Manufacturer investments in technology over the last two decades have reduced the amount of mercury used in lamps by nearly 95%. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (nema.org) has established a maximum of 5 mgs of Mercury per light bulb, but many of the latest modern have as little as 1.23 milligrams. According to the EPA, a 13 watt CFL over 8,000 hours of use could result in 1.8 mg of Mercury emissions versus 5.8 mgs for an incandescent. The CFL results in almost three times less mercury emitted to the environment. “CFLs result in less mercury in the environment compared to traditional light bulbs“ (5) EPA adds: “Because CFLs also help to reduce greenhouse gasses, other pollutants associated with electricity production, and landfill waste (because the bulbs last longer), they are clearly the environmental winner when compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs.”
2. Dealing with broken CFLs.
If a CFL containing the maximum allowable, 5 mg of mercury, breaks in the average bedroom with a volume of about 25 cubic meters, assuming all the mercury vaporizes immediately (an unlikely occurrence), would result in an airborne mercury concentration of 0.2 mg/m3. This concentration will decrease with time, as air in the room leaves and is replaced by air from outside or from a different room, likely approaching zero after about an hour or so. This level and duration of mercury exposure is not likely to be dangerous, as it is lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard of 0.05 mg/m3 of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours. (3)
3. Disposal of broken CFLs
CFLs can be disposed of on any CFL Disposal station. IKEA, Home Depot, Ace Hardware and other stores offer CFL drop-off stations. In Austin, businesses can drop off CFLs at the City of Austin HHW Collection Facility, . Additional locations throughout Texas found at http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/assistance/hhw/contacts.html Individuals can bring up to 5 gallons of waste for free. Commercial recycling for CFL light bulbs is quite inexpensive. Here in Texas, Waste Management will recycle 125 light bulbs for under $0.72 each. (10). There are a number of commercial recycling businesses.
The law in Texas allows businesses to collect their CFLs for up to a year prior to disposal or recycling. (11). So if a CFL breaks during construction, it can simply be stored in a closed leak-free bag inside a properly labeled container like a trash can in a central location. The builder could store all broken light bulbs for up to a year then send them to the HHW collection facility (an 8 minute drive from our subdivision). Alternatively, if two light bulbs are broken per house, every 75 homes built the builder would spend $120 (shipping included) sending all these light bulbs to a commercial recycling location.
Come on, $100 cost per home is more important than saving a million dollars, 6.4 tons of green house emissions and half a million pounds of coal burned? If that’s the case then it would prove that builders are only saying they are “green” as an advertising scheme to sell homes not because they really care about the world. Here is how you could deal with the cost:
a) You could apply part (3% to be exact) of the $3,000 “Green” rebate from the City of Austin to pay for the CFLs
b) You could give your customers the option to pay for them – I would gladly have paid $100 plus, let’s say $10 for disposal of any broken CFLs, and I would have volunteered to take any broken bulbs from my house to the disposal center.
c) You could increase the price of the homes by $100. As a customer, adding $100 would not have made any difference for the average cost new home. If the salesperson would have quoted a price $100 higher at the beginning no one would notice.
d) You could increase the price of the house by $200. The only reason the builder had an “EcoGreen” sign outside of the home, the only reason they were promoting their certification and the only reason they had EcoGreen brochures along with the home builder brochures is because thy feel it would be a differentiator that will help them sell more homes. They didn’t do it to brag about how much they love the environment. Builders could increase the price of their homes by $200 or $500 and promote “The only builder with all CFL lighting in Texas”. For a LOT of people , this would be a very good incentive to do business with this particular homebuilder. I know because I asked many of my neighbors. Builder would be doing the right thing and making more money.
e) Builders could eat the $100, if they really care about the planet we live in and the plane you are leaving for your children.
f) Builders could do a combination of all the above. Part of the money comes from the rebate, a part from the customer, a part from the rebate, a part from their profits, and still enjoy the marketing benefits of being really green.
In conclusion: there is no good reason why builder should not stop using incandescent bulbs right away and start using more CFLs. Now if you want to go green all the way and have some extra coin, another option is LED lights which are mercury-free and even more efficient than CFLs, but cost about $50 a piece.
Have you replaced your light bubls yet?
Each CFL can $30 in electric costs, Prevent 110 pounds of coal from being burned and Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 450 pounds (1) Lighting accounts for 38 % of residential energy consumption (2) CFLs produce about 70% less heat than standard incandescent bulbs, so they’re safer to operate and can help cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
(4) EPA’s statement “Switching from traditional light bulbs (called incandescent) to CFLs is an effective, simple change everyone in America can make right now. If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, in one year it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes. That would prevent the release of greenhouse gas
emissions equal to that of about 800,000 cars. “ Sources and resources:
(1) MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17831334/
(2) Energy Information Administration, 2003 Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey
(4) GE Lighting http://www.gelighting.com/na/home_lighting/ask_us/faq_compact.htm#epa_recommend
(5) EPA’s CFL FAQs http://www.gelighting.com/na/home_lighting/ask_us/downloads/FAQsAboutCFLs.pdf
(6) TCEQ http://www.tceq.state.tx.us/comm_exec/forms_pubs/pubs/rg/rg-377.html
(8) Recycling guidance to businesses http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/universal/lamps/recycle.htm
(9) NEMA www.lamprecycle.org
(10) Waste Management Lamp Tracker https://www.wmlamptracker.com/v2/lamptracker_compact.cfm
(11) Texas Regulatory Guidance RG-377 January 2007
(12) GE Lamp recycling information page http://www.geconsumerandindustrial.com/environmentalinfo/regulations_resources/recycling_information.htm
(13) Incandescent Bulbs are banned in the EU http://earth911.com/news/2009/09/03/incandescent-bans-initated-in-europe-set-for-u-s/
A few days ago I wrote an off-topic post complaining "green" builders are not using CFL lights. I got a number of respon...