Q. When it comes to home improvement, screwing things up is one thing I can do well, especially where lighting is concerned. I recently bought my first 6-pack of energy-saving bulbs. For residential use, they do take a little getting used to on account of the brief start-up flicker and the time it takes for the bulbs to warm up to their maximum brightness. Nevertheless, I like the idea of getting 60 watts of light for just 13 watts of energy using a bulb that lasts 8,000 hours.
Will energy-efficient bulbs allow me to exceed the wattage rating posted on my ceiling light fixtures by any amount? I have basement fixtures that do not enclose the light bulbs, which leads me to suspect that heat build-up within the fixture is not lik ely to be a problem. It would be nice if I could use my new Energy Star rated wonder-bulbs to get 100 watts of light where the socket limit is officially 60.
Secondly, the caution statement on the product box says that I should not use these bulbs with timers. Why is that? I have a household lamp that, for security reasons, I do switch on automatically for a few hours at a time every night. Having an energ y-efficiency bulb there would be ideal.
Finally, each bulb is stamped with the message "CONTAINS MERCURY --DISPOSE ACCORDING TO LOCAL, STATE, OR FEDERAL LAWS." It's with a bit of chagrin that I recognize that, for the sake of reducing my energy bills I've bought into a mercury disposal proble m. Be that as it may, I'd like to be environmentally responsible. What do you recommend?
A. Taking your concerns in order, I can tell you why fluorescent lights shouldn’t be used on dimmer switches. They require a full and consistent supply of electricity and they won’t work if you mess around with lowering it with a dimmer. But I could not discover the science behind the warning to not use them with timer type or photo-electric switches. In that instance a switch is a switch and it’s either on or off and whether or not it’s a timer or a finger throwing the switch doesn’t seem to matter t o me. I’ve run across that kind of logic before with ground fault circuit interrupter outlets that specifically direct on the box that they are sold in to not attach them to aluminum wiring and I have even contacted the manufacturers to inquire as to exa ctly why that is and no one could give me an answer.
Fluorescent lighting is indeed the light source of the future and even though they cost more to buy at the store for same amount of light as an old fashioned incandescent light bulb they really pay for themselves over their life in reduced electrical con sumption and longer service life. 95% of the electricity going to an incandescent light bulb produces heat. Over-lamping is the technical term for putting too large of wattage light bulb in a light fixture and I have had folks who have done that think their homes are haunted because modern recessed light fixtures come with safety thermostats that shut them off if they begin to overheat and the lights would just go off on them. Watts translates to heat. That won’t happen with fluorescent lights as the heat output is greatly reduced for the same amount of light.
It wasn’t until you mentioned that there is mercury in fluorescent lights that I ever gave it a thought. The way they work is electrical current in a fluorescent light excites a bit of mercury vapor which then emits a non-visual ultra-violet light which in turn causes the white phosphorus coating inside the bulb to glow creating visible light.
I went to a lighting store and asked the folks there if any lights came with toxicity or disposal warning labels on them and they didn’t know. I picked up a fluorescent bulb at a home center and read the label you quoted to me and I began to wonder. I called the Maryland Department of Environment to inquire after any policy on that matter and learned that the bulbs used in residential applications fall under the umbrella of “household quantity hazardous waste”. Anne Arundel County provides for hazard ous household waste disposal at their various waste collection locations. Times and locations are listed on their website or check on page 224 of the Capital-Gazette Newspaper 2006-2007 Gu idebook. Since your new fluorescence bulbs will render from 8 to 10 thousand hours of use you’ve got plenty of time to plan for safe disposal.