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FAQs about CFLs

All about Compact Fluorescent Lamps

Should I use CFLs?
Switching from traditional light bulbs to CFLs is an effective, easy change that many Anaheim homeowners are making right now to reduce energy use and help prevent greenhouse gas emissions that may contribute to global climate change. It's easy to understand why: lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average household electric use, so something as simple as changing a light bulb can make a big difference. Compact fluorescent lamps combine the energy efficiency of
fluorescent lighting with the convenience and popularity of incandescent fixtures. CFLs can replace incandescent bulbs that are roughly 3–4 times their wattage, saving up to 75% of the initial lighting energy.

Changing to CFLs costs a bit more upfront but because they last 6-15 times longer (6000-15,000 hours) and are huge energy-saving replacements in areas where lights are on for long periods of time, the initial investment pays off in a big way. And right now, Anaheim residential customers who sign up for a free Home Utility Check Up receive up to five free energy-saving CFLs to jump-start their energy savings.

The fact is, if every home in America replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL, it would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes and prevent greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those of over 800,000 cars annually.

Do CFLs contain mercury?
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 5 milligrams, which is roughly equivalent to an amount that would cover the tip of a ball-point pen. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use and are properly recycled. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that amount.

Mercury currently is an essential component of CFLs. It is the element that allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. Many manufacturers have taken significant steps in recent years to reduce mercury used in their fluorescent lighting products. In fact, the average amount of mercury in a CFL has dropped since 2008, thanks to technological advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

What precautions should I take when using CFLs in my home?
CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled, just like a traditional filament light bulb. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the lamp by its base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket. If a CFL does break in your home, you should follow the Environmental Protection Agency clean-up recommendations listed below under “How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?” Used CFLs should be disposed of properly.

What should I do with a CFL when it burns out?
Like most electronic equipment, fluorescent bulbs and ballasts, including CFLs should not be tossed out with the trash when they eventually burn out. Current regulations require that CFLs should be disposed of at a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center. The center in Anaheim is located at 1071 N. Blue Gum St., on the southwest corner of the intersection with La Palma Ave.

While this center shares the site with the CVT Recycling Center, it is operated by the County of Orange Integrated Waste Management Department and has different operating days and hours. For more information about the Hazardous Waste Collection Center in Anaheim, including days of operation, operating hours, directions and a map,
click here.

All, ENERGY STAR-qualified CFLs come with a warranty: if the bulb has failed within the warranty period, return it to your retailer.

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent lamp?
The EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

1. Open a window and leave the room (restrict access) for at least 15 minutes.

2. Remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner.

  • Wear disposable rubber gloves, if available (do not use your bare hands).
  • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard.
  • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel or a disposable wet wipe.
  • Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces of Mercury and powder.

3. Place all cleanup materials in a plastic bag and seal it.

  • California requires that you put used or broken CFLs inside two sealed plastic bags and remove to a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center. The most convenient Center for Anaheim residents is located at 1071 N. Blue Gum St. (the southwest corner of the intersection of Blue Gum St. and La Palma Ave). For more information about the Center in Anaheim, including days of operation, operating hours, directions and a map, Click here.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.

4. The first time you vacuum the area where the bulb was broken:

  • Remove the vacuum bag once done cleaning the area (or empty and wipe the canister)
  • Put the bag and/or vacuum debris, as well as the cleaning materials, in sealed plastic bags
  • Store in a protected outdoor location pending removal to the Anaheim Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center.

What is mercury?
Mercury is an element (Hg on the periodic table) that is found naturally in the environment. Mercury emissions in the air can come from both natural and man-made sources. This silver-colored liquid metal can be found in rocks, soil and the ocean. Mercury can be released into the environment through natural processes when volcanoes erupt, rocks erode, and soil decomposes.

As a liquid metal at room temperature, mercury has been widely used throughout industry. Man-made sources of mercury include abandoned mines, energy production, sewage, industrial processes, mining, smelting, scrap metal processing, and incineration or land disposal of mercury products or waste.

 Do CFLs produce a hazardous amount of UV light?

a.    Fluorescent light bulbs used in homes and offices, including CFLs that have earned the ENERGY STAR designation, do not produce a hazardous amount of ultraviolet (UV) light.  Most light sources, including fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, emit a small amount of UV light, but the UV light produced by fluorescent light bulbs is far less than the amount produced by natural daylight. 

b.  Lamps close to the skin (less than 8 inches) could cause problems for people who are extremely light-sensitive.   Extremely light-sensitive individuals include people with certain skin diseases and people with lupus.  Lupus.org suggests covering CFLs with shades or UV filters for individuals with lupus.

How can I find more information?
The EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs, to assure that they present the most up-to-date information for consumers and businesses. You can learn more by visiting
http://www.epa.gov/mercury.

For more information about CFLs and fixtures, visit the Department of Energy’s web site at
http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls.