulb. But it is eight times as expensive as a traditional bulb, gives off a harsher light and has a peculiar appearance.

As a result, the bulbs have languished on store shelves for a quarter century; only 6 percent of households use the bulbs today.

Which is what makes Wal-Mart’s goal so wildly ambitious. If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, total sales of the bulbs in the United States would increase by 50 percent, saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoiding the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes.

That would send shockwaves — some intended, others not — across the lighting industry. Because compact fluorescent bulbs last up to eight years, giant manufacturers, like General Electric and Osram Sylvania, would sell far fewer lights. Because the bulbs are made in Asia, some American manufacturing jobs could be lost. And because the bulbs contain mercury, there is a risk of pollution when millions of consumers throw them away.
There was a lot of discussion of this article in the blogosphere this week, with plenty of good comments available at Jane Galt (and a brief note from Instapundit). There's no clear consensus among the commenters; some love them, some hate them. There are issues with everything from the new bulbs taking a second to warm up (not useful in a place like a closet), not fitting in certain lamps, and having their lives shortened by putting them in enclosed fixtures. Some people's eyesight makes it difficult to read using them, and other people have gotten headaches from doing so.

Nevertheless, after receiving a larger-than-usual December utility bill in the mail the other day, I decided to take the plunge with the two lamps in my living room; I figured that if nothing else, putting one in the lamp that's on a timer (and thus runs about five hours a day) should help keep the costs down.

They've only been in for one night now, but so far, so good. It seemed a little easier to read under both lamps (I just tried it again a minute ago), and there was no headache issue for me last night after reading for a good hour under there. I know that it'll take some time to really tell a difference, but I may well buy some more as other things burn out. The thought of saving that much electricity (and having to change them only every five years) is definitely intriguing to me.

Has anyohe else out there tried these things yet? Please share your experiences in the comments.

Snowzilla: An Alaska man built a two-story high snowman in his yard for the second year in a row. Tourists love it. His neighbors? Not so much.

Hogzilla: An 1100-pound wild boar was caught recently in a neighborhood in suburban Atlanta.

Finezilla: A Michigan man finally returned an overdue book after 47 years, paying a late fee of $171 to the library for its trouble.

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