I had the good-luck to attend an event last week sponsored by Home Depot to discuss lighting and more specifically, light bulbs.
Why? Because a law just took effect fazing out the old fashioned incandescent light bulbs. Some people like me, fearing the worst from the oft times ridiculous Internet rumors, have started hoarding incandescent light bulbs. After all, the Internet stories said that the new CFL bulbs, if broken, could leak enough mercury to make your house uninhabitable. I have a kid, so the worry that a Hazmat team would have to come into my home before my son could live here again, seemed all too real. After all, if it is printed on the Internet, then it must be true!
I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to find out the truth from the experts. Now, I understand they are selling a product, but they also had on hand a myriad of studies, done by 3rd party non-partisan groups, to allay my fears.
So I stopped hoarding. I learned that the amount of mercury in a CFL light bulb is close to miniscule, the bulbs are very difficult to break, and do not require a government Hazmat team to come into your home if broken. I would replace my very expensive rugs ($25 each) if the bulb broke on one of them as the cleaning would be more difficult in that situation, but we would not move out of the apartment.
And the real truth is I have not yet broken any bulbs in my house. I made it sound like bulbs were breaking around me all the time when these guys first spoke to me!
My fears were further allayed when they directed me to information to review at home, viewable here at Energystar.gov.
The new law has been clarified for me and it turns out incandescent bulbs have not been outlawed as I thought. The law is about making the bulbs more energy efficient and Home Depot even has a combo incandescent/halogen hybrid (as I call it) available.
Home Depot also has several lines of LED bulbs. I had never heard of such a bulb before this event. There is no mercury in these bulbs at all for those that are still nervous. And while these bulbs are more costly then the old incandescent bulbs, they also last for years longer. Like 10 years or more longer. Additionally, the whole purpose of these new bulbs is to save money. They all use less wattage and save you money on your electric bill, so while there is an initial outlay greater than the old bulbs, the cost savings adds up because of energy savings and less often being replaced. The bulb ends up costing less over its lifetime.
The additional lesson I learned is that watts are the power being used, not a measure of brightness. I kept asking for 100 watts of brightness. What I really want is lumens. What we consider 100 watts of brightness is approximately 1500 lumens. Lumens are the brightness measure or light output, watts are the energy used. At least that is this lay person’s interpretation!
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Disclosure: I received several CFL and LED light bulbs to sample in my own home.