Do compact fluorescent lights really save energy?

Earlier this month, Congress passed a law which will essentially force the public to switch to compact fluorescent lights. (CFLs)  Environmentalists and light bulb makers joined forces to boost power and profits, and perhaps sue the competition out of existence.Some people object to the narrow light spectrum and toxic Mercury content of CFL lights, but I don’t care about those things.  I have replaced most of the incandescent lights in my apartment, and plan to eventually replace the rest.  What I question is not the usefulness of CFLs, but the premise that switching to them will “save energy.”

As with most goods and services, the price of a utility influences the quantity I am willing to pay for.  When the price of gas doubles, I reconsider taking road trips, and try to be more efficient with my driving.  Likewise, when the price of electricity falls, I am more liberal with my power consumption.   Compact fluorescent lights lower the cost of lightning in two ways: they use one quarter of the energy, and they last ten times as long.  These innovations encourage greater usage of lighting.

I have a spiffy IKEA lamp behind my couch, but because I don’t have a light in my ceiling fan, it needs to be extra bright.  Furthermore, the geometry of my living room makes it annoying to walk behind the couch every day to turn it on.  By switching to a compact fluorescent light, I was able to get a 100 watt equivalent light in a 60 watt socket, and thanks to its efficiency and long life, I just leave the light permanently on.  I am enjoying greater convenience, but I don’t know if I am saving any energy.

If the average consumer’s monthly lightning budget is fixed, they might compensate for the higher efficiency and lifespan of CFLs by increasing their lightning usage to completely offset any energy reduction.  This would be especially true if consumers are forced to switch to CFLs by legislators rather than a desire to save energy costs.  Much as auto safety regulations can lead to reckless behavior, forcing consumers to switch to more efficient lights might actually increase their energy usage.


Filed under Economics

3 Responses to Do compact fluorescent lights really save energy?

  1. Nice analysis. Of course, this is a likely outcome of the switch to compact fluorescents.

    Extending this line of reasoning to the mandatory efforts to reduce gasoline consumption, to the extent cars burn less gasoline for each mile driven, people will be willing to drive more. That will compromise the alleged goal of reducing gasoline consumption.

  2. Pingback: Do compact fluorescent lights really save energy? - Radical Idealism

  3. Jose Gomis

    We all think, we know the effects of mercury emission by limits of volume dissipation.
    We know that the dangerous dissipation is reduces with time but if you are working with the lamp(s) at the time of dangerous dissipation before the danger is pass you would be in trouble and become sick, with time and no one disagrees with this fact or thinking!

    The protection is needed when the operation of the lamp starts to decay the glass and a hole is made in the glass or when handling lamp(s) they break and the person is in the route of the dangerous level of mercury dissipation, and without protection.

    It’s not that one or a small number of lamps breaking is safe in a large area but that the personal (or you at home) are out of the dangerous route of travel of the unsafe amount, that is dangerous to our health, before it disseminated to a safe level!

    If you are working over or under a breakage event, of not one lamp but a small group of lamps, box or boxes of lamps, our bodies can, and does have the potential to inhale, the poisonous and dangerous amount of mercury vapor.

    Not that it will kill you at the time, but it could or will slowly make you sick, with many symptoms, some years down the line. And if you do this over and over, with out know it, it could or will be hazardous to your health!

    Also if the material,(fluorescent power, droplets, or vapor) accumulated in one area, this can and does give off the poisonous mercury vapor from that location. Be it in a rug, floor drain, just carks in the floor, air handler filters and duct work of the H &A/C system in that space.

    Would you want to be in the route of this poisonous, mercury vapor. no matter
    how small it is?

    If we look at the EPA waste management rules for small quanity of waste lamps, and other rules and/or guideline we are told the after any breakage of a lamp you level that room for 15 to 30 minute and to air out or ventilate the space and/or route of dissapation when one lamp breakes and more time is need if a large lammmp or group of lamps break. Plus it must be followed up by a perpor clean-up that is truely a small haza-mat operation.

    No brooms,
    No shop vac unless aproved for the perpouse of mercury vacuuming.
    Must put all waste material and items used in the clean-up in plastic bag or container that is sealable and will not break in the garage up service to protect the invironment.

    Fore give spelling and way of think for I have mercury poisoning and my order of think and spelling is loss at times which is one of the symptoms of mercury poisoning. Mayhave alredy sent one smaller report!

    Jose Gomis

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