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Monday, October 27, 2008

Blue light 'til dawn

A while back, regular toilets that actually work were banned in the United States, in favor of the "low flow" specials that can't handle the big job, if you know what I mean. Save the whales, etc.

Now it's regular light bulbs that are getting the bum's rush, in favor of compact fluorescent bulbs that save energy. You can't get regular light bulbs at Costco any more, and that's often my geezerly sign of things to come.

So I buy a pack of the new ones and try to use them, but yuck! That's got to be the ugliest light I have ever seen. We're talking 1958 White Castle men's room light. A sickly, harsh bluish murk that can only make the Northwest's winter gloom even more depressing. Maybe in the tool shed you'd use one of these -- or on the outside of the house, on the side where you're not speaking to your neighbor. But in your living quarters? No way.

Do I really have to use these things? Can somebody recommend a version of them that throws off a spectrum of light that human beings would actually want to live under?

Comments (28)


I have ordered from this place (mostly because they have CFLs that can be used with dimmers):


Some of the "warm" varieties have a better quality light than run of the mill CFLs, but nothing that compares with the good old fashioned lightbulbs.

And a broken bulb can ruin your whole day.

From the EPA's website (PDF):

Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal

1. Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.

Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

Shut off the central forced-air
heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with
metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.

Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.

Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:

Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a
sealed plastic bag.

Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.

If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.

Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic

4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:

If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside
the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or
bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.

You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken
CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not
come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.

If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off
with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for

5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials

Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash

Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.

Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not
allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a
local recycling center.

6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a
window before vacuuming.

Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after
vacuuming is completed.

CFLs come in several color temperatures, including the 2700 Kelvin level that incandescents put out. Energy Star-rated bulbs will have this number on the packaging, but anything that says 'warm' approximates that. Honestly, I can't tell the difference between warm light CFLs and regular bulbs in most fixtures.

Beware 'full spectrum' or 'daylight' bulbs... they produce more blue-white and sterile looking light.

Life in America is truly a laugh (or a tear) a minute.

TKrueg is correct. It's all about color temperature. The higher the kelvin, the more blue the light will be.

It's something that the creative industry has been rebelling against for years when doing color matching and calibration - now it's your turn.

(FYI - matching color between a design studio and sodium lights in big box stores is one of the biggest challenges in supporting advertising design people you'll find.)

I figure it is about time to buy a life time supply of standard bulbs and store them away. I have yet to find a CFL that puts a decent light out, but I gave up a year or two ago.

jj: Thanks for the link for dimmable CFLs, too bad they are so expensive, and are incompatible with the new dimmers they have on the market...

I turn on my full spectrum light box next to my bed as soon as I get up and listen to radio or read for one-half hour. I'm feeling so good that I don't care what color the lightbulbs are the rest of the day.

I use them in the lights that are left on most of the time and in the lamp that is on a timer. Other than that, I use incandescents.

I broke one of the damned things the other day. I swept it up with a broom. Ever since I've had the urge to throw a tea party for a young girl and some animals.

Skip the chambered-'noble'gas technology and jump into the future with LED lighting technology.

Of course, the LED device is another chamber glowing its trapped noble (inert, or zero valence) gas ... but it's a very teeny tiny amount.

LED (Light-Emitting Diode) tech also has color-matching anomalies from reality known to human-natured retinas.

Anywhere in the spectrum from incandescent oldies to spiffy LEDs, where you mean to augment at your house more than the standard residential lighting 'allowance' in regime, then that extra you want to add is the place to start with homemade electricity. Make your own. Then it doesn't drag down everyone else's grid, if you want to have a hundred incandescents, eh whatt? Philosophically 'Light a candle': power the light yourself.

Then work your way up to making electricity for a refrigerator/freezer, and a cooking oven, and a water heater, and a clothes dryer .... Maybe it needs to be made in block parties, and block volts.

Until then, why doesn't the 'WalMart channel' do social-engineering, trend-shaping retail, by selling LED bulbs and lighting.

Oops. Forgot my link. Simply a random find from google 'led lighting.'

I was all for switching to these until I realized they had mercury in them. Is that really a good environmental tradeoff?

Doesn't seem like it to me...

Mike: They are expensive and one of mine has burned out long before it "should" have. Did not know that about the new dimmers - maybe that explains it.

On mercury: Yep, that's the real kicker, beyond the higher prices, about CFLs. They draw a lot less juice, but that mercury ain't exactly great for the environment. If they break, watch out for your health, and when they burn out good luck finding someplace to recycle (last I read the nearest place to PDX is somewhere up in Washington).

On LED: Really hope this technology takes off - all my "gear" for paddling, backpacking, etc... is LED - but the cost is high right now. Plus, though perhaps I have not seen the latest and greatest, the light quality is very, very blue and because of the narrow spectrum does not work in places were you want broad spectrum light to aid depth perception (like caves, for instance). Hopefully someone out there will tell us about new developments that are making this technology more affordable and useful.

I recently started buying CFLs at Home Depot. They carry some brand that actually has a "spectrum" meter on the front of the package.

The "daylight" end of the spectrum is most to my liking. The less intense ones tend to have a yellowish light (argh!).


jj: Ikea will recycle burned-out CFL bulbs. From their website (http://www.ikea.com/ms/en_US/about_ikea/social_environmental/environment.html):

"Bring your used mercury containing lightbulbs to the IKEA store for free disposal. Since our CFL bulbs contain a small amount of mercury, they should not be simply tossed out. IKEA offers the perfect solution: a ‘Free Take Back’ program offering recycle bins in all IKEA stores. Or for lamp disposal information for your state, please go to www.lamprecycle.org to obtain more information."

Get the LED lites, they are finally getting affordable.

They are very efficient and instant-on and actually throw off something close to sunlight in the spectral range.

"On LED: Really hope this technology takes off - all my "gear" for paddling, backpacking, etc... is LED - but the cost is high right now. Plus, though perhaps I have not seen the latest and greatest, the light quality is very, very blue "

The reasons for these two things:

1. LED arrays are actually VERY cheap, but because the market hasn't grown big enough, you are paying for custom manufacturing runs. If the market grows, everyone will benefit from an economy of scale, such as what happened with CFL bulbs.

2. The light coming from LEDs can vary depending on the phosphor used on the diode. Being an Oregon State fan with a background in electronics and way too much time on my hands last year, I made a sign using 130 or so orange (~620nm wavelength) LEDs that says "GO BEAVS!" which I can either hang on the wall, or run on 12v in the back window of my car. The LEDs themselves are clear until you turn them on.

Either way, it's bright as hell, and comes in under 10 watts of juice. As a side note, This year's version uses a electroluminescent sheet and some light filters (It is actually orange, just turns out that the CCD in the iPhone's camera sucks at color accuracy in low light.) It's way easier and cheaper to manufacture (don't have to solder up 130+ LEDs, 25+ resistors, fusing, power bus, etc.) too.

A few comments:
1. The biggest source of mercury in the atmosphere is the coal fired power plants that the green movement makes us use instead of nuke.

2. Don't be so worried, mercury is not nearly as dangerous as hyped (but do avoid exposure.)

3. You don't like bad toilets? You don't like good lights being banned? Then why do you re-elect the fools that voted that way?


CFL's are manufactured in India and China, where environmental standards are virtually non-existent. Important to consider when choosing lighting for your home. CFL can also have a devastating effect on artwork as well as upholstery fabrics.

I simply get GE "Full Spectrum" lightbulbs at Home Depot or Lowe's. Easy to find and widely available - at least for now. Lots of the CFLs put out an ugly,, harsh light that will eventually strain your eyes. Not to mention the so-called energy "savings" are not all that much.

Warm white halogen bulbs are still out there. Warm white LEDs are good, but pricey with standard "Edison" bases.

LEDs are great for many applications, but they will never work for home lighting.

1. White LEDs are harder and more expensive to make. I think only 1 in 100 manufactured end up being good enough for circulation. Conversely, red, blue and green LEDs are old tech and extremely cheap to make.

2. As hard as it is to make a good white LED, it's even harder to make a 'warm' white LED. Most in circulation are high Kelvin, blueish-white light.

3. LED optics don't translate to 'ambient' lighting techniques, just 'task' lighting. Great for desk lamps.

4. Most LED bulbs currently available are for reflector applications (recessed lighting, spotlights) and cost roughly $50 per. It may make sense for some commercial applications, but...

In other words, don't get your hopes up. By the time LEDs come into their own, other technology will be available. OLEDs, fiber optics, etc. Don't count on Cold Cathode... it's better suited for the the strip in Vegas.

My Friends,

If you want a low-flow toilet that will definitely handle the big jobs, check out the Totos. The Japanese test them with blocks of miso paste which has a startling similarity to the intended item and they are able to handle 1 kilo of the stuff.

More than you probably want to know here:


I can personally vouch for the Drake.

As for lighting, Costco has great prices on CFLs and the light quality does suck, but it has reduced our electrical consumption about 15% with little effort. Three bulbs have failed in the last year though...

"White LEDs are harder and more expensive to make"

Most white LEDs are a combo of all colors (just like regular light) which is why they are more expensive.

I'm with Karlock on this one. People complain about stupid laws that liberals pass then continue to vote more liberals into office.

Michigan is a great example of voting for liberals even though liberals want to destroy the auto industry.

Here in Portland we have lots of people complaining about streetcars, light rail, etc but people continue to vote for the liberals who want to tell us how to live, where to live, what to drive, what foods to eat and what to wear.

If you continue to vote for the liberals they'll continue to try to be your Mommy.

Ikea also sells some interesting LED-style lights - besides taking the CFLs there for recycling.

Metro takes the CFLs for recycling for free, as well. They also have neighborhood hazardous waste gatherings from spring through fall, and I believe they take the lightbulbs at those events. Check the Metro website under recycling.

Someone told me the reason CFLs burn out sooner than expected is because they are in fixtures that are turned on and off. They work best in places such as overhead lights in offices that are left on for most of the day. I also have had lights burn out in places where I turn lights on and off during the day. I too will be stocking up on the old fashioned lights.

By the way - Winco now carries a traditional old-fashioned light bulb, but it's smaller than the traditional bulb. The base is still the same size. I have been using them for a couple of months, and no problems so far. They take less material per bulb, less packaging, will take up less room in the garbage, and consume a few less watts of power.

I just bought a 5-pack of GE brand CFLs (100 watt light equivalent for 26 watt energy use)at A-Boy for $13. I have also had mixed results with CFLs, poor light output and tough to fit into a lamp - but these are great - good light and about the same size as an incandecent. They take maybe 45 seconds to reach full lumens.

You know the law that Congress passed phasing out the old incandescent bulbs will probably be one of most effective things it will do regarding energy independence, dwarfing the supply side stuff. Just do the math: hundreds of millions of bulbs, each using approx. 75% less energy, times hundreds of million of burn-hours, its huge amounts of energy. We waste so much energy in this country, its almost criminal.

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