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Q: How many Durhamites does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: All 250,000 of us!

Compact Fluorescent lightbulbs use 75% less electricity, last at least 5 times longer than incandescent, and have improved in quality while prices have dropped!

What is a CFL?
A compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) is fluorescent lighting designed to be used in a standard incandescent light bulb socket. Because incandescent bulbs work by heating up a metal filament until it is white-hot, they produce mostly heat, which is why a fluorescent bulb using only 15 watts of electricity can produce light comparable to an incandescent hogging 60 watts.

How does a CFL benefit the environment?
Each 15-watt CFL, over the expected 10,000 hour life of the bulb, will save 450 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity compared to a 60-watt incandescent. If your electricity comes from coal-fired powered plants, this translates to a reduction of over 700 pounds of carbon dioxide (contributes to global warming), 1.5 pounds of nitrogen oxides (contributes to ozone and acid rain), and 4.1 pounds of sulfur dioxide (contributes to haze and acid rain).

Don't CFL's cost more?
Although a single CFL costs more initially, over the life of the bulb you actually save money....LOTS of it. CFL prices have dropped so much that just based on purchase price, they can be cheaper than same number of hours of incandescent lighting - without even considering the energy cost savings. Here's a comparison based on 10,000 hours of light (nearly 7 years if the light is on 4 hours per day):

  Fluorescent Incandescent
Energy Input (watts) 15 60
Light Output (lumens) 810 830
Useful Life (hours) 10,000 1,500
# of Bulbs for 10,000 hours 1 6.7
Bulb Costs 1 @ $2.00 = $2.00 6.7 @ $0.32 = $2.14
Electricity Used (kilowatt hours) 150 600
Electricity Cost (@$0.085 per kwh) $12.75 $51.00
TOTAL COST $14.75 $53.14
Cost saving from using a CFL: $38.39

Where can I use CFL's?
A 15-watt CFL is the same size or smaller than a standard incandescent bulb. It will fit almost anywhere an incandescent bulb will. Some higher wattage CFL's are bigger, so they may have some size constraints. Desk, table, and floor lamps are ideal locations, as are many indoor ceiling fixtures. Specialized CFL's are now available for use in recessed fixtures, outdoors and with dimmer switches. Obviously, the biggest energy savings will come from the fixtures you use most frequently. Also, bulb life will be longer with fixtures that are not turned on and off frequently.

Don't CFL's have drawbacks like an annoying flicker, odd-colored light and being slow to turn on?
Earlier versions of CFL's did have these problems, but they have been largely eliminated in the bulbs now available. Look for "instant on" and warm light options on the packaging.

Are there any issues about disposal of CFL's?
There is a small amount of mercury vapor in all fluorescent lights. Mercury is a toxic substance, but the amount in CFL's compared to all the other sources of mercury (thermometers, regular long tube fluorescent lamps, emissions from coal-fired power plants, etc.) is so little that it does not substantially contribute to the problem of mercury exposure. Theoretically, we should be disposing of all our used mercury-containing products by appropriate hazardous waste methods. So, after the long, long useful life span of a CFL is over, we recommend disposal with other household hazardous waste, such as batteries and paint.

How widely available are CFL's? Where can you buy them?
CFL's have recently become widely available and the prices have dropped dramatically. Lowe's, Home Depot, Costco and locally-owned Not Just Paper carry a wide selection; prices vary.

How about PTA sales of CF lightbulbs?
To arrange compact fluorescent lightbulb sales for PTA fundraisers, contact Jill Fulmer at Not Just Paper: 688-6886.