February 3rd, 2016 by Glenn Meyers
My, oh my! How quickly times change in this modern, energy efficient era. Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) hit the market in the 1980s as an energy efficient replacement for the once-upon-a-time standard incandescent bulb.
Not so long ago, CFLs were sold as the easiest and cheapest replacement for the traditional incandescent bulb. LEDs are now a favored GE product.
GE has announced it will cease production of CFLs this year and instead switch its focus to producing LEDs.
A headline on the GE Newsroom site reads like a lover’s goodbye:
“Leave CFL in the Dark, and Light Up Your Love for LED”
“CFL, I’ll always remember the first time I saw your sweet spiral shape and the way you could light up a room. It’s bittersweet to admit that our relationship is over, but I can see clearly now that LED is my future, and my future couldn’t be brighter.”
GE reports that CFLs accounted for 30% of the US light bulb market in 2007, but 2015 sales sank to 15% of the total light bulb market. Thus it was high time to move on.
Energy efficiency aside, one difficulty with consumer acceptance of CFLs concerned the quality of the light they emitted, generally regarded as inferior to the original incandescent. Nor do the bulbs work with dimmer switches, a negative outcome for any desired mood lighting.
In addition, CFLs contain mercury, a toxic chemical. Ideally, CFLs were not supposed to be tossed out with the rest of the trash because of the toxic mercury they contained. Instead, the were supposed to be recycled. This might have sounded like a sound idea except trying to find a CFL recycler proved to be a task which rated high on the ‘nearly impossible’ list. Plus they were so small in terms of value. What recycler trying to generate a profit wants to spend the time extracting a minute amount of mercury and then resell it on the open market? Not to mention having to sort through all of those less-than-profitable slivers of broken glass.
There are few arguments about the overall quality of LEDs and their lengthy lifetime, except one: price. When the first LED bulbs hit the market, they were outrageously expensive. Now LED bulbs are considerably more affordable. Still pricey, but reasonable if considering how long they last.
Additionally, the US government introduced a new lighting specification this January, meaning “many CFLs will no longer qualify for the Energy Star rating, so it’s likely that other CFL manufacturers will follow in GE’s footsteps,” writes Darren Quick on gizmag.
The US Energy Star website states its certification means the product meets strict energy efficiency guidelines set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. “Lighting products that have earned the ENERGY STAR label deliver exceptional features, while using less energy. Saving energy helps you save money on utility bills and protects the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
ENERGY STAR Certified Light Bulbs:
- Use about 70-90% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs
- Last 10 to 25 times longer and saves $30 to $80 in electricity costs over its lifetime
- Meet strict quality and efficiency standards that are tested by accredited labs and certified by a third party
- Produce about 70-90% less heat, so it’s safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling