Tuesday, December 02, 2008


For those of you who haven't  been paying attention, the standard incandescent light bulb, a staple since Thomas Alva Edison came up with the critter and patented it 129 years ago this month, is going the way of the dodo.

Go to Costco to get a package of bulbs and what you see now instead of the old, well, light-bulb shape you grew up with, are spiral glass-tube compact-fluorescents. 

The old ones will be around for a while, and I'm guessing you'll be able to buy them, either from hardware stores or on the net from China or wherever for a long time, but the big markets in the U.S. are switching over.

This is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, the new bulbs use less energy, last longer, and they have finally gotten the spectrum to the point that the light they produce doesn't make your house look like the inside of K-Mart on a rainy Sunday afternoon. If everybody switched over, the energy savings would be huge.

On the other hand, they cost more up front, have to be disposed of differently than the old bulbs or they can cause environmental problems due to the mercury they contain, and when you flip the switch, there is a small, but noticeable, lag time before the light comes on. 

One can get used to such things, but it is still oddly disquieting to turn on the light and have that ... pause before it flickers on. 


Menduir said...

I've been avoiding them simply because of the problems I've always had with the long tube fluorescents ... sometimes, I can detect the flicker in a perfectly good bulb and it's very annoying.

I have no idea if these compact fluorescents have that same problem, or if they start to flicker like the long tubes as they get older, but I'm hoping they've fixed that problem.

I am reminded, however, of an old SF story in which, as their technology breaks down and gets worse, people adjust to off-key music, flickering lights and soon forget how good they used to have it. (No idea who wrote it or the title, but that image always stuck with me.)

~ Jas. Marshall

Anonymous said...

You also can't use the compact fluorescents on circuits with dimmer switches... So I've got some places I can't use them.

I do use them on exterior lights and several others where the MUCH longer life combined with lower operating costs can really add up.

AF1 said...

I'm glad to see that the lag time happens to others as well. Was beginning to think the wiring in my house was faulty.

Mike said...

The compacts aren't as bad as the long tubes when it comes to flickering, but the key is getting the good-quality ones. Even with the long tubes, a high-quality ballast will take care of the problem. But while you can get the long tubes in daylight-corrected frequencies, I don't think you can do this with the compacts yet. And yes, there are versions that will work with a dimmer, but again you have to get the right dimmer. These, like the higher-quality tubes and ballasts, are expensive. I like LEDs, too; horribly expensive for higher Watt versions, though. And then there's neon: any shape or size you want, available in daylight-corrected and even longer-lasting than LEDs. You can get some really nice dimmers and transformers that provide special effects, too. But neon is again expensive, and you've got to work with building inspectors and codes that don't understand (or allow) high voltage, low amperage circuits. Hey, it's only 20MA even though it's 30,000 volts...

steve-vh said...

If the fixture has multiple bulbs (like overheads in a bedroom) I just replace all but one with a fluorescent and then replace the incand. with as low a watt as I can. That way I keep the cost low but mitigate the pause effect. Also very effective in the garage which has a 15' ceiling and 6 fixtures.

I see eventually we will all have the habit of pausing before going into a room due to being used to waiting.

Jon said...

Those new bulbs are going to go the way of the dodo soon too. Now that they finally got blue LEDs (they had red and green for years), they make WHITE leds (red+blue+green.)

They're brighter, last forever, WAY less power and look great. You've probably seen them on the flashlights and spelunking gear. But you can get them for your house.

Just google: LED light bulbs.