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Illinois Country Living

Doug Rye, licensed architect and the popular host of the "Home Remedies" radio show

Energy Solutions

A Cool Idea for Better Lighting
CFLs save energy and even run 75 percent cooler

A few months ago my wife and I had the opportunity to visit six European countries. I quickly noticed that almost every light bulb there was more energy efficient than most regular incandescent bulbs in America. I remember looking at her and saying, “Honey, they are a lot farther ahead on energy-saving light bulbs than we are.”

Well, 10 months later, I am happy to say that we in America are rapidly adapting to the use of compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). CFLS are getting more dependable and there are more classes of the light spectrum being offered (soft white, bright white, etc.). Some are now made for use with a dimmer switch and there are far more sizes and designs than in the past. In fact, I believe that I could totally light any new or existing house with CFLs. That reduces the cooling load on your air conditioner. They even make yellow bug light CFLs now. OK, there is one exception — I don’t think you’ll find CFL appliance lights for a refrigerator or oven.

An ENERGY STAR qualified CFL will save you about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about six months. That’s a hard investment to beat. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb. And this time of year CFLs have another advantage — they’re cool. CFLs emit about 75 percent less heat than traditional bulbs. About 90 percent of the energy emitted by incandescent bulbs is heat, compared with the 30 percent released by CFLs.

Another advantage is they last longer. I’d start installing them in areas of high use and then in fixtures where it’s hard to change the bulb.

As interest in CFLs grows, I find myself getting a lot of questions at my seminars, in letters and on the phone about the proper way to dispose of a CFL.

At first I didn’t know why folks were asking that question. Then I learned it had been mentioned on television that CFLs contained mercury. Well, we learned from our mother and teachers in school to never touch mercury and certainly never to put it near our mouth, except when our temperature was taken with a thermometer that has mercury in it.

Because of your question concerning this matter, I went out and did some research. Here, to the best of my ability, is the answer. First, man does not make mercury (unless you are talking about the automobile). God made mercury as one element of the earth, as evidenced by the element chart on the wall of a chemistry class. Minute traces of mercury can be found in many places and many soil types. You may actually come into contact with some mercury while you are working in your garden. It appears that contact with minute amounts of mercury poses no health threat whatsoever.

OK, mercury is in a CFL anyway? Well, take your ballpoint pen and make a dot, one about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. That is about how much mercury is in a regular CFL. It’s miniscule, folks.

There are a few locations that recycle CFLs and if you are near one, by all means recycle them. For example some co-ops accept CFLs and so do Home Depot stores. However, if you are not near such a center I see no reason why you can’t dispose of an unbroken CFL in the trash as long as you seal it in a quality trash bag. Unbroken CFLs can’t release in the miniscule amount of mercury.

So, I hope this column will put your mind at ease about CFLs. In these days of rising energy costs, CFLs are a cost effective way to save energy. So, if you haven’t already, go out and replace those old incandescent bulbs with CFLs today and start saving on your electric bill.

For additional information on CFLs and recycling, visit, or

More Information:

Doug Rye, the “Doctor of Energy Efficiency-the King of Caulk and Talk” can be heard on several different Illinois radio stations. Or you can go to his Web site at, e-mail him at, or call 888-Doug-Rye or 501-653-7931. You can also sign up for a free newsletter and order his “how to” videotapes.


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Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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