I’ve been on a marathon shopping excursion, one that I thought I could complete in ten minutes in the U-Scan aisle of the local grocery store, but no, I was sadly mistaken.
Am I talking about something as elusive as a jar of pickled ume (Noble Fish in Clawson), a slice of Kobe beef ($69.95 a pound at Papa Joe’s Market, and yes, I passed) or coyote urine (Bordine’s Nursery – need it to discourage the squirrels and other rodents in my yard)? No, I’m talking about a product as simple and ordinary as a light bulb.
And I’m not talking about the new-fangled CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs that are everywhere. I want a genuine incandescent bulb, the plain old round-topped standard of the Good Old Days.
Supposedly, just like superheroes, CFLs will save the world with their energy-saving capabilities. Sure, they take up more energy when first turned on, but the theory is that they use less with extended use. (It’s recommended they be left on for at least 15 minutes to get the maximum savings.) With their twisted bodies, CFLs are certainly the new kid on the block.
What they don’t tell you is that CFLs are a rather fickle means of illumination. According to the EnergyStar web site, you can’t install them like a regular bulb. Instead of using the glass, one must grasp them by the plastic ballast, and who does that? The website also tells the user not to turn the lights on too quickly. They are also incompatible with many timers and motion detectors. They can’t be used outside where they may be subjected to the elements, and when inside, there has to be flowing air around them or they will get too hot. CFLs can only be used in temperate climates, and as we know from fourth grade geography, Michigan does not fit in that category.
And of course, there’s that issue of calling in HazMat should a CFL happen to break. There’s enough mercury in one of those bulbs to sicken and kill my entire office staff. This leads to the question of how one disposes of used CFLs that aren’t broken. I can see the potential environmental hazard in a few years' time outweighing what little savings we are now realizing in electricity.
My biggest complaint with CFLs is that they don’t seem to last as long as an incandescent bulb. It feels like I am buying light bulbs every month instead of every six months. Also, they may be trendy-looking, but they do not accept traditional light shades like an incandescent. If you have an older home such as mine, CFLs may be too long to fit into vintage fixtures. In addition, the quality of light is not conducive to close work or for reading.