Are CFLs all that good?

This is just something to ponder the next time you see or hear a claim that CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs) are better for you. These are the instructions from Energy Star (a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Energy Program) for cleaning up a broken fluorescent bulb (see near the end of page two of this document):

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.

Can you think of anything else that is good for the environment that requires you (and your pets) to leave the room for 15 minutes in case of breakage? Being “green” sometimes (and by sometimes I mean almost every single time) focuses on one aspect of a product/design/strategy that provides benefits over the status quo, but sometimes those benefits are evened out by the negative attributes of the product/design/strategy.

CFLs use much less energy than incandescent light bulbs, but are not nearly as efficient as LEDs. The color rendition CFL is different from incandescent and LED bulbs (CFLs typically produce a warmer light, which to my dismay made the butterscotch-like colored walls in my house appear more like a puke-green). And CFLs cost a little more than incandescents, which means it’s much much cheaper than LEDs.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t replace your incandescent bulbs with CFLs. A large amount of energy would be conserved if everyone used CFLs. I’m merely offering information to ponder – that green comes in many shades.

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