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Energy Myths

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Debunking Energy Myths | Hot Myths and Cool CFLs

iStock_000004509109XSmall (1)Welcome back to another installment of Debunking Energy Myths, where you’ll get the straight scoop on energy myths currently making the rounds.

Today I’m responding to comments made by faithful Facebook friends regarding energy-efficient lighting. Comments about these cool lights can get heated. Perhaps because CFL and LED lights are relatively new and the technology is constantly changing (much like Kim Kardashian’s love interests), they seem to incite scandal mongering.

Let’s put some rumors to rest …

Myth #1: Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) contain toxins and are considered to be one of the most dangerous chemicals in our homes.

Partly true. CFLs contain mercury; and mercury is toxic. However, the mercury content of a CFL is very small. What is the impact of CFLs on the chemical safety in your home?

According to Parents magazine, mercury is one of the top ten household chemicals most harmful to children. However, vapors from broken CFLs are not listed by the editors as one of the mercury sources of concern. If you’re concerned about children, pregnant women or the infirmed being exposed to mercury, then you might want to consider a common (but often overlooked) source like your food choices. Eating an abundance of certain types of fish over time is the leading cause of mercury poisoning in the United States.

Myth #2: Mercury in CFLs causes Alzheimer’s Disease*.

False. Although I was unable to find any medically-based information about a relationship between CFLs and Alzheimer’s disease, I did find quite a bit of info regarding silver dental fillings and Alzheimer’s. Like CFLs, silver dental fillings contain mercury. From the Alzheimer’s Association website, “According to the best available scientific evidence, there is no relationship between silver dental fillings and Alzheimer’s.”  The website provides links to three separate studies on the safety of silver dental fillings.

Silver dental fillings contain much more mercury: Between 100 to 1,000 milligrams compared to about 4 milligrams of mercury in a CFL, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

*The commenter’s post stated the CFLs are shown to cause Alzheimer’s but did not provide a source. If anyone knows of this study, please send me the link.

The bottom line on mercury

Mercury is a heavy metal that is toxic in any form, especially to the brain and other organs and is found in the environment both naturally and due to human activity. But the risk of mercury poisoning is contingent on the quantity of mercury you are exposed to over time. Coal-fired electricity generation accounts for about 40% of the mercury emissions—emissions that are with us all day, every day.

To put this into perspective, consider that a coal-fired power plant produces 2.52 mg of mercury to power an incandescent bulb compared to .66 mg of mercury to power a CFL of equal lumens, according to the EPA. Using energy-efficient CFLs actually reduces the amount of mercury we are exposed to every day.

For more information, check out this Debunking Energy Myths post.

Myth #3: CFLs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs) cause headaches/migraines.

False. This is one of those myths that started as fact (probably) but is no longer true. When CFLs (and to some extent, LEDs) first came on the market, when the technology was still relatively new, bulbs could flicker and/or make a buzzing sound. I found several anecdotal reports from individuals that this caused headaches and migraines** even though these folks were not typically sensitive to light or sound; I found no controlled studies.

With advancements in the production, a quality CFL (like an ENERGY STAR® bulb) produces steady quality light similar to an incandescent bulb. A CFL that is used in an incompatible fixture, the wrong wattage for a fixture or just a low-quality product can buzz or flicker, but that is true of an incandescent light too.

Bottom line: Today’s CFLs and LEDs pose no greater risk of headaches or migraines than incandescent light bulbs.

**As well as worsened symptoms in people with Ménière’s disease and epileptic episodes.

Myth #4: CFLs can catch on fire.

Any misused bulb can catch on fire. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (a branch of FEMA), the misuse of light fixtures and light bulbs are the leading causes of electrical fires. CFLs and LEDs are not specifically a problem. ENERGY STAR-qualified CFLs meet UL safety standards, which require the materials to be self-extinguishing.

Additionally, Consumer Reports tested 77 models of compact fluorescent light bulbs, for a combined 2,680,000 hours of light. They were unable to create an incident of smoking, overheating or fire.

Here’s what happens when a CFL expires. According to John Drengenberg, consumer affairs manager, Underwriters Laboratory (UL), “The light dims over time and might produce a more dramatic pop, emit a distinct odor, and maybe even release some smoke.” All of this is perfectly normal and safe.

Flames are not a normal part of a CFL’s life cycle. If a light bulb, any light bulb, catches fire contact your local fire department (call 911 in case of an emergency). The bulb or the socket could be defective. It happens. If you want to report a malfunctioning CFL or LED, email to report the incident. Include the manufacturer’s name and model number on the CFL base and how and where the bulb was used.

Bottom line: CFLs and LEDs pose no greater fire risk than incandescent light bulbs.

Thanks for checking in! As I mentioned earlier, while these lights are cool, this topic gets pretty heated. If you disagree with my conclusions, post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, don’t forget to keep your comments and questions coming, and I’ll continue to dedicate myself to debunking energy hoaxes, thwarting scams and educating energy users everywhere. (Cue patriotic music)

By Connector, Mary LaLone.

Xcel Energy offers discounts on CFL and LED bulbs. You can get CFLs for as little as $1 each (bulbs may be sold in multi-packs) and save up to $10 on selected models of LEDs. Find discounts at a store near you

Join us in #XElab  Learn more ways to save in your home and join us in #XElab!  While you’re there, take anenergy-efficiency quiz to be entered for a chance to win $100 toward energy-efficiency upgrades to your home!

Peak Construction & Design is a residential/light commercial, general building contractor licensed/insured in California. We specialize in remodeling of custom/single family homes, condominiums, light commercial offices, as well askitchen and bathroom remodeling, along with new built homes, barns and out buildings . We also do general home maintenance.  We service Southern California and the communities  including Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Indian Wells, Palm Springs, La Quinta, CaliforniaPlease call Chris Nelson today at 760.668.3991!



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