Compact Fluorescent Bulbs (CFLs)

Benefits of Switching to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
Switching from traditional light bulbs (called incandescent) to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs (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% less energy (electricity) than incandescent light bulbs, last up to 10 times longer, cost little up front, and provide a quick return on investment.
Compact flourescent and incandescent light bulbs
If every home in America replaced just 1 incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL, in 1 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.

Reflector & Spiral Bulbs
CFLs come is a wide range of wattages and are usable in virtually all locations you currently use traditional incandescent light bulbs. For recessed fixtures, it is better to use a reflector CFL than a spiral CFL since the design of the reflector evenly distributes the light down to your task area. If a light fixture is connected to a dimmer or 3-way socket fixture, you’ll need to use a special Energy Star qualified CFL designed to work in these applications. Make sure to look for CFLs that specify use with dimmers or 3-way fixtures.

Reduced Mercury
CFLs reduce the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere. Electricity use is the main source of mercury emissions in the U.S. CFLs use less electricity than incandescent lights, meaning CFLs reduce the amount of mercury into the environment. A 13-watt, 8,000-rated-hour-life CFL (60-watt equivalent; a common light bulb type) will save 376 kilowatts per hour over its lifetime, thus avoiding 4.5 milligrams of mercury. If the bulb goes to a landfill, overall emissions savings would drop a little, to 4.0 milligrams. The U.S. EPA recommends that CFLs are recycled where possible, to maximize mercury savings.

Compact Fluorescent Bulb Mercury Content
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - an average of 4 milligrams. As mentioned above, the use of CFLs actually reduces the amount of mercury released into the environment. 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% in the past year. Some manufacturers have even made further reductions, dropping mercury content between 1.4 and 2.5 milligrams per light bulb.

Handling a Broken CFL

If you should break a CFL or any fluorescent light bulb, Do not vacuum or sweep it up. Vacuum cleaners and brooms wind up getting the mercury into the air, where the tiny droplets could be inhaled. Please follow the procedure listed below should you be present any time a fluorescent bulb is broke:

Before Clean Up Procedures
  • Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating / air conditioning system, if you have 1.
Clean Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
  • Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
Clean Up Steps for Carpeting or Rug
  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
Clean Up Steps for Clothing, Bedding & Other Soft Materials
  • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and / or pollute sewage.
  • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.
Disposal of Clean-up Materials
  • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.
Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug
  • The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating / air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
  • Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed. =
Recycling Used Bulbs
When CFL bulbs burn out (hopefully in 5 to 10 years), do NOT dispose of them in the trash. Instead please locate a convenient recycling center to turn them in. Currently both Home Depot and IKEA offer free CFL recycling. Many local hardware stores and recycling centers also take back the used bulbs. Call your local store to see if they are participating in the program. If not, encourage them to consider beginning a program. It will bring more people to their stores and make it convenient for you and their other customers.

CFL bulbs can be recycled at the following businesses:
  • Ace Hardware stores
  • Home Depot stores
  • Lowes Home Improvement Stores
  • IKEA stores
Information is provided by the EPA website.