The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


As we have survived the purported Mayan Apocalypse, seen yet another seasonal “Holiday” on December 25th and wandered our way into a New Year, I am sure that many of us hope for a better 2013 than what we saw in its predecessor.  I certainly find it difficult to imagine how it might be worse.  And then the light bulb in my head went on.  But, actually, the CFL light bulb in one of the lamps in the family room went out.

Although I began replacing the old incandescent bulbs in my home a few years ago with CFL’s, my cost analysis of their economic efficiency versus those old bulbs with which we all grew up, left me wondering if the reduction in energy consumption and the bulbs’ purported seven year life would ever overcome the original cost of the bulbs.  It was a close call if I factored in about a ten percent yearly increase in the cost my electric company charged for letting light shine in my home.

But, of course, there was also the worthwhile goal, on which I couldn’t place a dollar figure, of reducing my “environmental imprint” on planet Earth.  The bulbs are reputed to draw less electrical consumption thus reducing our demand for fossil fuel.

Now when I made my original purchase of these bulbs a few years back, I remember standing in Lowe’s and saying to myself, “How do they know these things are going to last for seven years when they’ve only been on the market for three years?”  I got the answer two years later.  They don’t.  Of course, this threw my total economic analysis on the “value” of these bulbs right out the window.

I also remember thinking, as I pondered my original purchase, “How is using something that contains mercury something that is good for the environment?”  We know that mercury is one of the most toxic substances to which animal and plant life can be exposed.  That’s why the old mercury thermometers with which we were diagnosed as children now exist only as an exhibit at The Smithsonian.  And that’s why The Mad Hatter was “mad” as in his occupation he was constantly exposed to mercury.

Notwithstanding these reservations, I did purchase a supply of CFL’s and as my incandescent bulbs went to bulb heaven I began replacing them.  Yesterday, one of these valiant soldiers of the advance army of technology lost it’s life and I started to replace it.

Fortunately, I had recently read a post on the wonderful blog Two Heads Are Better Than One which can be accessed at  in which Mark Steyn explained the process of clearing up one of these contraptions in the event that it broke in the process of removal and disposal.   I present that here in case you are in need of similar guidance in this area.

Armed with the knowledge provided in the video, I prepared the area near the CFL containing lamp by stripping two beds of their pillows and placing them underneath the lamp.  I washed my hands thoroughly with lava containing soap to make sure than any slippery substance which might have adhered was now history.  I dried my hands thoroughly and shooed Gracie out the back door into the yard just to be certain that, despite my precautions, should a mishap occur in this process, she would not be exposed to mercury poisoning.  And with the deft hands of a skilled surgeon, I unscrewed the now deceased warrior of a better way of life and removed it from the fixture.  The operation went well and was concluded without incident.

I am jubilant to report that I also made my own contribution to advancing the cause of mankind.  I happened to find in my light bulb “stash” one of those old, warm incandescent bulbs which had snuggled its way into a corner and which I had overlooked.  I replaced the CFL with it, returning to the older, simpler way of doing things.  I think the reason the CFL’s draw less electricity is obvious.  They throw less light than their ancient counterparts.

When I drive over to Lowe’s the next time so that I can properly recycle my mercury-containing CFL bulb, I think I’m going to load up on a supply of the oldies but goodies before they become illegal later this year.  Who knows, a black market for these bulbs might develop and I may stand to make a small fortune.  Or at the least, I should check out whether I can find an incandescent light bulb manufacturer in China – which may indeed become the provider of light in this Brave New World.

Comments on: "LIGHTS OUT" (6)

  1. The 7 year life is not a lie, exactly. The parameters of use for fluorescents in general are:
    1: never turn on for less than 4 hours-lighting one takes about the same current as operating it for 3+ hours
    2: CFLs are 50 degree ballasts, cold weather shortens their life drastically.
    3: On and off cycles shorten life a lot

    In general in a bathroom or closet you will get significantly shorter life than an incandescent bulb.

    For now, at least, some of the specialty bulbs, like GEs ‘Reveal’ bulbs are still on the market although much more expensive of course, which, I think is why GE wanted the old ones outlawed.

    • Ah, I remember the good old days in my office when one of the flourescents would go out. Remove it and the other bulb in the series (I think that is the correct term), wiggling and maneuvering them in the fixture. Then replacing them with two new tubes that had to be wiggled and squiggled. And the joy of replacing the starter which always wanted to cling to its home against every attempt by manual dexterity to dislodge it.

      You make an interesting point about GE. Perhaps that is the reason that Jeff Immelt is on the Obama team. It is certainly a much different company than when Jack Welch was running the show.

      • Yep, I hate troffers, as we call the fixtures in suspended ceilings, yours must have been fairly old if they still had starters-most now have electronic ballasts and can even be dimmed.

        Funny part is that with the parameters I mentioned above are still true, we now in commercial applications have to do what is called light harvesting which means they cycle a lot. Why think when we can just make a law.

        Jack Welch was a damned good leader and man, Immelt is worthless, except for the Chinese, of course.

  2. So please provide some guidance given your extensive epertise on the subject of things electrical.

    I read for about an hour per evening in my bedroom – the source of light being a CFL bulb in a lamp on the night table. From the standpoint of both economy and environmental friendliness, would I be better off:

    A) Turning the lamp on 3 hours early and let it shine in an empty room to preserve the bulb, but wasting 3 hours of energy;
    B) Turning the lamp on when it was needed thus shortening the life of the bulb but saving the energy;
    C) Finding a supply of incandescents, replace the CFL and only turn the lamp on when it was needed just like in the old days?

    I’m leaning towards “C”.

  3. As with corn-based ethanol, the CFL mandate is yet another government-sponsored under-thought program that will not live up to expectations, and may even be harmful (higher prices for corn, anyone? Mercury exposure, anyone?). And I agree with you re: costs. I knew from the moment they came out with these bulbs that they would NOT last the period of time claimed, but did not know of the other considerations that your other correspondent points out. I started replacing incandescents about two years ago, haven’t even fully converted yet, and have had at least two failures. Just another government-backed rip-off.

    • Mr. Steyn’s statement that, “Here is another case of government solving a problem that doesn’t exist” sums up this entire line of thinking perfectly.

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