Compact Fluorescent vs. Incandescent

After reading about Wal-Mart's intention to push swirls to their customers, I broke out my own 4-pack of swirls that had been hiding in the closet for some time to start an experiment of sorts. Yes, those of you with a sense of humor can say that I…

After reading about Wal-Mart‘s intention to push swirls to their customers, I broke out my own 4-pack of swirls that had been hiding in the closet for some time to start an experiment of sorts. Yes, those of you with a sense of humor can say that I came out of the closet. Are you ready for me to continue?

You see, apparently someone at Wal-Mart realized that they typically have 10 models of ceiling fans on display, each with four bulbs, at something over three thousand stores. Then someone else did the math and figured they could save around $6 million per year by switching to swirls in those fixtures. That’s a lot of cabbage. Annually. Even for Wal-Mart, those pennies add up.

Now I don’t have a hundred and twenty thousand light bulbs (though it sure feels like it sometimes), and even so, I can’t really track these four bulbs against all the others in the house, but I decided it was at least worth checking out, so on Saturday I started my experiment just after writing my post.

According to the pack, I am the proud owner of a “Bright Effects Compact Fluorescent” model that will save $37 compared to the average 6-watt incandescent bulb, when rated at $0.10/kWh. Now I just so happen to track that rate, and I know that my kWh rate isn’t anywhere near that number. Over the last 4 years, it’s closer to $0.075/kWh. So already I’ve lost a quarter of the potental savings, and I’m down to $27.75, but that’s per bulb, and at $111 for the 4-pack, it’s not too bad if I can get it. I replaced the four bulbs in my office fan with the four from the pack.

Even though I had only been up for an hour or so, the 60-watt incandescent bulbs were burning hot. Well, the three that were lit. The one that had burned out (and that I hadn’t gotten around to replacing) was naturally quite cool to the touch. Even the metal housings over the bulbs were hot. It took me several minutes to even be able to remove the bulbs.

According to this article, a standard incandescent bulb has to burn as hot as 2,300 degress (Celsius, apparently) to produce 60 watts of light, meaning the glass can be 300 degrees – not sure if that one is Celsius or Fahrenheit. In either case, it’s hot was hot. The fluorescent, meanwhile, runs much cooler, reaching perhaps 100 degrees.

My initial reaction is wow.

The first thing I noticed is that these swirls provide a ton more light than the incandescent bulbs did. Part of the reason is that there are now four (working) bulbs in the fixture, rather than three working bulbs and one non-working bulb. But I’m pretty sure that it’s more than that, and that the fluorescent are just giving off better light. That alone may make it worthwhile, at least in the office where I sit all day. For a closet, where the light is on for a few minutes here and there, it’s less of an issue.

The second thing I noticed is the heat (or lack thereof). Actually I noticed this when switching the bulbs. But even as soon as I sat back down, I was almost chilled. It’s not that it was cold in the house, it’s that the light fixture was just giving off that much heat. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t. Even after it had been on for a while with the new bulbs, they were warm to the touch (but not like before).

I wouldn’t want to keep my hand on them – but they just don’t radiate heat as they had been with the standard incandescent variety. The incandescent bulbs almost burned – like a small heater. I’m amazed at the amount of heat they were putting out – not just to the touch when you went to change them, but actually put off when sitting below the light. Hard to believe how different it feels. And even more so that I didn’t notice it.

One reply on “Compact Fluorescent vs. Incandescent”

So far I have found the CFL claims bogus. I moved to PDX is 2003 and will have been in my house for 9 years in Nov 2012. All of the CFLs have been replaced twice in that period and now two in the guest bath are being replaced for the 3d time. I know this because the first set were light bulb shaped, the second set were round and it is the round ones that are burning out.

I see it as a transfer of cost as to where I spend my money. The Power Company does not want to pollute and build more coal fired plants so of course they perpetuate the myth of CFLs.

As a consumer, when I spend the extra $5 for CFLs that represents about 250-300 KWs of electricity or upwards of 5000 hours of burn time at 60 watts or 25,000 hours at 12 watts. That would mean in my guest bath with two sets of lights 10,000 hours or about three hours a day of the lights being on to break even. I doubt if the lights are on more than one hour per day but even giving it two hours per day. Thus the cost savings does not even cover the excess cost of the CFL.

And we have not spoken about the toxic mercury waste with the cost of disposing/recycling mercury. It starts with special handling and then special disposal. The incandescent light is primarily glass and metal and easy to recycle.

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