This is the place for my rants, raves, reviews and just general "stuff". May you be amused, enlightened, and perhaps even a little pissed off.


Compact Fluorescent Project - Part 2: Quality

In part two of this series, I approach the project from a quality of life perspective, rather than simple economy, although that does figure into some of it.

Problems and redux.

I quickly found out that the new CF lighting in my offce was overwhelming, both in quantity and quality. I replaced Reveal full spectrum bulbs with CF bulbs and the new light was very white and very harsh. It hurt my eyes right away and detracted from the ambiance of my beloved office that I spend so much time in. Immediately I turned off half the new bulbs (a further energy savings) and strategically moved the remaining two Reveal bulbs to places that illuminated my most frequently used work areas, namely my desk. I will do some further research to find better full spectrum CF bulbs that don't have such harsh light. When all the CF bulbs were on, it was like going from a dark room to bright outdoors, it was just a little overwhelming. I eventually got used to the change in light quality.

The most surprising problem that I had was that a 60w equivalent CF bulb was too tall for a small lamp in the living room and the bulb stuck slightly over the shade and was aesthetically unpleasing. Had the lamp been in some place other than central portion of the living room, I would have probably left it. The replacement didn't pass the wife test and warranted a "you aren't going to leave it like that" look rating. With further shopping I was able to find a spiral CF bulb that was not only considerably shorter, and fit nicely, but also much lower wattage that worked perfectly for the location. A nice additional monetary perk.

In the master bath area over the sink we replaced the 60w Reveal bulb with a 60w equivalent CF bulb. Right away we could see that the results were unacceptable on a number of accounts. First, the startup time was way too slow for our quick moving, getting ready in the morning routine. We might just be really impatient, but remember that I set a goal of not impacting my quality of life negatively. Also, the light took a while to get up to full intensity, and the type of light was not appealing in the least. It was almost as if we were jaundiced, a real problem when you are getting yourself up and motivated for the day. I quickly switched back to the Reveal bulb.

In the laundry room, over the washer and dryer, I experimented with several bulbs to get a level of illumination that was right for the task area. Once I was happy with the bulb in the fixture, I had my wife test it out. Unfortunately the light temperature was wholly unacceptable because she was unable to match socks of similar color. The level of illumination was adequate, its just the color of the light that the bulb gave off made it hard to differentiate between the dark navy blue socks and black socks. To solve this issue I shopped further for bulbs and got a daylight CF that gave off much better light for the task. Its still a little harsh and makes you feel as if you are in a refrigerator, but atleast you can correctly match socks.

Good things.

Rather than simply consider this a task requiring action to complete, I spent more than a little time considering the qualitative aspects of what occurred and more specifically the good things that came out of it.

My first big win came early in the experiment. The amount of light coming from the outside CF flood lights was exceptional. It was atleast twice the lumens for a quarter of the power. As we get used to it, there are places that it has almost too much light and we will have to do some balancing of the areas. Our front porch definitely has the feel of a theater stage about it. While its nice to have lots of light, it is wasteful.

Truly one of the most positive aspects of this project was the signficiant reduction of heat in my office. I had previously noticed that it would be much cooler when I entered the office after the lights had been off for a long time. I also had previously noticed a marked drop in temperature when I moved from two 19-inch CRTs to two 17-inch LCD monitors. I have nearly ten cpus worth of computing gear in my home office, so there is lots of heat being generated regardless of what else is going on in the office. I figured that changing to CF would have a slight affect, but nothing major. Boy was I wrong! The difference was dramatic and right away. I no longer felt hot in the room after a long period of working in my office and was no longer sweating. Apparently the office was normally right at the perception tipping point of acceptable and hot, with the additional heat from the lights putting it into the hot category. Moving four 50w bulbs to a net two 11w bulbs is a nearly 10-fold reduction in power usage and much of that power we converted to heat.

Not all the positive aspects of this project were specifically about the lights, but instead about installing the lights. We have one bulb that is a real pain to get to. It's location is inconvenient and requires me, inspite of me not being the most limber camper on the planet, to do some gymnastics to install. Furthermore, this bulb is installed by walking on a second story walkway, which tweaks my slight fear of heights. I think you get the point, its a pain to change that bulb. Now, with the long life bulbs, 4 to 8 times longer, I don't have to change it nearly as often. For that reason alone I would pay the extra cost of the bulb.

Subsequent experimentation.

As I live and work in this newly fluorescent world, I have been tweaking things from time to time. For instance, as I mentioned previously, I reduced the number of powered CF bulbs from four to two because the light was more than adequate. I am also contemplating upgrading some of the bulbs in key areas to daylight bulbs, or atleast something closer to full spectrum, to improve the quality of the light in the areas.


Could I be a better conservation story? yes. But recall that the aim of this exercise was to save money and not negatively affect the quality of my (or my family's) life. After I had finished replacing the bulbs that I wanted to focus on, I looked around and was surprised by the number of incandescent bulbs remaining in the house. I was able to count atleast another 31 standard bulbs in the house, 19 candelabra bulbs that would be harder to replace with CF, 4 standard bulbs in the garage, and 10 unused floodlight sockets around outside of the house. The remaining easily replaceable standard bulbs in the house were all well below the five minutes per week usage level, which makes the break-even point for them well over 500 years. I am, unfortunately, not nearly that patient.

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I am definitely not a treehugger. I do, however, think that you should sometimes do the "right" thing, but not out of some faux crisis promulgated by a vapid celebrity from Hollywood. In other words, just do it because its easy, it works, and it will save you money. In my case it was approximately $185/yr, but your savings might be much greater if your power costs are higher.


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