Thursday, October 12, 2006

Tripping the Lights Fantastic...

I eventually got that water filter for the ice maker installed. I had to stand in front of the tubing fixtures at Lowes for a good 30 minutes before finding the right ones, but they did the trick. No sprays, no drips. Gotta love that Teflon tape.

In the end, though, I also had to clean out the freezer and the refrigerator sections in order to get rid of all the stuff that was contributing to the funny-tasting ice. Probably should wipe down the freezer more often.

But anyway, on to the topic at hand...

So when we were working on this house I got into compact fluorescent bulbs. They've been around for a while, and what with the cost of oil and whatnot, they've gotten a real push here lately. I'm sure you've seen them. They are getting pushed because they use less energy, put out less heat for the same light, and last longer. They cost a lot more too (and have a bit of mercury in them, so recycle the suckers, don't just toss them), but the trade-off is supposed to be worth it. I bought an early one years ago for a lamp, but in those days, "compact" was relative. The thing wouldn't fit in the lamp, and I lugged it around for years before putting it into an outside light socket.

The first CFL's were a bit bigger than incandescents, and had a small but noticeable and annoying delay before they came on. Some of them made a buzzing noise, too. And, that little swirly shape just didn't look right. It was with these things in mind that I selected the first batch of CFL's for this house.

The initial ones were some brand called Bright Effects. They were enclosed bulbs that looked like slightly larger incandescents, and they advertised that they came on instantly. And so they did, but rather dimly. Over a period of a minute or so, they brighten to full. You can actually see the light coming up as they do that. Well, that wasn't quite what I was hoping for. I'm not sure I can describe it right, but somehow the initial dimness of a room with these lights made it a less pleasant place, even after the lights had brightened.

As a temporary measure, I mixed in some different brand swirlies that did the delay thing but came on full brightness. So the lights were mixed, but at least the brightness issue was dealt with. I wound up doing this in several places.

Recently, I had some old incandescents go out and got a bunch more CFL's to replace them. I stayed away from the Bright Effects this time, and decided just to put up with the swirly shape (how often does one look directly at a light bulb, anyway?). The next batch were Sylvanias, and I think some technological shifts had happened in the meantime, because most of these came on with no delay I could notice, and came on full blast as well. I noticed this because I was nearly blinded when the 150W equivalent CFL I put in the tool room blasted on as soon as I flipped the switch.

Cost or no cost, I might ditch some of those old Bright Effects for these new guys so I don’t have to worry about dim start-ups or mixed bulbs.

I have to say I like these things. Some people don't like CFL's because they don't like the quality of the light, but 1) I don't mind that much and 2) they have done a lot to make the new CFL's a lot less, err, fluorescent-looking than they used to be. They are also a LOT cooler burning. No doubt about that at all. You still wouldn't want to grab one bare-handed, but they won’t turn a closed room into an oven, either.

One oddity for me is that people are used to measuring their light's brightness in watts, which is a unit of power, as opposed to lumens (or even candela or candles), which is the light brightness measure. That sort of made sense in the old days, but now its making things confusing, because as you may have noted above, the CFL's are put out in "brightnesses" corresponding to the old wattages people are used to, 40-60-75, etc, even though a 150 "Watt" CFL only uses 37.5W to get the same amount of light. And most lamps and light fixtures are also rated in regard to incandescent bulbs. I'm certain you could stick that 150W equivalent CFL into a lamp only rated for a 60W bulb, because the CFL pulls only a bit over 1/2 the power (and heat!) while spitting out 2.5 times as much light as the 60W.

If you haven't done so already, I'd suggest making an investment in these things as your old incandescents give out. I think you'll be pleased.


Mike said...

I've been desperately trying to use them everywhere, since our house is so poorly insulated (walls and flooring); but even the newest ones don't fit in 90% of our fixtures. At least I got the kitchen high-wattage system replaced with one that was open for CFLs.

The claims about how they fit anywhere an incandescent fits are typical stupid enviro over-reach. They just don't; it would have been smarter to market these as "for some places" rather than convincing people they could replace all the bulbs in their house. Most people have at least some screw-on fixtures like I do that just won't work with any CFL bulbs.

So, ironically, I end up using them the most in the places where their heat profile is the _least_ important - the garage, front porch, and utility room, because those are the places they can actually fit. Sigh.

Jammer said...

Well, you know your light fixtures, but the last set of bulbs I got were awfully compact. You might try again if you haven't looked in the last few months. Shape can still be tricky, since CFL's still have a large base.

We replaced a lot of light fixtures in this house for aesthetic reasons (hanging mounts instead of flush) that probably made it easier for us to use CFL's. If you can afford it, you might try that.

Hubert said...

I have to admit I like the one in my closet, as two third of the time (i.e., morning and late evening) I prefer a dim light. One third of the time (i.e., middle of the day), I'd rather have something come on immediately. But, I can do the math.

Mike said...

It's always been length that's been the problem for ours (measuring from base towards end of bulb) - and even the smallest ones still are an inch or more larger than the comparable incandescents. Most bulb-down-towards-floor fixtures with the screw-held covers still won't accept a CFL; I had some luck once with one that was 2 bulbs side-to-side (parallel to floor).

And of course my garage is easy - no shades or covers. Lamps standing up are easy too; but unfortunately the places we use the most light are the ones where CFLs won't work at all.

CactusLeaguer said...

Your point about the Bright Effects brand having a lower quality level than the others is right on point.
I've used some other brands and so far, they've lasted MUCH longer and have better initial light quality.
I'm convinced that the newer CFLs are worth the extra investment. I'll just stay away from the Bright Effects brand.