Switching To Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Saves Energy

April 27th 2007
Switching To Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Saves Energy

One way to reduce your energy bill is to install more efficient light bulbs and by by 2012 the federal government will expect all homeowners to replace standard incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs to reduce greenhouse emissions and save energy.

Some facts about fluorescent light bulbs

Here are some facts about compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), the energy-efficient light bulbs set to replace traditional incandescent light bulbs by 2012:

- CFLs last about eight times as long as incandescent bulbs, about 10,000 hours. They only need to be replaced every five to six years.
- Replacing a 100-watt incandescent bulb with a 25-watt CFL will save approximately $30 in electricity over the life of each bulb.
- Save homeowners up to $60 annually in electricity costs.
- CFLs use about 66% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light.
- Use a different technology so the bulb doesn't get hot when in use.
- Give off light that looks much like the common incandescent bulbs, not like the "cool white" fluorescent lighting we associate with hospitals and schools.
- Although CFLs are initially more expensive, they are money-savers in the long run because they use less electricity and last longer.
- By consuming less electricity CFLs reduce air and water pollution.
- Contain slight traces of mercury. Major manufactuers and retailers are arranging for recycling drop-offs as the bulbs gain popularity.

Questions & Answers:

Can I place fluorescent products in with my regular household trash?
The Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD), along with other municipalities, will take a small number of your fluorescent lamps (less than 15 lamps approximately) with your regular household garbage collection. However, they recommend that you clearly mark or label them to help protect workers when handling glass.

What should I do to protect myself if a fluorescent lamp breaks?
As long as you handle fluorescent lamps with care, they are not hazardous to you. If a fluorescent lamp happens to break, DO NOT vacuum or sweep up the remains, as this will only spread the mercury into the air. Instead you should use a wet rag, while wearing gloves, to pick up the pieces. The rag and the pieces should be placed into a plastic bag and disposed of with your other household trash.

Recycling Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

How are compact fluorescent bulbs recycled?

The Lamp Recycler, the company that recycles the bulbs, utilizes a small vacuum chamber that is constantly rinsed with water. The lamps are fed into the machine and once in the vacuum chamber, the end of the lamp is broken open. The vacuum draws out the mercury and phosphorus, and cold water is used to keep mercury in its most transportable state, a liquid.

The glass is then crushed and the aluminum end caps separated and these items are sent for recycling. The end caps are then sent to local smelters, and the glass is used to manufacture light-reflecting paint for highways. The mercury and phosphorus are placed in sealed drums and sent for separation, recycling and neutralization.

How much mercury is in a compact fluorescent bulb?

As with all fluorescent bulbs, CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, usually around five milligrams or less. It is an essential part of what allows the CFL to be such an efficient light source. Just like paint, batteries, thermostats and other household items, CFLs should be disposed of safely. Mercury vapour will only be released when the lamp is broken while operating. Most lamp manufacturers offer a "low mercury" or environmentally friendly lamp. The green socket or end cap identifies these lamps.

Because compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, is it better for the environment to use incandescent bulbs?

No. Although fluorescent lights contain small amounts of mercury, they are far more energy-efficient than incandescent lights. Using energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs is better for the environment because they reduce greenhouse gas emissions from gas-fired generating stations, and reduce the need to build new generation facilities. Because they last about eight times longer, fewer bulbs go into landfills and less packaging is required.

Where can I recycle used CFLs?

In the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, there are now a number of retailers who will accept used CFLs at no charge for recycling. Visit BC Hydro's website under recycling CFLs.

Outside Lower Mainland
Check with your municipal waste management program for information on preferred disposal practices in your area.
If you are located in BC outside the Lower Mainland and would like to recycle your CFLs, please contact the Recycling Council of BC at 1-800-667-4321 throughout B.C.