Going green

How we light up the places where we live and work makes a big impact on how we feel. It also makes a big impact on the environment.

The kind of bulbs, the kind of fixtures, the kind of power, and the habits we keep can all add up to a very significant greening. Start with the fact that a conventional incandescent bulb turns only around five to ten percent of its consumed energy into light, the rest goes out as heat. From there, there's no limit to how green your lighting can be.

How we light up the places where we live and work makes a big impact on how we feel. It also makes a big impact on the environment. The kind of bulbs, the kind of fixtures, the kind of power, and the habits we keep can all add up to a very significant greening. Start with the fact that a conventional incandescent bulb turns only around five to ten percent of its consumed energy into light, the rest goes out as heat. From there, there's no limit to how green your lighting can be.

1. CFLs

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are the swirley bulbs you're seeing in more and more places. In addition to the most common ones that look a little like soft-serve ice cream cones, CFLs come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors. These bulbs may seem more expensive if you only compare their price to standard incandescent bulbs, but CFLs use around ¼ the energy, last many times longer and release much less heat.

Lower energy bills. Lighting bills are reduced by up to 50% when compared to CFL and 85% when compared to incandescent bulbs. Over the life of one LR6 light, you could save hundreds of dollars in energy costs alone.

Simplify energy code compliance. The LR6 provides more light per watt of energy than CFLs, making it easier to comply with ever-tightening energy codes.

Improve the look of your space. With a color rendering index (CRI) of 92, the superior color quality of the LR6 enhances the appearance of people, room surfaces, furnishings and merchandise. Dimming capability is standard, so you have more ways to modify the look of your space.

Great light has never been so green. The LR6 is an environmentally friendly choice because it consumes much less energy than other sources and minimizes landfill waste. Most importantly, the LR6 contains no harmful mercury.

View our Frequently Asked Questions on Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs) and Mercury or download our PDF for more information!

 

CFL's & Mercury

Why should people use CFLs?

Switching from traditional light bulbs (called incandescent) to CFLs is an effective, simple change everyone in America can make right now. Making this change will help to use less electricity at home and prevent greenhouse gas emissions that lead to global climate change. Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average home’s electric bill. ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs use up to 75 percent less energy (electricity) than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, cost little up front, and provide a quick return on investment.

If every home in America replaced just one incandescent light built with an ENERGYSTAR 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.

 

Do CFLs contain mercury?

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - an average of 4 milligrams - about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury - an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs. Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (not broken) or in use.

Most makers of light bulbs have reduced mercury in their fluorescent lighting products. Thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the average mercury content in CFLs has dropped at least 20 percent in the past year. Some manufacturers have even made further reductions, dropping mercury content to 1.4 - 2.5 milligrams per light bulb.

 

What are mercury emissions caused by humans?

EPA estimates the U.S. is responsible for the release of 104 metric tons of mercury emissions each year. Most of these emissions come from coal-fired electrical power. Mercury released into the air is the main way that mercury gets into water and bio-accumulates in fish. (Eating fish contaminated with mercury is the main way for humans to be exposed.)

Most mercury vapor inside fluorescent light bulbs becomes bound to the inside of the light bulb as it is used. EPA estimates that the rest of the mercury within a CFL- about 11 percent - is released into air or water when it is sent to a landfill, assuming the light bulb is broken. Therefore, if all 290 million CFLs sold in 2007 were sent to a landfill (versus recycled, as a worst case) - they would add 0.13 metric tons, or 0.1 percent, to U.S. mercury emissions caused by humans.

 

How do CFLs result in less mercury in the environment compared to traditional light bulbs?

Electricity use is the main source of mercury emissions in the U.S. CFLs uses less electricity than incandescent lights, meaning CFLs reduce the amount of mercury into the environment. As shown in the table below, a 13-watt, 8,000-rated-hour-life CFL (60-watt equivalent; a common light bulb type) will save 376 kWh over its lifetime, thus avoiding 4.5 mg of mercury. If the bulb goes to a landfill, overall emissions savings would drop a little, to 4.2 mg. EPA recommends that CFLs are recycled where possible, to maximize mercury savings

2. LEDs

LEDs, or light emitting diodes, are long-lasting, high tech and just starting to become another affordable alternative in consumer lighting. While LEDs are a bit more expensive than CFLs, they use even less energy and last even longer. An LED light bulb can reduce energy consumption by 80 to 90% and last close to 100,000 hours.

3. Power Adapters

Power adapters are those black boxes that are often found on chargers for electronics. You may notice that they stay warm even when not charging or when the attached device is turned off. This is because they draw energy from the wall all the time. One way to green your lighting is to unplug these adapters when not in use, attach lights to a power strip and turn off the whole switch when not in use, or get your hands on a "smart" power strip that knows when the device is off.

4. Habits

No matter how efficient your lighting is, it still doesn't make sense to have lights on when there is no one in the room. Be sure to turn off lights in rooms when not in use. Also, try not to leave your computer in standby mode. The latest estimates show 5 percent of electricity used in the United States goes to standby power at a cost of close to

$4 billion a year.

5. Dimmers and Motion Sensors

Dimmers can be used so you can adjust the amount of light to just what is desired.
Motion sensors are a good way to keep lights turned off when not necessary. Also consider timers that can be set to turn things on and off as needed.

8. Disposal

Fluorescent bulbs may last a long time but when they die they must be disposed of properly. CFLs, like all fluorescents, contain a small amount of mercury and must not be thrown into your regular trash. To properly dispose of fluorescent bulbs visit our recycling section or visit EARTH911.org to find a recycling center near you.

Compact Fluorescent
Did You Know?

Going Green

* According to a report published by the International Energy Agency (IEA), a global switch to efficient lighting systems would trim the world's electricity bill by nearly one-tenth. The carbon dioxide emissions saved by such a switch would dwarf cuts so far achieved by adopting wind and solar power. According to Paul Waide, a senior policy analyst with the IEA and one of the report's authors, "19% of global electricity generation is taken for lighting- that's more than is produced by hydro or nuclear stations, and about the same that's produced from natural gas."

* Studies by the Heschong Mahone Group found that sales increased 40% in stores with good natural light.

* Natural lighting is being used to do better business, make people happier, and save energy and dollars. The presence of daylight often shows in increased worker satisfaction and productivity, better test scores in schools, increased sales in retail settings, and, of course, lower energy bills.

* According to the federal Energy Star program: "If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars."

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