GUEST COLUMN: New light bulbs have advantages, disadvantages
Sunday, 29 April 2012 by Mark Magnan
Do you ever think about the quality of some of the items that we purchase for our daily use? Perhaps I am alone in that line of thinking.
One of my current concerns is light bulbs. Of course this is an item that we take for granted every day of our lives. We usually just expect them to spring into action at the flip of a switch, it is only when they do not, that we give them a "second thought".
The new CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) are relatively new to the modern world. They have some advantages, and some drawbacks. Obviously the biggest selling point for CFLs is that they are energy savers, that is always important. Another thing to consider is that they produce very little heat, unlike their counterpart the incandescent bulb. That can be a good thing when you try to cool the typical Texas home in the summer time.
The famed incandescent bulb was to be phased out and only CFLs were to be used, but thankfully that did not pass. We are still able to use the old standby.
I have put CFLs in several areas of my house. They seem to work fine in most applications. They are extremely bright if you look at them first thing in the morning. And they also have an eerie green glow well after they have been turned out. They are supposed to have a much longer life, which is good because they cost considerably more than incandescent bulbs.
But, I have found that they seem to fail well short of their projected life span. There are factors that play into the failure rate of light bulbs. The importance of the bulb at night and also the ease of replacement are both part of the great cosmic formula for how often light bulbs fail. If there is a single bulb in a bathroom or a bulb that needs a ladder to replace, these bulbs will fail at a much higher rate than other bulbs in the house.
In the past incandescent bulbs were cheap, so replacing one was just a matter of waiting until it cooled down and sticking another one in its place. With a CFL the failed bulb costs several times the price so you are tossing a lot more money in the trash can. There is a light bulb that has been burning for over 100 years, one might think our technology would have improved in that length of time.
What happened to the good old days when the Lions Club (I believe) used to sell light bulbs on the street corner a couple times a year. For just a few bucks you could stock up on enough bulbs to last through several changes.
Another worry is that CFLs have mercury in them. Every other item that has mercury in it has been assailed as a public hazard and basically removed. Granted the amount is miniscule but it is mercury none the less. And with the amount of CFLs being disposed of in our landfills, where is the mercury going.
It seems like a lot of effort has gone into the development of these new sources of light. And I appreciate that. But why can't we put some effort into designing an air conditioning system that runs on 25% of the energy of a normal unit? That would be a real energy saver.
My other pet peeve for the day is something else we all use, kitchen roll paper towels. They are handy and no kitchen should be without them, at least if you watch the advertisements.
Here is my issue. The scenario;
You are working in your kitchen, and you spill something. Your mind flashes to the TV commercials you have seen recently. You reach for the dangling edge of the paper towels hanging conveniently near you. You pull off just one towel, as that is all it will take to absorb the 8 ounces of spilled liquid. You start the tear on the perforation so you can pull off the single sheet, then you give it a quick jerk with your one free hand to finish the job.
BUT, the towel doesn't tear, instead you roll off half the paper towels. Your kitchen floor looks like a New York City ticker tape parade.
You shuffle around a bit and manage to clean up the spill. But then you are faced with a moral dilemma. Do you roll up the paper towels that touched the floor, so that an unsuspecting family member or guest might use them later to wipe their clean hands? Or do you tear off the contaminated sheets and over-clean the mess and throw them away? Or hope that no one sees what is going on, where is a light bulb failure when you need one.