Compact Fluorescent Blubs – The two big fundamental flaws

[Note: this is part of a webwide series of blog posts about compact fluorescent lightbulbs. January is the darkest month of the year in the Northern Hemisphere (December might be a bit darker, but with all the candles, trees and dropping balls, we work hard to light it up). To fight off the darkness, bloggers everywhere are invited to create a post with their own riff on why CF bulbs are cheaper, better politically, harder to market or just plain cute. Your choice.]*

The first flaw is that there’s a huge group of people who will not get the benefits of the lights. Like college students, and other semi-transient people who do not live in the same apartment or home for more than one or two years. I could install these lightbulbs, and sure, I might get paid back over the year I’m in the apartment, but the people who really reap the benefit are the tenants after me, who will never have to replace a lightbulb. Furthermore, over the ~5 year life of the bulb, you save about $66. If I only get a year of that, I get about $13 in savings. Times all the lights in my apartment (16), that’s $208. Significant, but not earth-shattering.

My bigger problem though is that fluorescent lights flicker. They flicker at such a high frequency we don’t consciously notice it, but it fatigues our eyes, and can lead to drowsiness and headaches. Try this: work a whole day in an area brightly lit by flourescent lights. Then work a whole day in an area lit to the same level by natural light or incandescent bulbs. There will be a noticeable difference.

Until the price drops more, so I don’t feel like I’m paying more to give a huge benefit to someone else, and they figure out the flicker problem, I doubt I’ll put a lot of CF bulbs in my apartment.

*From Seth Goodin’s post on CF bulbs.

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