Why I won’t be using CFL bulbs

viatek-bulbFor this week’s “Change the World Wednesday” challenge, Small Footprints has asked us to replace at least one incandescent bulb in our home with either a CFL or LED bulb.

Currently we have a mixture of lighting here at Chez Green.

Downstairs is pretty much run on solar panels, so the obvious choice is LEDS; these use far less power than incandescent bulbs or even CFL bulbs.

Upstairs is a mixture of CFLS and incandescent bulbs using dimmer switches.

Over time I plan to replace all the CFLs in the house with LEDS because I think they are the work of the devil.

Yeah, who knew!

CFLs are now so cheap that you can get them for free or virtually nothing in many places. I ended up with such a huge pile of them sent by well-meaning companies that I had to Freecycle them all in three lots!

Why did I get rid of them? Each CFL contains a small amount of mercury that remains a potential contaminant for life…

Some incandescent bulbs have been phased out in the UK but it’s come too soon because we don’t have a decent alternative. The CFLs are an incomplete solution at best, a disaster waiting to happen at worst, and LEDs prices remain high due to a number of factors; not least consumer confidence regarding quality and usability.

My take? In 5 years time, when everyone wakes up and realises what has happened, we will have to go through the whole thing again in order to let the LED and OLED take their real green lead.

The CFL is a huge mistake with only one benefit: a lower energy consumption. After that everything goes rapidly down hill.

The LED has much better credentials, both in manufacture, energy use, safety, longevity RoHs compliance and after life recycling. Unfortunately, the best LEDs have not reached the mainstream market place. Fortunately I married an amazing man that knows his heat sink from his kitchen sink and is capable of building his own LED bulbs – I know, how cool is that!

We desperately need to get beyond the slow drip-drip of toe-in-the-water products. The next major step must involve political movement and marketing initiatives to make the LED the light of choice. Only this will accelerate quality development and bring prices down to an acceptable consumer level.

Hungry for more? Read my controversial article “Why I say Ban the CFL

What about you – Are you happy to use CFLs?


  1. JunkkMale on October 17, 2011 at 7:44 am

    ‘sent by well-meaning companies’

    In some cases, maybe.

    Others… not so sure.

    We get charged an extra tax on our utility bills.

    They send this money to the government/EU.

    After a bunch of people take their cut, they ‘give’ us back a proportion of the money we gave them as stuff like bulbs.

    Government/EU and they tick boxes, they get good PR; we pay.

    I mean.. well..

  2. Ailbhe on October 17, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    I use CFLs in the main room lighting but have switched to solar-powered LED lights for bedside lamps. If you ever had a list of places to buy 100 or 150 watt-equivalent LEDs I’d be interested, but dim lighting is not an option for me; I go slightly mad, and that’s complicated when I have children to care for.

  3. Argentum Vulgaris on October 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Following your comment on Eco-Crap, I did some more thinking and some research and I rediscovered my initial reservations about CFLs and wrote a post recanting my CTWW decision.


  4. EcoGrrl on October 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I disagree with “banning” the CFL. Incandescents are being phased out in the US so that CFLs and LEDs are the norm, but coming from the environmental consulting field myself, I know there are a LOT of myths about CFLs that have caused some hysteria. It is not a nuclear zone if you break a bulb. Sweep it up and put it in a bag like you would any other light bulb.

    MERCURY – it is important for readers to know that there is LESS mercury in a CFL than: 1) the fillings you may have in your teeth, 2) the mercury that is in nearly every fish (including one can of tuna), 3) the battery in your watch / hearing aid / etc.

    I also am super curious how you could call CFLs “the work of the devil” but seem to enjoy their energy efficiency enough to keep them in your house until they go out. If they were a “disaster waiting to happen” wouldn’t you be immediately unscrewing them and replacing them with LEDs or incandescents?

    It’s also strange that you say the “only” benefit is their energy savings, as if that’s some tiny benefit. Financially and energy wise, their benefits have been IMMENSE. And the comments below about the utility companies using it for “PR” honestly don’t make sense. Here’s the deal: because of basic overpopulation, our grids are not doing well and utilities are now required by the government to become more energy efficient and build less power plants. Therefore, they are encouraging customers to do energy saving measures – turning off lights, changing to CFLs, providing discounts on solar (that’s why they pay solar customers – it’s cheaper to have them using solar than having them as a power customer). CFLs are an easy way to make a quick impact – my CFLs have been lighting up my home since I bought it 5 1/2 years ago, never changed.

    I do recognize that LEDs are the next step, and the industry is working on making more and more options, just like CFLs (there are now dimmable and warm light CFLs, something that never existed in the beginning), and just like with any product, people have to start buying it in order for the overall cost to go down. I have one LED-lit floor lamp in my home that I love (that by the way to the commenter, is very bright…).

    Also, the fact of the matter is there is a lot of fluorescent lighting out there, and yet I see no one going after all the industries and retail stores and, heck, even the guys in their garages with the long fluorescent tubes. The sky is not falling – the CFL is not the devil, and while like a lot of things, it’s not ideal it’s a hell of a lot better than where we were.

    I hope that people will learn there are a lot of myths about CFLs and it’s not going to create Chernobyl in your house if it breaks.

    Good summary on myths of CFLs http://green.yahoo.com/blog/the_conscious_consumer/70/three-cfl-myths-busted.html

  5. Bee on October 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I had no idea! It’s so hard to trust anyone any more (companies and individuals). It’s also become impossible to trust “green” labeling. Things like “natural” are being put on food products that are anything but natural. And in the US, the FDA has been loosening (over a long period of time) the standards for organic so that big factory farms can be “organic” when really, by the original definition, they’re not.

    We do use CFLs. But we also never turn lights on unless we really need them. We believe that there should be less light when it’s dark outside and use only a small lamp in the evenings. We use mostly sunlight to see in the daytime. Currently, CFLs are our best light bulb choice, but an even better choice is to reduce the amount of time you (figurative you meaning anyone) use electricity.

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. [email protected] on October 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    I use CFLs in my home. Once, one broke in the middle of the night because I knocked over the bedside lamp. I didn’t realize it was broken, so I left it until morning. We got headaches. I cleaned it up sensibly and aired the place out. I’m pretty sure we don’t have cancer or brain damage. I’m pretty sure the exhaust from cars I breathe every day is worse. I’m pretty sure driving in a car is more dangerous than having CFLs light up my apartment. So I still use them. For me, sometimes it’s a matter of cost-benefit analysis and looking at the big picture. For now, CFLs work just fine for us.

    That being said, I’d still like to learn more about CFL hazards and pitfalls. Btw, thanks to EcoGrrl above for providing useful info. And thanks for raising an important issue!

  7. Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking on October 20, 2011 at 1:18 am

    Wow this post is a real eye opener. I need to rethink about using our CFL’s. Thanks so much for this really good information!

  8. Gaby @ Green Baby DS Blog on October 20, 2011 at 2:37 am

    This is such great information! Thanks for an enlightening post (as usual).

  9. Philzendia on October 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    We do use CFL’s in my house but we have seriously been re-thinking using them after a close friend’s home was engulfed by flames. The source of the fire, a CFL bulb. Scary!