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Power Politics

California Proposes to Ban Incandescent Lightbulbs 1074

zhang1983 writes to tell us CNN is reporting that California Assemblyman Lloyd Levine wants to make his state the first to ban incandescent lightbulbs with the "How Many Legislators Does it Take to Change a Lightbulb Act". The act will promote Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) to replace the inefficient incandescent lightbulbs. According to him, "Incandescent lightbulbs were first developed almost 125 years ago, and since that time they have undergone no major modifications, meanwhile, they remain incredibly inefficient, converting only about 5 percent of the energy they receive into light."
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California Proposes to Ban Incandescent Lightbulbs

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  • Eh.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dissman ( 997434 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @03:54PM (#17831500)
    They may be inefficient, but they can be dimmed... Any house that uses dimmer switches will have to have it's switches replaced, not only that, you lose the convenience of being able to change a room's lighting.

    Also, I had an electrical engineering professor, that turns off his overhead florescent lights when he reads and uses an incandescent because a lot of his peers who read under mainly florescent light have had problems with cataracts.

    I believe that there needs to be more R&D into florescent lighting to make it compatible with dimmer switches.
  • Re:I don't like this (Score:2, Informative)

    by mcostas ( 973159 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @03:58PM (#17831580)
    CF bulbs vary wildly in performance. Some are excellent, warm light, with no delay. I use them throughout my house and they are unnoticeable. I have had some terrible ones in the past. The trick is to buy several types and try them out. Then go buy more of the good ones and relegate the bad ones to little used places, or the trash.
  • by PrvtBurrito ( 557287 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:06PM (#17831726)
    This is actually insightful, IMO, for most of the country (outside of ca) incandescent lights are probably a wash six months of the year due to heating.
  • Re:I don't like this (Score:2, Informative)

    by RageOfReason ( 1003903 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:06PM (#17831728)
    You don't get flicker with newer CFL's that have electronic ballasts (as opposed to core and coil ballasts).
  • by OwnedByTwoCats ( 124103 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:08PM (#17831774)
    Rheostats to dim lights would be incredibly inefficient and a potential fire hazard.

    Most dimmer circuits are choppers; they switch the circuit on and off 120 times a second. The fraction of time that the circuit is on increases as the knob is turned.

    Anyway, the easily-accessible CFLs are not compatible with dimmer circuits.
  • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:08PM (#17831776)
    A google search for dimmable cfl will turn up several bulbs which can be dimmed. Apparently they've gotten that working these days.
  • by MauriceV ( 455290 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:10PM (#17831810)
    Battery operated isn't the same (direct current) as wall current (alternating current). LEDs that work on alternating current do NOT work with dimmer switches.
  • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <slashdot,kadin&xoxy,net> on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:10PM (#17831820) Homepage Journal
    Why don't you just get a heating pad or small electric heater? Most pads can be switched between 40/80/100W, and wouldn't leave you with an insomniac dog. :)

    Alternately, and probably a better option, are actual purpose-built dog house heaters [], switchable wattages, usable with a timer or rheostat, and designed for use with pets.
  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:11PM (#17831844) Homepage
    CFLs work with dimmer switches. I know I've seen them at Home Depot. And of course, there's this from GE's faq

    To use a compact fluorescent bulb on a dimmer switch, you must buy a bulb that's specifically made to work with dimmers (check the package). GE makes a dimming compact fluorescent light bulb (called the GE Longlife Plus Soft White Energy Saving Bulb) that is specially designed for use with dimming switches. We don't recommend using regular compact fluorescent bulbs with dimming switches, since this can shorten bulb life. (Using a regular compact fluorescent bulb with a dimmer will also nullify the bulb's warranty.) s/cfl.htm#3 []
  • Re:I don't like this (Score:5, Informative)

    by thule ( 9041 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:16PM (#17831948) Homepage
    If you can see the flicker from a modern fluorescent bulb with electronic ballasts, then you must have super human eyes! It is pretty rare to see new fixtures with magnetic ballasts these days. Those old ballasts certainly had flicker problems. Simply turning one of those old fixtures on would create a lightening effect until the bulb fully came on. If you spun a top under them you could clearly see the rate of flicker. Spinning a top under modern fluorescent (especially multi-bulb) shows only a hint of flicker pattern. If modern bulbs bother you, than a CRT would certainly bother you. I'm assuming that you never used computers or watched TV more than a few years ago before LCD's became popular since the flicker rate would have been worse than modern fluorescent bulbs. If you did, and it didn't bother you much, then I must say that your aversion to fluorescent bulbs may be psychological.

    With modern fluorescent bulbs, there is no reason not to use them. They come in warm and daylight temperatures now, so they can more closely reproduce a incandescent light or a daylight look. It is interesting to note that proofing tables (for graphic artists, printers, etc) have fluorescent lights in them. This seems to put weight behind the idea that fluorescents *can* produce good light.

    Personally, I bought a 68-watt MicroSun [] lamp for my main living room to replace the stupid 300-watt Halogen. It's super bright and has a very good color index because it is a Metal Halide bulb.

    As far as the law goes.... what happens to the bulb that has been on for 100-years at that firestation in the Bay Area?
  • Try a new one (Score:3, Informative)

    by ciaohound ( 118419 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:17PM (#17831958)
    I always thought so too, but I'm a convert now. I recently put them in all our bathroom fixtures. The wife never noticed a difference. I figured, what the hell? Let's do all the non-dimmer-equipped light fixtures. Same result so far. I'll probably keep incandescents in my favorite reading lamps, though.
  • Mod parent up (Score:3, Informative)

    by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:21PM (#17832004) Homepage
    Somebody had to point it out. Not all CF bulbs are dimmable, but dimmable ones are fairly easy to find if you look. I have a few recessed dimmable R30 reflector CF bulbs. You can find a replacement for nearly anything.
  • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:23PM (#17832046)
    "but it certainly is not waste if it is doing something useful - like heating your house!"

    Many heating solutions like ground source heat pumps, ventilation heat exchangers, etc, give more heat energy per electrical watt put into the system than lightbulbs. IE, heating your house with waste heat from lightbulbs might take twice as much electricity as running a heat pump. So even if the heat gets used, it's comparative waste.

    "it rarely gets warm enough for it not to be in use."

    Errr, sounds like you need to update your building code too over there. A properly insulated house can, with current state-of-the-art energy efficiency design, support normal indoors living temperatures with zero heat input beyond humans and ordinary applicances far further north than the UK. Of course, that's the extreme, but with a properly insulated building you should definitely not have to run heating all the time at UK temperatures.
  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:25PM (#17832064) Homepage
    It's a wash if and only if you are using resistive electric heating as your home's heat source. Light bulbs (and resistive heaters) have a Coefficient of Performance of roughly 1.0-- a watt of energy makes a watt of heat.

    Modern heat pumps have COPs in the 2-4 range for air-coupled units, and higher for water or ground-loop units. A watt of energy pumps 2-4 watts of heat into your house from outside.

    And lastly, gas heat doesn't suffer transmission loss to the degree that electricity does, since it is burned on-premises instead of being burned far away, used to make power (at a loss), pumped over transmission lines (at a loss), and *then* made into heat in your house.
  • by glindsey ( 73730 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:27PM (#17832076)
    An LED bulb replacement that works with dimmer switches is a bit complicated, but doable. Typical LED bulb replacements will be using some sort of switching power supply inside them to convert the AC line voltage into a low DC voltage -- let's say 12 volts for the purposes of this writeup.

    A dimmer circuit works by varying the line voltage going to the socket. Problem is, typically this power supply isn't going to vary its output voltage in proportion to its input voltage -- it will output 12 volts regardless, until the input voltage dips below a certain threshold where the power supply simply fails to operate.

    So if you wanted a dimmable LED bulb, you would first need a power supply that operates over a wide input voltage range. Then you would need some sort of circuit to measure the line voltage before it hits the power supply. That measurement would be sent to a microcontroller which would pulse the LEDs faster than your eye can see, changing the duty cycle (the ratio of "on" to "off") depending on that voltage. As you can see, not a particularly easy feat.

    A better solution would be to change the way the dimmer switch operates, to a digital protocol such as INSTEON []. The dimmer could then send a digital signal to the LED bulb via the power line, and the LED bulb could interpret that signal and set the right brightness accordingly. (Notice that this would give you all sorts of other cool options -- like a red/green/blue LED bulb that you could choose the color of!)
  • Color Temp (Score:3, Informative)

    by thule ( 9041 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:27PM (#17832084) Homepage
    You can get CFL's in a range of color temperatures nowadays. They still do not have a perfect color index, but it is pretty darn good. I noticed that proofing tables have fluorescent bulbs in them, so it must be possible to get a good color index out of fluorescent bulbs if you really try.

    You may also want to look into Metal Halide bulbs. MH bulbs are like a mini-arclamp. It would be nice if those fast start xenon ones they use in cars could made their way into homes. The only MH fixture I could find was from a company called MicroSun. The only disadvantage is the slow start, but since this is the living room, I am in it most of the evening. Going from 300-watt halogen to a 68-watt MH was a very nice upgrade. The MH is slightly brighter than the halogen and has a very good color index.
  • by Laur ( 673497 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:29PM (#17832110)

    This is actually insightful, IMO, for most of the country (outside of ca) incandescent lights are probably a wash six months of the year due to heating.
    It's not insightful, it's silly (I think the GP was going for the funny mod). Electrical resistance heating is about the worst you can do for efficiency. Even in the winter, you would be far better off using lower energy bulbs and letting your furnace or heat pump heat your building. Making matters even worse, lightbulbs usually aren't placed correctly for heating purposes (who wants to heat their ceiling?).
  • Re:What a joke... (Score:3, Informative)

    by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:31PM (#17832136) Homepage
    While I agree you should have the choice, you can easily replace your 100W halogen and your outdoor spotlights. I replaced ours. In fact, the CF replacement for the halogen bulb is brighter at about a third the power usage. The spots were off-the-shelf replacements for the big outdoor reflector spotlight bulbs, and with the reflector housing you'd never even know they were CF.

    As to your turn signal, there are obviously applications (like blinking lights) that are terrible for CF. And good for LED, which is what you're starting to see on cars.
  • by wiggles ( 30088 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:31PM (#17832140)
    Brother, you need to check your facts. Most dimmer switches have been Rheostats for the past 100 years or so. Maybe the new ones are 'choppers' as you say, but that dimmer switch on the wall in Grandma's parlor is still a rheostat.

    Reference: ml []
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:39PM (#17832274) posting the amount you save per year on big billboards? People will see the amount and think "hey, that's about the same amount I get by looking for loose change between the cushions of my sofa".

    A public information campaign would sound rediculous, which is why they are looking for a beefier weapon like legislation.

    Fluorescent light bulbs... a solution in search of a problem.
  • That's funny... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:45PM (#17832400)
    ... the reply to the article on the page you linked to says they weren't rheostats and probably couldn't have been due to the amount of heat generated by a true rheostat in a wall switch box.

    I've replaced old failed dimmer switches that were at least 25 years old, and they were clearly "choppers", not rheostats. I've worked on several very old houses and never come across an actual rheostat.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:46PM (#17832408) Journal
    I got 6 fancy energy saving light bulbs. They cost $10. The packaging assured me that they would save me a fortune in energy costs and be easier on my eyes.

    But they're very fragile, and one of them broke when I tried to arrange my light fixture on it.

    And the power here in this building isn't very good, so in relatively short order, two more blew out.

    3 of them were in the garbage inside of a month. Wonder how much energy they cost to make?

    I got 6 old school bulbs to replace them. They cost a $1. And they last longer.

    That's why I personally haven't switched.

    Next time I pay $10 for six light bulbs, I want a warranty.
  • Re:I don't like this (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:52PM (#17832530)
    You can NOT see flickering at 20kHz. If you think you can, it's just confirmation bias.
  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:53PM (#17832548) Homepage Journal

    Why do you keep breaking your CFLs?

    Cheap CFLs tend to break easily. Cheap CFLs are the only kind the poor can afford. Thus all those who do not have money pouring out of their assholes will be breaking CFLs left and right. How many of those do you think will go into the recycling queue? You can't currently put that kind of thing in your recycling bin, you have to actually take it to the landfill.

    This is not a solution to a problem, or even a solution looking for a problem. It's a problem looking for a solution.

    If LED lights weren't so damned expensive, we'd probably want to use them, because they have characteristics that make them superior to incandescents in every way but price. CFLs have many drawbacks.

  • Re:Wrong target (Score:2, Informative)

    by J'raxis ( 248192 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:53PM (#17832556) Homepage

    Does kind of make one wonder though, does Lloyd Levine have any friends that own CFL companies.

    Campaign funding records [] for Levine. Anyone recognize any of the names of people or companies in there being in the CFL business?

  • by HThead ( 607256 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:56PM (#17832604)
    I hope the CFL bulbs you bought had handling/disposal instructions on them: CFL bulbs contain mercury. Mercury damn it - mercury! Can you imagine how many of these CFL bulbs break every year, and how many of those weren't handled properly during the cleanup? I wonder how many people are just chucking the CFL bulbs in the garbage (in Brampton, ON, they're supposed to go the community recycling centre, which has a hazardous house waste disposal facility too). I really like that CFL bulbs use little power, but the mercury content is a problem. I'm surprised no one talks about it.
  • by TooTechy ( 191509 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @04:58PM (#17832676)
    Yep. I put one in a dimmer (not knowing it was a dimmer). Only the wife knows. Nasty smells and a plink plink fizz later (about 5 mins later) exit one bulb.

    Shorten the life. It sure does...
  • by eno2001 ( 527078 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:00PM (#17832714) Homepage Journal
    I recently made the switch to compact fluorescents in my basement (MY BASEMENT, not my parent's) and I have to say that it's been a disappointment from an aesthetic point of view. I actually ran through all three types from Home Dept (Daylight, Bright White and Soft). Daylight really blows since it's got a very strong bluish cast that makes everything look really depressing. Bright White makes everything look gray. Soft was the one I went with because it's the only one that came sort of close to regular light bulbs. But it's still too pink and has a tendency to make skin look yellowish. But it's the best compromise possible. The wattage change is great though. I bought the equivalent of 100W bulbs but they only use 27 watts each. That's four bulbs so I'm using only slightly more power than one regular bulb to power four bulbs. I sure hope they improve the technology.

    But just to put people in their place, I want to point out that fluorescent light technology isn't that much newer than incandescents: read this Wikipedia [] entry on fluorescent lights. They are anywhere from 110+ to at youngest 80 some years old. Frankly, I am putting more stock in LEDs myself. For one thing, if the LED technology is improved, you'd be able to have bulbs that could be tuned to the correct color. Just imagine instead of having a dimmer, you have three RGB sliders that allow you to set the lights to ANY color you want. That's the way it SHOULD be. Aesthetics + efficiency. My personal interior design catch phrase is, "Lighting is EVERYTHING dahling".
  • by unimacs ( 597299 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:08PM (#17832862)
    I work for an organization that promotes energy efficiency and we encourage people to replace standard bulbs with CFLs. The new ones are much better in terms of the quality of light, ability to fit inside common fixtures, reduced flicker and noise.

    There are, however, still many applications where CFLs just aren't a good choice.

    1. There are dimmable CFLs but they only dim so much and not very smoothly
    2. Not recommended for enclosed fixtures (trapped heat shortens life of electronics)
    3. Not recommended for use with photocells

    Another problem with CFLs is that quality is very uneven and people tend to buy the cheap ones. They should avoid CFLs without an Energy Star label.

    One good thing about CFLs is that they can produce quite a wide variety of light from a soft warm light to something very close to daylight. People often end up disappointed though because they don't know what to look for and they end up with a light that's too harsh or too dim looking for their tastes.

    A ban on incandescents doesn't make sense. You can't really ban them because they are still needed for certain applications. You could however tax them which would make CFLs seem more attractive.
  • by ThePowerGorilla ( 930379 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:23PM (#17833130)
    That's correct, if you use uber high quality cabling, and equally matched equipment, you won't have these problems.

    However, recording studios do not use BNC connectors, multi-shielded cable, or GHz RF receivers. Pray tell, how do you shield the pickup on an electric guitar with 100% effectiveness? Or an open frame tube-based amp? Tape machine heads? You don't. You keep the environment quiet. It's the only way.

    Noise supression on GHz class receivers is easy, since the offending signal is only a few harmonics out from the nonsense generated in a CFL, and the whole chassis is solid metal, without so much as a vent hole.

  • Re:No great loss... (Score:3, Informative)

    by kinabrew ( 1053930 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:26PM (#17833190) Journal
    I got some 14-watt compact fluorescents in November when my porch and backyard lightbulbs burned out. Since it's cold outside, when I turn one of them on, it's incredibly dim for a minute or so, but after that, the lights get incredibly bright, much much brighter than any of my neighbors' lights.

    I have compact fluorescent bulbs in every bedroom, in my kitchen, in the bathrooms and closets, and outside. The only room where I still use incandescent bulbs is in my living room in two halogen-shaped lamps. For that room, I couldn't find compact fluorescents that weren't either much too bright or much too dim. I have used 40-watt equivalent, 60-watt equivalent, 75-watt equivalent, and 100-watt equivalent bulbs.

    I've been impressed with the change in the quality of the lights. When I first bought compact fluorescents, their light was very yellowish, and made everything look strange. But as the incandescent bulbs have burned out, the quality of each new package of compact fluorescents has been noticeably better. And they last forever. None of the compact fluorescents I've purchased(20 or so) have ever burned out. The only reason I've replaced any has been because the newer ones produce nicer light.
  • Re:No great loss... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anemophilous Coward ( 312040 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:35PM (#17833364)
    I believe not all CFL's are quite made the same. Instead of looking at what they say they are "equivalent" to, check their Lumen output. Compare that number to your current incandescent lumen output. I have found that "60W rated" CFL's (light wise) have varying lumen outputs between different brands.

    I've gotten 60W replacements with lumen outputs higher than the incandescents they replaced and they are indeed brighter (once they fully get going in 15 seconds).

    Another thing to look for is the light temperature rating. 'Bright White', 'Soft White' & 'Daylight' are just some of the different light temperature ratings out there. The temperature of the light can give a different feeling of brightness for a particular room. For instance I replace the can bulbs in my kitchen with 65W equivalent CFL bulbs that were Soft White type temperature. They rather sucked. I then replaced those with the same lumen output but with temperature of Bright White, and the results were much better for that type of room.

    Things to think about for sure.

  • Re:No great loss... (Score:5, Informative)

    by winnabago ( 949419 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:35PM (#17833380) Homepage
    I recommend the CFLs from Ikea - they are rated at 6W - and claim equality to the output of a 50W incandescent. They have a globe around them to look like traditional bulbs, and except for the color of light they cast, I was quite impressed with the quality and brightness- it was greater than many cheap ones I have around. They are about $3.50 each, but last forever under the right conditions in my place. The only thing is that they don't fit in some fixtures I have.

    Most importantly, though, I noticed a drop in my bill immediately - greater than the cost of the 4 bulbs in one month.

  • by Kandenshi ( 832555 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:40PM (#17833472)

    The amount of mercury in a CFL's glass tubing is small, about 4mg.

    "CFLs Responsible for Less Mercury than Incandescent Light Bulbs
    Ironically, CFLs present an opportunity to prevent mercury from entering our air, where it most affects our health. The highest source of mercury in our air comes from burning fossil fuels such as coal, the most common fuel used in the U.S. to produce electricity. A CFL uses 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb and lasts at least 6 times longer. A power plant will emit 10mg of mercury to produce the electricity to run an incandescent bulb compared to only 2.4mg of mercury to run a CFL for the same time."

    Taken from df []

    So, if you add the 4mg intrinsic to the CFL(being pessimistic here and assuming NONE get recycled properly) and the 2.4 mg from electricity production you end up with 6.4 mg of mercury released to the environment, as opposed to the 10 mg for regular incandescent bulbs. About 2/3 the mercury our regular light bulbs are giving off, and some of the CFLs will get recycled eh? Sounds like a good tradeoff to me.
  • Re:No great loss... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @05:49PM (#17833624)
    It depends on how you perceive light. An incandescent has a constant stream of photons whereas a fluorescent has spikes as the arc passes through the tube. Some fluorescents when new are 60Hz, some 120Hz, some ~10kHz. So depending on the density of rods vs cones in your eye and other genetic variants in their response time, and the way your brain interprets that data people can perceive far different quality of light coming from a fluorescent.

    Some people see 60Hz fluorescent light as a solid white where others see it as a really fast strobe light. Also, as fluorescents age they start 'missing' and have a lower and intermittent Hz.

    Like color blindness, if you don't have 'fast' eyes it is hard to believe that the bad fluorescents can make others physically ill when all you see is solid white.
  • by raygundan ( 16760 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:01PM (#17833872) Homepage
    Are you disagreeing with me? Your documentation seems to back my points-- it says, rather clearly, and with nice charts what amounts of energy are required to produce heat in various ways. Those are:

    Gas/Electric heat (electric fans and gas heater): 68% source-to-delivered
    Air-source heat pump with COP=2: 58% source-to-delivered
    Ground Source heat pump: 111% source-to-delivered
    Advanced GS heat pump: 167% source-to-delivered
    Pure electric heat: 30% source-to-delivered (see his assumptions page for this number-- he is using a 70% loss estimate for electrical generation and transmission.)

    This is exactly what I said-- resistive electric heat (which is the category you'd put a lighbulb-as-heater in) is the worst of the bunch. Gas is better, heat pumps are better, etc... and how much better your heat pump is depends on its COP. 2 is pretty low-- you can get 4 from an air-coupled unit without even going crazy with ground-loop stuff.

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:02PM (#17833892)
    Mythbusters did a test on this. For incandescent, compact fluorescent and LED, the turn-on power was so low as to be inconsequential for any normal use. Old-style fluorescent tubes did suck a lot of turn-on power, but IIRC it was equal to leaving the light on for about 12 seconds.
  • Re:Missing the point (Score:3, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:06PM (#17833944)
    Banning incandescent lamps would have minimal effect on electricity consumption. Electrical heaters, air-conditioning, and industry all use so much more power.

    Electrical lighting accounts for 9.4% of US electrical consumption. Reducing that by a factor of 4 is is significant.

  • Re:No great loss... (Score:4, Informative)

    by kimvette ( 919543 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:06PM (#17833948) Homepage Journal
    *raises hand*

    I hate fluorescent lights because I'm prone to migraines and the constant flickering irritates me. I can tolerate 72hz or 75hz CRT monitors but can still see the flickering. I find 60hz CRT monitors downright painful after a few minutes - but have no problem with televisions. The reason I don't have problems with televisions is that they likely use a higher-persistence phosphor than computer monitors, plus I typically do not typically sit 18" from a television.
  • by GreenSwirl ( 710439 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:12PM (#17834046) Homepage Journal
    The dangerous stroboscopic effect only occurs if the fluorescent light source is using a magnetic ballast, which drives the light output to oscillate at the same frequency as the alternating current (60Hz in the USA). Electronic ballasts increase the oscillation frequency to something above 20000Hz, eliminating flicker and increasing energy-efficiency at the same time. Magnetic ballasts have been outlawed in commercial and residential applications, but are still allowed in some cheap "shop light" fixtures meant for garages and such, so watch out.

    Be aware that LEDs operated on AC exhibit worse flicker than the cheapest fluorescent. At least with a fluorescent, there is some light from the phosphors between cycles -- an LED goes completely dark between cycles. I recently examined dozens of brands of LED holiday lights -- every single one flickered like crazy. At least they made some cool effects when you swung them around.
  • by jcscott ( 973811 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:12PM (#17834054)
    Odd, no one ever mentions the mercury CFLs contain. It's a small amount, but given how we Californians already recycle (which is not good) and that curbside recycling doesn't usually accept light bulbs of any kind, most of that mercury will ultimately end up in landfills. Any law that mandates a technology must make sure that technology is disposed of safely.
  • Re:Mee too (Score:5, Informative)

    by penguinrenegade ( 651460 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:26PM (#17834266)
    Tips & tricks:

    1) CFLs don't typically work well on a dimmer switch or any faulty wiring. I've found two instances of faulty wiring in my home because of constantly blowing CFLs.
    2) In Washington State, many companies (Lowes, Fred Meyer) have coupons for $2 off a CFL, up to 8 per person per trip. Albertson's, Lowes, Fred Meyer, Wal-Mart, etc. sometimes have sales with bulbs running about $2 each - free light bulbs! Stock up as you only have to pay the tax on them - comes out to aobut 18 per bulb depending on local tax rates. 3) The CFL coupons are available through various electric companies nationwide - not all areas have them. 4) CFLs contain a starter just like any fluorescent bulb. This is what makes them wear out when used with a dimmer. 5) Be careful about using CFLs near infants and children. The mercury CAN cause significant health issues. CFL, dimmer at night for the night light - can add to the mercury content for a child if the light blows up.

    This is the problem with having legislators rule us. They don't always check the facts or dangers but require us to obey.

    With electric rates being Federally deregulated in 2008, CFLs help NOW, but when consumption drops, then the electric companies can charge just a little more for less power. Seems like a good idea until you realize you pay just as much for 1/4 the consumption. Ingenious way of raising electric rates.
  • by Prune ( 557140 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:33PM (#17834368)
    The quality of light of CFLs is actually much lower than that of good incandecent bulbs. And from what I'm aware of, only special incandecent bulbs like the Solux ones can get very close to a solar spectrum (example spectra at [] ). The tube fluorescents are even worse. While I was doing my degree, I'd turn them off when alone in the office so that I could use a desk lamp and avoid the eye strain the crappy fluorescent light gave.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:44PM (#17834538)
    The difference is one bulb blows off mercury in your home where you breathe it, whereas little of the coal plant's emissions will end up in your house. You really do not want mercury in the air of your house because nearly all inhaled mercury enters the blood stream. Even if the power plant's emissions ended up in your food, most of that just passes right through you.
  • Re:Great!! (Score:3, Informative)

    by julesh ( 229690 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @06:49PM (#17834620)
    Now we have to wait for the ballast to warm up before inspiration strikes!

    I just turned on my CFL desk lamp and temporarily blinded myself while I was still watching where I'd put my fingers to find the switch.

    They're not as slow as they were once.
  • by luke879 ( 1058228 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @07:41PM (#17835400)
    A firestation in Livermore, California maintains the world's longest lit lightbulb []. Some things shouldn't be legislated.
  • by bdjohns1 ( 17720 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @07:42PM (#17835408) Homepage
    No, not nearly so much of a problem as you think.

    Most set lighting is done with carbon-arc bulbs, which IIRC have a color temp of 5000K. Normal daylight is around 5500K. Tungsten incandescents are around 2800K. Fluorescents are all over the place...I've seen them from the 3000s (warm white) to 6500K.

    That said, there are standard color-temperature correcting gels for lights to make them all play nice together. You can put a light-purple gel on a fluorescent to cut the green, and a light blue gel on the incandescent to bring it to daylight. Most camera strobes are already daylight-balanced.

    There are already photographic fluorescent arrays made by a company called Kino Flo ( that are designed with film and movies in mind - they have variable-frequency ballasts that can be driven at 50-400 Hz, so you can shoot at higher shutter speeds (most professional DSLRs don't have flash sync much higher than 1/250)
  • Re:No great loss... (Score:3, Informative)

    by fyngyrz ( 762201 ) * on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @08:04PM (#17835744) Homepage Journal
    No, because movies are interlaced. 60Hz IS painfu

    No. Movies - as in, films you see at movie theaters - are 24 frames per second, which is doubled to 48 frames by flashing each frame twice. Television paints 1/2 the frame 60x a second, and every other frame is displaced one scan line up or down from the previous scan line. Film has no scan lines; just full frames that flash by at 48/second, really 24x2/a second.

    Conversion of film to television does result in television scan lines and refresh rates.

  • Re:No great loss... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @08:39PM (#17836206) Homepage

    Sorry, but light is light. Unless there's something odd going on with colour perception or absorption, this is probably just your imagination! Light of a certain frequency, intensity and angle of incidence will be reflected exactly the same, whether it comes from incandescent or fluorescent sources.
    The light emitted by common fluorescent lights is composed mostly of yellow and blue, with little from the red or green end of the spectrum. Incandescent bulbs emit light from the whole spectrum. It's not his imagination. You probably shouldn't comment on stuff you obviously know nothing about.
  • by rizzo420 ( 136707 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @09:25PM (#17836764) Homepage Journal
    i've worked around them for a bit... we just talked loudly and turned the radio up. no earplugs. of course we also turned the machines off unless they were in use at that moment in time. never had machines just running. it was also a 2 man shop. so at most, 2 machines running and we weren't usually chatting while they were running. so there was no chance of forgetting that they were on, regardless of light flicker (the shop had fluorescent lights) because if it was on, we were actively cutting wood, drilling, sanding, etc.
  • Colour work (Score:3, Informative)

    by Craig Ringer ( 302899 ) on Wednesday January 31, 2007 @11:06PM (#17837804) Homepage Journal
    There are some situations in which CFLs are unsuitable. In particular, colour workflows demand balanced-spectrum environmental lighting that neither CFLs nor conventional incandescent lights provide. Banning incandescents doesn't much bother me, but room must be allowed for specialized lighting needs.

    Well, so long as you want your magazines, newspapers, films, etc to look good.
  • Re:Great!! (Score:1, Informative)

    by kongit ( 758125 ) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @02:26AM (#17839446)
    I have to disagree. While heavy metals exist in the earth, that does not mean high levels of those metals aren't harmful. If cf bulbs are thrown in the garbage and hauled to a dump, the heavy metal content might become great enough to cause harm. Its not the materials themselves its the concentration of the materials.
  • Re:Great!! (Score:4, Informative)

    by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @04:31AM (#17840256) Homepage Journal
    It's also the form. Prior to being mined, many of those metals in their natural form are chemically bound with other atoms in minerals. Having them as leached ions in the environment (and if you're away from the coast, often eventually in the drinking water) makes them much more dangerous.
  • by Walter Carver ( 973233 ) on Thursday February 01, 2007 @08:17AM (#17841348) Homepage
    "Can't use them on a dimmer controlled circuit"

    Yes you can!: [] tm []

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