Old Stone House

Change your light bulbs already!

January 21, 2008

Filed under: Energy Savings @ 8:59 am

cfl.jpgOver the past few weeks Project Porchlight has been distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs to local churches, community centres etc., and offering a free 13w/60w light bulb to all families. The goal of the project is to help encourage homeowners to think green, and to save energy. Project Porchlight asserts that if every Canadian household changes only one light – their “porch light” – to a new CFL, the energy savings will be the equivalent to removing 60,000 cars from the road.

Over the course of this campaign, my household has shamelessly managed to collect 7 bulbs. We’re not being greedy, nor are we looking to take more then our fair share. Every time we’re offered a bulb, we explain that we already received one, but everyone insists that we take another – so long as we promise to use it – so, little by little our house is becoming incandescent free. We’ve already changed the obvious “high-use” bulbs, but these new bulbs are finding their way into closets, cellars, etc. – the lights we use less frequently. (But accidentally leave on for 3-4 days)

This campaign got me to thinking about my very own neighbourhood, so with dog and leash and hand, I decided to survey our community and go for a late night walk. I was surprised, and disappointed, by what I found. During my walk I found that 1 in 3 houses leave their outdoor light(s) on all night long. Of those, NOT ONE was a CFL… Admittedly, I’m shocked. Our neighbourhood is made up of all sorts of people from all walks of life, and I would have guessed that there would have been more people taking advantage of the savings these bulbs offered, but alas, not a single bulb. Of course I considered other factors – perhaps those people who are environmentally conscious aren’t leaving the lights on in the first place, but for those who are, have they had their head in the sand for the last few years?!

I’ve also noted that as of late, people have been joyously informing environmental pundits that CFLs contain harmful mercury – and that ‘their’ wonderful light bulbs are no better for the environment. (I think this is garbage as a CFL has less mercury in it then a tooth filling, and the amount of coal burned to power the equivalent incandescent bulb will produce more mercury gas then the CFL) Sure, you need to be more careful when disposing your CFL (in 10 years!), but aren’t we used to our blue box programs yet? As well, there are reports that CFLs are a fire hazard. Apparently when they burn out, they release a small trickle of smoke as their internal fuse blows. All of the major safety authorities have approved the fixtures, and the smoke is a sign that the light won’t start a fire – the fuse is doing their job. Yet people are convinced the bulb is going to burn their house down. Right – let me get this straight – you have 2 100w light bulbs in an enclosed glass fixture on the ceiling, but the low-heat CFL is going to torch your house? Ever own an easy-bake oven?

Anyway, I’m stumped. Sure, if green choices are a hassle or are costly I understand why people aren’t quick to change – but free light bulbs that save money?! C’mon – what is wrong with people…

Change your bulb already.


  1. Well said! I like the new bulbs. They save you money AND are good for the environment!

    Comment by Sandy — January 21, 2008 @ 9:44 am

  2. People can be frustrating! We, too, have been slowly converting all of our bulbs to CFLs as they burn out. I think the only ones left are in the study that never gets used!

    Something to think about CFL’s in outside use is that their life substantially decreases in the cold. They still use less energy, but a CFL that is used in the cold may have a life similar to a standard bulb. Perhaps that is why you aren’t seeing them on actual porches? Hopefully everyone is using them SOMEWHERE! FYI… I do have a CFL on my front porch in COlorado. It has lasted over a year so far.

    Mercury is a big issue, too… we should be taking the manufacturers to task and making them take some responsibility for easy recycling disposal. Right now in the US, at least, the only way to properly dispose of one is to PAY to have it disposed of.

    Now… I still think the benefits outweigh the costs… but we need to be taking care of the costs, too! And kudos to that group for giving them out free!

    Comment by Jennifer — January 21, 2008 @ 11:45 am

  3. Agree with you – not ‘happy’ about the mercury, but it’s a rather incidental cost with regards to the big picture. The bulbs they are giving away state that for outdoor use they should be in an enclosed fixture, and minimal operating temp is -15. I’ll let everyone know when the first one burns out!

    Best – M.

    Comment by Oldstonehouse — January 21, 2008 @ 11:52 am

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