Q: What are my Energy‐efficient lighting choices?
A: Screw‐based 40‐100W incandescent bulbs that are currently available will not meet the new standards for energy efficiency and are being phased out across Canada. In British Columbia for example, they will only be available on store shelves until existing stock runs out. For indoor lighting, compact fluorescent (CFL), halogen (high efficiency incandescent), and light emitting diode (LED) lighting technology provide the best opportunities for consumers to maintain great lighting to save energy.
- Due to their affordability and availability, CFLs are leading the market for energy efficient residential lighting.
- LED technology is gradually meeting many of a home’s lighting needs. LED technology is still developing to fully meet residential lighting needs, but there is a wide range in bulb quality for current LEDs, and current products are not all created equal.
- Halogens use 30% less energy, dim, and have the same quality colour temperature and functionality as standard incandescent bulbs.
To ensure you are getting the most energy‐efficient option, and a quality product, always look for the Energy Star® label. Meanwhile, more efficient incandescent bulbs are being developed and will soon be available.
Q: What should be considered when buying CFLs?
A: There are a number of items to consider when purchasing CFLs:
- Energy Efficiency ‐ Above all the energy savings from replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs helps decrease the need for new energy generation facilities and the associated environmental impacts. CFLs use approximately 75% less energy and can last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs (about 8,000 – 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for incandescent bulbs).
- Colour Temperature – CFLs are available in a range of colour temperatures from soft white warm tones, similar to an incandescent, to cooler blue tones for reading. Finding the right colour temperature for the task will make the light both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
- Dimmers ‐ There are dimmable CFLs available that will work with dimmer switches and other automatic lighting controls. Do not use standard CFLs with dimmers or you could shorten the bulb’s life and risk breakage. The package will tell you if it is a dimmable CFL.
- Recessed sockets ‐ For recessed fixtures, check to ensure the bulb you select won’t jut out too far. CFLs cost more up front ($3 to $10 on average), but they quickly pay for themselves in two ways. Because they use much less energy, you’ll save on your electrical bill as soon as you start using them.
- Do I need an outdoor bulb? For outdoor use, ensure you select the correct CFL by reading the package carefully. Some CFLs can stand alone outdoors, without needing to be enclosed, others are made to be enclosed in a fixture. Some outdoor bulbs are made to work base up or base down specifically, read the packages carefully so you will select the right ones for the applications.
Q: Is the mercury contained in a CFL bad for my health?
A: The mercury that CFLs contain will not contribute to any health or environmental issues while inside the bulbs. If a bulb is broken the mercury vapour becomes airborne, Health Canada recommends opening a window and careful clean up steps some. For more information on mercury and your health visit Environment Canada’s Mercury Basic Facts.
Mercury is a natural element in the environment that can have adverse health effects if found in high concentrations. For these issues, it is important to dispose of CFLs properly. While an individual broken bulb as no impact, millions of CFL bulbs in use contributing significant energy savings need to be responsible managed through proper consumer care and manufacturer/distributor/retailer collection programs.
In a report released by Health Canada, research shows that: “CFLs as demonstrated by the test results do not pose a health hazard to the general population from either the ultraviolet radiation or the associated electric and magnetic fields.”
Q: What safe steps should is a CFL is accidentally broken in my home?
A: First – there is no need to panic! Most CFLs contain less than one‐hundredth of that found in a typical amalgam dental filling. The actual amount is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. In fact bulbs are now on market with lower mercury as low as 1.0 mg per bulb. As they do contain mercury CFLs should not be put in the garbage for disposal as the broken bulbs can release mercury into the environment.
Here are the safe easy cleanup steps to be taken if you break a bulb:
- Open a window and vacate the area for 15 minutes.
- Use a wet rag to clean it up and put all of the pieces, and the rag, into a sealed plastic bag or jar with a lid.
- Place all materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
- If it breaks on carpet, use sticky tape to pick up all the small pieces of glass. Put them into the sealed bags.
- Wash your hands.
- Contact your local recycling center to find out where to take your spent bulbs.
Q: Do CFLs increase heating bills?
A: Incandescent light bulbs are so inefficient at producing light, that 95% of the electricity they use goes towards producing heat. But it’s not efficient to rely on the heat created by incandescent bulbs to heat your home. The energy saved by switching to more efficient lighting will greatly offset any small increase in your heating bill. Draft proof and caulk your doors and windows and your heating bills will drop.
Q: If there is mercury in CFLs, is it more environmentally responsible to use incandescent bulbs?
A: No. CFLs use approximately 75% less energy and can last up to 10 times longer than standard incandescents (about 8,000 – 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for incandescents). Hence, fewer are required and energy savings multiplied. Today, manufacturers are producing CFLs with very low levels of mercury. If consumers return unbroken spent bulbs to their retail or local recycling depot, then there is no issue, just the environmental and financial benefits of energy savings. It is critical to dispose of CFLs properly to ensure that the mercury does not build up in the environment.
About Electro‐Federation Canada
Electro‐Federation Canada (EFC) is a national, not‐for‐profit industry association. EFC is the organization of choice to represent and champion the needs of the Canadian Electrical and Electronics market. Together, its councils represent over 330 member companies that manufacture, distribute and service electrical, electronics, and telecommunications products; contributing over $50B to the Canadian economy and employing more than 130,000 workers in more than 1,400 facilities across Canada.
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