Sunday, January 24, 2010

I'm going to get kicked out of California for this.

I have a confession to make.

I, Katie,

(this is hard to admit!)

I, Katie, hate—no—loathe LOATHE energy efficient light bulbs.

There, I said it. I am addicted to regular bulbs, and lots of them. Low mood lighting is fine at certain times, but when it comes cooking, or watching the kids, or chatting with friends, or cleaning, or just going about my daily business, darkness is just too depressing. I need light. It's 10:45 a.m. and from my chair, I can count seven light bulbs that are currently on.


I put a lamp in a previously dark corner last week and it still makes me feel ten pounds lighter when I walk into that room.

Now before you start giving me the evil glare that I know some of you are about to give me for using incandescents in said light sockets, let me list the reasons why I'm not ready to give up my bulbs.

#3: Quality of light

Living in a house full of fluorescent bulbs is like living in a photograph that was taken with a flash.


The sickly blue lighting brings back bad memories of my cubicle days. I spent nearly five years of my life pouring over binders full of legal invoices, tracking every single little .2 and .3 hour increment billed by every lawyer on the case and identifying inappropriate charges. You know, things like charging a client for the firm's "summer party of 2003." Or, a lawyer billing $550 per hour to make photocopies when his much cheaper secretary could have done it. That sort of thing. Oh, or like the time one firm billed a client for the time it took several of their senior partners to watch Erin Brockovich. (They wrote this in the bill! I guess they figured it would get lost in the other 500 pages of that month's bill. At least they fully disclosed their activities—I give them that.) Or, the time when all the fragments of minutes added up to be a 56 hour day for one man. I've had some long work days, I understand that sometimes it feels like it's been 56 hours, but I don't know. I thought that was a bit excessive.


The lighting and the cubicle and the mountain of meticulous work wouldn't have been so bad, had it not been for the woman who's name I no longer mention who sat by me. Our history has been mercifully erased from my memory. The pain I felt in that thin gray light, augmented by purple floors and ice-colored four foot tall walls is gone, but the scars are still there. A wave of nausea still hits me whenever I walk past someone who happens to be wearing the perfume she bathed in. Fluorescent lights have a similar, although less pronounced, effect.

#2: Undimmable

I love my brightly lit interiors, but there is a time and a place for low lights. There's nothing worse than trying to find the baby's paci in the middle of the night, guided only by a faint nightlight, and at last resort having to flip on the overheads in all their bright brilliance to find the stupid thing. I love me some dimmers in the bedrooms.


At this point I will do whatever I have to do to extend the sleepiness of my baby at night, even if it means I have to subject the environment to my dimmable bulbs. Don't worry, environment, I think I make up for it by walking my daughter to school almost every day.


That's gotta give me a little "green" wiggle room, right? Please?

#3: Flicker Hell

The only thing worse than having to turn on the bright lights to find the paci is being assaulted by the strobe seizure in the kitchen when I refill a night-time bottle. One bank of lights has some good ol' incandescents up there, so they dampen the impact of the flickery fluorescents. But the other bank—one of these days I'm going to come back to bed with a migraine.

And if any of you have ever had a migraine, you know that the energy consumed by the headache and getting rid of it far outweighs the energy saved by a fluorescent bulb.

Not to mention there's the whole disposing of a fluorescent bulb problem.

A quick refresher, per WikiHow:

All fluorescent lights, compact or otherwise, contain small amounts of mercury, which is toxic if released into the environment. Most manufactures have agreed to reduce the amount of Mercury contained in compact fluorescent lights (CFL) to 5 mg or less per bulb. Even so, a broken CFL can release enough Mercury vapor to become toxic, especially to small children.

Do not vacuum up broken glass! This will vaporize and distribute all the mercury that was in the light bulb creating a much bigger problem.

Ventilate the room before you start cleanup. Mercury vaporizes readily at room temperature. Make sure that the room is isolated (doors closed, heating/AC system turned off) from the rest of the structure. Open all windows and leave the room, do not track through breakage area. Let it air out for at least 15 minutes or longer.

Use rubber or latex gloves while cleaning up.

Carefully sweep all the big pieces up. Place in a large resealable freezer bag.

Use the sticky side of duct tape to clean up all the small pieces. Place in freezer bag.

Wipe the area down with a damp paper towel. Place used paper towels in freezer bag

Remove rubber gloves and place in freezer bag. Seal up the bag and bring it to a recycling or hazardous waist disposal facility.

Wash your hands and arms thoroughly.

Dispose of burned out CFLs properly. Even unbroken CFLs need to be disposed of properly. The following steps outline how this should be done.

Never throw burned out CFLs in ordinary waste. This is a sure way to contaminate the environment and in many areas it is against the law.

Collect burned out CFLs and take them to a recycling facility or hazardous waste disposal facility.

Find a disposal place. For a disposal center near you in the USA, check the US EPA web site on Mercury-Containing Light Bulb Recycling.

Which brings me to a very valid concern—how safe is it for my firefighter to enter a burning house full of fluorescent light bulbs?


maxwelton's braes are bonny said...

Ha! So glad I'm NOT the only one who loathes those bloody new bulbs! They give me headaches and make me feel faint and nauseous. My husband searches thrift stores and what-not to find the regular old style of light bulbs. So far he has been successful, but alas a time will come....good luck! said...

yeah, the mercury thing turned me off along time ago! (so I turned off those energy efficient!)

Have you ever read the extensive cleanup that you have to do if one breaks? Might as well call Hazmat.

Amanda said...

I was going to mention the mercury thing as I was reading your post, and I see that you included it and I'm glad.
Perhaps I'm being a little strong in my opinions, but I think that compact flourescents are another perfect example of people being sheep. Living green doesn't have to cost a ton of money or be complicated. Tell me, what is greener? Changing the way that we live with what we have right now, or throwing away a ton of hazardous things and buying a bunch of new stuff? I can't believe my ears when I hear people talking about sending their washer and drying into the landfill when they could have just done their best to wash in cold water and check the dryer periodically. Things like the highly hazardous and overrated compact flourescents only allow people to 'feel' like they are doing something for the environment, and it gets them off the hook from having to think about the other things they do each day.

Firefighter/Paramedic said...

I echo Katie's feelings on the light bulbs. As for her concern over florescent lighting while I'm in a burning structure...not so much. I have other concerns while in a burning building that's over 1000 degrees with all kinds of plastics and other synthetic materials burning emitting methyl-ethyl bad sh**. But if I do come across a florescent bulb, I'll be sure to evacuate the building and get out my duct tape. Please don't call HAZMAT. Especially at 2am. You might make my or your husband's blog (or both). ;)

melaniek said...

Love the post, I agree...absolutely hate those bulbs. I'm all about finding other ways to be 'green', just don't take my good lighting away!

christy rose said...

I do not think I ever want to use a fluorescent bulb again. I feel for you on the middle of the night can't find the pacy times. Hate that! But I love that picture of your kiddos. They are so cute!

Katie said...

Thanks, Christy Rose!

I have to laugh because the ads on my sidebar, the ones automatically picked by Google depending on the topics of my posts, are all for fluorescent light bulbs at the moment!

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