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Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL)… Ripoff?

No, I’m not chopping down rain forests to build a coal fired power plant as I type.

But this is something I came up with when asking myself questions like:    “Every place I see nowadays seems to have these compact flourescent lightbulbs to save power… is that right?” and “What is everyone missing here?”

Then I came across at least one answer.

Fr Wikipedia:

“Approximately 90% of the power consumed by an incandescent light bulb is emitted as heat, rather than as visible light.

A typical compact flourescent lightbulb uses around 1/4 to 1/5 of the power of a normal lightbulb.  But they also cost a lot more than a normal incandescent lightbulb.  So it takes a period of some years for them to pay for themselves… right?

Well, not if you place that lightbulb in a place that requires heat.   Like Canada or the north part of the US.  Because for every kilowatt hour being “wasted” as heat, that’s one less kilowatt hour you need to spend on your heating bill.

So in places that spend a lot of their time requiring heat to keep the space usable, the time required for energy savings to pay for the extra cost of the flourescent bulb isn’t measured in years, it’s measured in decades.   Or never, realistically.   Does that apply to outdoor bulbs, or places that never require heating?  No.   In places that have air conditioning, they’re performing double duty, putting out less heat that needs to be remedied by spending even more power on air conditioning.

So is it a scam?  Not at all.  But in many parts of the world and in many, many situations, it simply costs so much more than a normal incandescent light bulb, that what’s the difference?  As long as you’re losing money, who cares what the intent was?


(I’m sure there’s other factors, too.  I have a hard time believing that anything that requires 40-50 different components to function is going to last longer on average than something that contains 4 or 5.  Out of 5 indoor CFLs in my house, 2 of them have burned out this winter alone.)

One Comment

  1. Cilene says:

    this was a really quality post. in theory i’d like to write like this too.

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