Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Turning off the switch on incandescent lights

Fluorescent lamps are four to six times more efficient than their incandescent counterparts and emit about the same amount of visible light, all while offering longer working life and saving significant energy costs. Their use will be significantly increased as well by 2013, when the manufacture of incandescent lamps is slated to cease by an Act of Congress and will therefore be replaced by compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) and other fluorescents.

Using more efficient lighting options, such as CFLs and other fluorescent lamps, is one of the lowest-cost ways for the nation to reduce electricity use and greenhouse gases. Although incandescent light bulbs may seem like the cheaper option at the counter, consumers will actually save money on CFLs in the long run. While a CFL may cost about $2.00 per bulb, compared to about $0.50 cents for an incandescent bulb, a CFL is four to six times more efficient than an incandescent and lasts an estimated 8 to 15 times as long as an incandescent.

Although CFLs contain small quantities of mercury—which can cause environmental, safety and health consequences—incandescent bulbs actually result in more mercury pollution. While incandescents do not contain mercury, they still contribute to its release into the environment. Because burning coal to generate electricity releases mercury into the air and incandescent bulbs use more electricity over their lifetimes, they are responsible for more energy consumption and ultimately more mercury emissions than CFLs.

The switch from an incandescent bulb to a more efficient CFL results not only in energy and cost savings, but also in less overall mercury pollution. However, CFLs and other mercury-containing lamps emit mercury vapor when broken, and most shipping packages currently in use do not contain this vapor. They need to be properly stored and transported to recycling facilities in packaging proven to contain mercury vapor emissions. Only then do CFLs result in a truly green lighting solution. Currently, only one package design, which includes a vapor resistant and zip seal bag, has proven effective in containing mercury vapor.

Brad Buscher
Chairman and CEO
VaporLok Products LLC

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