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The Truth about Energy Saving Bulbs (CFLs)

Although originally written for an Australian audience, this article contains a great deal of information that you don’t normally come across, and exposes the true reality of CFL use.  Like many governments worldwide, the Australian government made a push for the public to embrace energy saving light bulbs, otherwise known as CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light). …

The Truth about Energy Saving Bulbs (CFLs)

Although originally written for an Australian audience, this article contains a great deal of information that you don’t normally come across, and exposes the true reality of CFL use. 

Like many governments worldwide, the Australian government made a push for the public to embrace energy saving light bulbs, otherwise known as CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Light). Like many initiatives in the past, the government has rushed headstrong into something without doing their homework. If they had taken the time to do some basic research, they would have found that they probably needed to take steps to ban the globes instead.

But the fact remains that failing to promote or even ban CFLs would have been detrimental to the climate change scam and carbon trading theft schemes which they have been heavily promoting, so it comes as no surprise that the government has adopted their current stance on CFLs.

If you thought the global push for these horrid CFLs was disgusting, then the treatment of the clean and safe alternative incandescent globes which followed would horrify you. Many countries have imposed stricter taxation measures on non-CFL bulbs, but others declared a phase-out ban on the import and sale of incandescent globes. From Cuba, to Venezuela, Australia, Canada, Europe and the US, the global ban has spread around the world and paints a dim picture of the regard our governments hold our health in.

ENVIRONMENTAL FRAUD

Much has been made about the apparent benefits for the environment if all of the incandescent bulbs are replaced with CFLs. We have been hearing numerous statistics thrown here and there regarding how much energy will be saved by using CFLs, and in turn how much carbon pollution will be reduced by. However, these figures have just been accepted automatically, when conversely, a closer examination actually reveals that the quoted figures are nothing more than a myth.

Apart from the lifetime and energy reduction figures being fudged, there has been a range of factors ignored which involve other aspects of CFL production and waste processes. One of these factors is that CFLs require around forty times more energy in their production process, from importing different parts from all around the globe, to the mining of rare minerals. When you add these figures into the equation, it is clear that CFLs actually consume more energy in the long run and are much worse for the environment.

There is also the problem of CFLs containing on average 4mg of mercury per bulb. The extreme toxicity of mercury means that the bulbs are unsuitable to be disposed of in the normal trash. If CFLs were placed in with the normal rubbish collections, mercury will be released and cause air and water pollution when it reaches the landfills and waste incinerators. Remember that just one teaspoon of mercury is enough to contaminate a medium size lake, so the damage from CFLs would be unimaginable.

The mercury containing CFLs are such an environmental hazard that they need to be recycled separately. Many stores are now assisting this cause and providing CFL collection bins. The old globes are then taken to a recycling plant where the bulbs are crushed using negative pressure ventilation and a mercury absorbing filter, which essentially separates the mercury from the glass, aluminium and plastic.

Unfortunately, Australia only has one mercury recycling plant, which is located in Campbellfield, Victoria. The cost of transporting old CFLs to the Victorian plant is absolutely enormous and not considered when calculating the overall energy saving of CFLs. When you consider the extra energy required during manufacturing, energy and oil required to make plastic recycling bins, energy used for public promotions of recycling and the tremendous waste of fuel during local and long-haul pickup and drop-off to the sole recycling plant, it is clear we are using far more energy than these globes might save.

Although there is probably no energy saving whatsoever once these factors are considered; even if there is an energy saving, it only equates to a reduction in carbon dioxide pollution. Hailed as the cause of global warming, carbon dioxide emissions have now been proven to have no effect on the environment.

So any energy saving has no environmental benefit, with the net environmental effect being detrimental from the mercury contamination. Most Australians are too lazy to correctly dispose of the CFLs, meaning that the vast majority of old globes will end up in the normal trash and polluting the environment. Smart thinking tree huggers!

FUDGED FIGURES

When it comes to claims of extended battery life and percentage of energy saved, the quoted figures are blatant lies. Compounding the lies, inefficient and inaccurate testing procedures are used to come up with the government’s statistics, much like they do with the rest of their figures, including inflation and unemployment.

The testing procedure fraud is much like what happens in the laptop battery testing procedures. Most of us would know of the laptop manufacturer’s claims of six hours battery life, but when we purchase the laptop we find that the battery barely lasts one hour. This is to do with the fact that the tests are conducted using the absolute minimum energy use settings, which would never ever be used in real life.

Similarly, the testing performed on the CFLs is not performed under real-life conditions. One such example is the globes hours lifespan. At the moment, the tests are performed in an optimal environment and the globes are left on constantly to see how long they last. This test is unrealistic because the CFLs are extremely sensitive to a range of conditions which can severely affect their lifespan.

Probably the most glaring finding from independent testing is that CFLs are not designed to withstand turning the light on and off numerous times a day. The nature of their design does not take kindly to this natural everyday use, with one test showing that frequent switching on and off can reduce the lifespan by as much as 85%. The manufacturers know this and now recommend leaving them on for at least 15 minutes before turning them off, although in reality a much longer timeframe is necessary for optimum lifespan.

We all walk into a room at night to get something and then leave immediately, switching off the light. But now we have to leave the light on for 15 minutes, so how can this be good for the environment? The bulbs are also not designed for dimmable lights. Even the dimmable CFLs still can not cope with the dimming mechanisms and break quickly. We could previously use a light at half power, but we are now made to use full power CFLs. These are two critical factors ignored when calculating their ridiculously inaccurate energy saving levels.

There are also many more factors affecting the CFLs lifespan, such as voltage spikes, ventilation and operating temperatures. The bulbs can break easily during a voltage spike and are also extremely sensitive to both hot and cold temperatures. With the vast majority of Australian houses designed for air conditioning and sealed to keep out flies, mosquitoes and other bugs, instead of being made to suit open doors and windows and fresh air, the bulbs will suffer from poor ventilation.

The Australian summers are a nightmare for the bulbs life expectancy as they are just not made to withstand this sort of heat. Retailers have been hearing many complaints from customers who claim their bulbs didn’t last more than a few days. One public complaint website features users who claim that they need five times as many globes to last them a year. The bulbs are quite simply impractical and unsuitable for Australian use.

WHOSE BRIGHT IDEA WAS IT?

There have been many complaints about the brightness of CFLs, with many people saying that they can no longer see in the rooms they are fitted in. There is also the annoying point that the CFLs need time to ‘warm up’ and reach full brightness, with some brands taking up to a minute to reach full brightness, or even far longer in cold weather.

This would explain the dearth of complaints from the UK, where people can’t see the point of using the globes. At night they may momentarily enter a room and need the light on immediately. Two minutes of waiting for brightness means frustration and more energy wasted. In fact, the European commission has set guidelines declaring that the CFLs should reach 60% of their full light output within one minute. What a joke. Good luck when you need to rush to the toilet and cant see.

The ‘brightness’ is also a factor in another fraudulent claim about the CFLs energy advantages over incandescent bulbs, such as that they use 70-80% less energy. These claims are based on comparing an incandescent bulb’s brightness with that of a CFL and declaring an equivalent basis. For example an 11W CFL has been declared to be the equivalent of a 60W incandescent bulb.

However, independent testing has found these equivalents to be well off the mark; hence all of the energy saving percentages need to be thrown out the window. Even after a ten minute warm up, the 11W CFL was found to produce only 58% of the illumination of its ‘equivalent’ 60W incandescent bulb. It is even worse in cold temperatures, with CFLs producing far less light than in normal conditions.

Making these energy saving figures warped even further is the reduction in illumination over the CFLs lifespan. The bulbs can be expected to lose around 30% of their light producing power, with the fastest losses being experienced right after the CFL is first used. So instead of us using an 11W CFL to compare energy saving against a 60W incandescent, we may need to start calculating figures based on a 20 or 25W CFL in order to get an accurate representation.

The reduced brightness factors have been denied by manufacturers and CFL promoters alike, who have claimed that there is no loss of brightness and the globes are not affected by temperatures. But the European Commission has now conceded that this and other claims are not true, and that they have been exaggerated by manufacturers.

The manufacturer’s wattage listings have also come under fire, as they fail to declare power factor and ballast calculations. Osram has been the first to admit this point, with a representative claiming their 11W bulbs are actually closer to 18W, plus a further 2W for the ballast. The high frequencies emitted by the ballasts can actually interfere with other electronic devices and potentially increase their running costs as well.

The brightness issue, warm up times, not working in the cold, being forced to leave the lights on, power factor miscalculations and lack of dimming ability all reasons why many people have been complaining that their electricity bills have not come down after installing CFLs.

HEALTH DANGERS

The public campaigners warning against the dangers of using CFLs already number in their thousands and include many prominent doctors and scientists. The health risks have been swept under the carpet and people already suffering from medical conditions caused by CFLs have been ignored.

In response to the public concern, governments have made a small amount of admissions in order to quieten the campaigners, although they only relate to the ultraviolet emissions. It is well known that ultraviolet exposure leads to skin and retinal damage, and they have recommended that the public do not remain more than one hour in close proximity to the CFLs, as well as staying more than 30cm away at all times. They have also admitted that CFLs aggravate and worsen skin diseases such as lupus. These admissions are matched by the reports of doctors seeing an increase in patients complaining of stinging, burning, itching and red rashes when exposed to CFLs.

Ultraviolet light can ultimately lead to skin cancer, but it is other forms of cancer such as brain tumours that are more worrying since the government is yet to admit to the clear link. Partly stemming from their issues with mobile phones and their links to brain cancer, the governments of the world are still in denial of the clearly demonstrated dangers of electromagnetic radiation (EMR).

EMR exposure has been shown to cause a range of conditions such as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer, as well as worsening conditions such as diabetes and autism, and being a cause of birth defects and miscarriages. It is a serious issue that doesn’t get the attention it deserves, since admitting there is a problem would spell disaster for the global economy.

The EMR levels emitted from CFLs are indeed a cause for concern. A draft report by the Environmental Protection Agency in the US declared EMR as a class B carcinogen, joining its brothers DDT, formaldehyde, PCBs and dioxins in the dangerous category. With the range of health complications attributed to the EMR from CFLs, they should be banned for sale; not the other way around with incandescent globes being banned.

The CFL ballasts create further ‘unseen’ problems due to the high frequencies they operate in. Their frequency range of operation have been shown to cause problems in humans such as respiratory issues, headaches and migraines, extreme nausea, sleeping disorders, joint and muscle pain, as well as depression and anxiety attacks. Some CFLs are so bad that the EMR emitted can be detected by placing an AM radio near the bulb and listening to the resulting buzzing interference. The human body and its internal processes also experience the same interference from these deadly CFLs.

MERCURY MADNESS

The CFLs contain a reasonable quantity of mercury; one of the most toxic and dangerous substances known to man. Put simply, it is a neuro-toxin which disrupts the ends of our neurons and prevents the nervous system from functioning properly. If exposed to mercury which then crosses the blood-brain barrier, the victim can expect their nerves to disintegrate and they will almost certainly suffer from a mental condition.

Over in the US, the media recently reported the story of Brandy Bridges and her incident with a broken CFL in her daughter’s bedroom. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection then sent a specialist over to her home and declared the area contaminated. After a month, the area was still sealed off with plastic, much like a crime scene; and Brandy was still working to pay the US$2,000 cleanup bill from a local environmental clean-up firm.

The problem stemmed from the fact that it is almost impossible to remove the mercury from carpet. Vacuuming is not recommended, as it will spread the mercury throughout the house. Apart from being unable to remove mercury from carpet, the researchers of a Maine DEP study also found that carpet agitation, such as from young children playing, would instigate spikes of dangerous levels of mercury into the air.

We only need to look at the government’s official stance on cleaning up broken CFLs to receive a frightening message on the dangers of these bulbs. They recommend everyone leave the room for 15 minutes, following which the cleaner should enter the area protected with rubber gloves and a face mask. The broken remains should be swept up and the area patted down with paper towels, with the waste being stored and sealed in a glass container.

Death from mercury exposure is far from a rare occurrence, especially in the factories that make these deadly globes. Hundreds of Chinese factory workers have died making CFLs in the last decade. One of the worst cases was at the Nanhai Feiyang manufacturing plant, where almost 95% of its workers ended up in hospital due to serious mercury poisoning. Avoiding mercury is essential for our own health and also the health of the poor workers forced to make these abominable lighting devices.

IT REALLY HITS YOUR POCKET

The cost of converting your home to 100% CFLs is quite expensive. There are a lot of poor quality CFLs on the market and even these can cost around 10 times as much as a standard incandescent globe, with the better quality CFLs costing up to 20 times more. When you consider the aforementioned figures detailing that their actual lifespan can be five times shorter than the incandescent globes, you may be looking at an increase in your globe budget of 50-100 times.

The money is one thing, but quality of life is another. The spectrum of light emitted by CFLs is horrible to say the least. So bad in fact, that there have been cases of people being made sick by the colours themselves. Incandescent bulbs were designed to incorporate the full colour spectrum and produce light equivalent to that received from the sun. On the other hand, CFLs emit high amounts of light at certain wavelengths while at the same time producing none at an adjacent wavelength. This explains why so many people complain that the light is unnatural.

In addition to the strange colours, the ultraviolet light emitted from CFLs has been shown to cause more than just health problems. CFLs have been proven to damage textiles, paintings and furniture. Clothes generally contain light-sensitive dyes and colours will fade easily on exposure to light from CFLs. Another problem caused is polymer degradation, which results in a reduction in mechanical strength, effectively shortening the lifespan of all products and items exposed to CFL light. Colourless products have also been known to turn yellow.

Electronic items used near CFLs will encounter interference from the high frequencies emitted by the CFLs ballasts. Unfortunately this places a great strain on the components of the electronic equipment and undoubtedly leads to them wearing out before their time. Apart from this economic cost, many items will not operate effectively, with radios and mobile phones suffering the most.

The physical damage caused by CFLs and their ultraviolet rays has never entered any of the cost-benefit calculations between CFLs and incandescent globes. But if CFLs have been shown to damage household products and items and hence shortening their lifespans and increasing their replacement timeframes, can they really be considered as an economic advantage for your household?

DEATH OF COMMON SENSE

History has repeated itself once again, with the governments forcing people to have something they don’t want. It’s a wonder how these criminals get elected. When you consider that they are supposed to be acting on our behalf, why do they keep ignoring the public’s stance on these issues?

You don’t need to look much further than the reactions of people to get a true picture of the public’s opinion on CFLs. There have been rallies worldwide protesting their introduction, doctors going public on the health dangers, and numerous individuals purchasing massive stockpiles of incandescent globes. Any idiot can see that these are actions by a community desperate to keep their right to use incandescent globes.

So far, the New Zealand government has been the only government worldwide to listen to their citizens concerns. After initially proposing a phase-out of the incandescent globes by the end of 2010, they overturned the ban just a few months later and guaranteed the public a choice to choose which type of bulb they preferred.

If reducing greenhouse gases in exchange for the creation of toxic waste seems absurd to you, then you must surely wonder what the Australian government is really up to with its bans on incandescent globes. When you further consider that the globes may actually cost more to run in the long term and definitely cost more to purchase in the short term, in addition to the incredible health dangers, you can be forgiven for thinking that Australia is run by a bunch of lunatics.

Unfortunately, our government is infested by big business and they make all the decisions. The climate change movement and CFL introduction are now big money making industries, with the politician’s pals generally owning the companies that stand to profit from CFL introduction and other climate change legislation. Their close ties with the owners of the carbon trading scheme companies have been documented in the past, with an investigation into the beneficiaries of CFL sale, recycling and cleanup operations sure to show the same links to politicians.

At the very least, after all the CFL evidence is considered, it is clear that something fishy is going on.

1. CFLs are worse for the environment because:

  • Most Australians will be too lazy to recycle them and they will end up in our rubbish dumps, with the mercury they contain leaching into our water systems
  • The mercury contained in CFLs will pollute the environment far more any carbon dioxide saving from their use
  • Carbon dioxide is not a dangerous pollutant and has no effect on global warming

2. CFLs are worse for your health because:

  • They contain mercury, which is a dangerous neurotoxin
  • Exposure to mercury can lead to a range of different health conditions, mental illness and even death
  • Broken CFLs are required to be treated as a toxic spill
  • They emit ultraviolet rays, which can cause skin cancer, retinal damage and aggravate conditions such as lupus; as well as stinging, burning, itching and red rashes appearing on the skin
  • They emit electromagnetic radiation, which can cause multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer; worsen conditions such as diabetes and autism; as well as contribute to birth defects and miscarriages
  • They emit high frequencies from their ballasts, which can cause respiratory issues, headaches and migraines, extreme nausea, sleeping disorders, joint and muscle pain; as well as depression and anxiety attacks

3. CFLs are annoying because:

  • The light is sometimes too dim to see properly
  • They require time to warm up, which prevents the user from seeing immediately in the room they enter
  • The light is not natural and can cause vision problems

4. CFL lifespan figures are greatly exaggerated because:

  • CFLs lifespans are reduced if they are turned on and off, and as much as 85%
  • CFLs lifespans are reduced in both hot and cold weather
  • CFLs lifespans are reduced in poorly ventilated areas
  • CFLs lifespans are reduced by voltage spikes, which are frequent

5. CFL energy saving figures are greatly exaggerated because:

  • They have underestimated the comparison wattage with incandescent globes
  • They have not taken into account reduced light output in cold weather
  • They lose illumination rapidly after first use
  • The increased wattage stemming from the power factor has not been taken into account
  • The wattage used by the ballasts has not been taken into account

6. Using CFLs will waste more power because:

  • You should leave the light on for 15 minutes, even if you enter a room for 30 seconds
  • They can not be used with dimmers and must be used at full capacity
  • They use around 40 times as much energy in their production process compared with incandescent globes
  • Massive amounts of energy will be expended recycling old CFLs

7. Using CFLs will cost you more money because:

  • They breakdown easily and do not reach their stated lifespans, resulting in frequent expensive replacements
  • You are required to waste more power when using them, such as their failure to operate in dimmer switches and having to leave the light on for 15 minutes
  • You will spend time and money recycling the old bulbs
  • The overstatement of energy saving figures possibly equates to them costing more than incandescent bulbs
  • Couches, carpets and clothing will need to be replaced more frequently, as the ultraviolet light emitted destroys household items
  • Electronic equipment will need to be replaced more frequently, as the high frequencies emitted destroys electronic equipment
  • You will almost certainly be visiting the doctor more due to ‘unexplained’ illnesses and quite possibly suffer from a major disease or illness

The government cronies who have enforced the incandescent bulb ban need to have their heads examined. Maybe they have broken one too many bulbs and the mercury is causing a mental illness of some sort. Who knows? But one thing is for sure – CFLs are bad news for your health, your wallet and the environment.

Due to the reasons stated throughout this article, we highly recommend removing all CFL bulbs from your house. Old incandescent bulbs are still a great option, and if your country has banned them you can fortunately still purchase them over the internet. The bans have actually led to companies marketing and selling the bulbs as heating devices, and this is a novel way they can be purchased and imported into countries with incandescent bulb bans.

The latest technology is LED bulbs. They may have a higher per unit purchase cost, but they last an incredibly long time and are even more energy efficient than CFLs. In the long run, purchasing the LED bulbs will save you a lot of money, and free you from the negative effects of CFLs.

Adam Roth

Adam Roth

Adam Roth is a convert to Islam from Australia. His background is in finance and business management, but now specialises in online marketing.
Adam Roth

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