It seems that the Cambridge Energy Alliance is going door to door next month to hand out free compact fluorescent light bulbs in an environmental crusade. We've heard how great these things are, how much money you save from them, how much longer they last, and how much better they are for the planet.
Not saying it's not true, but if it is, pray tell why does a group need to hand them out for free? Why aren't people knocking each other down to get one?
Peter Wilson gives some reasons (this is not an exhaustive list):
Warm-up time: it takes up to 5 minutes for a CFL to reach full strength, which may be related to the point above (why CFLs seem less bright). My friend has installed them in a hallway where illumination is needed only for the thirty seconds it takes to navigate the staircase. Not ideal when Grandma visits and can't see the skateboard on the stairs.
Few CFLs last for their advertised lifetimes of five years or more. Many people report replacing them after one year, making those return on investment numbers a bit less rosy. Using them in ceiling fixtures, on dimmers or timers, and for less than fifteen minutes per use reduce their life.
CFLs contain mercury and should be returned to a hazardous waste center for disposal.
CFLs require six times as much energy to manufacture as incandescent bulbs, not to mention -- if you're concerned about such things -- the carbon footprint of shipping them from China.
CFLs appear to cause migraines and epileptic seizures in a small number of people. Other health risks are being studied.
CFLs work poorly in cold temperatures -- as a wintertime front porch light, for example. In cold climates, the heat of incandescent bulbs is a useful -- if inefficient -- byproduct.
CFLs degrade the quality of the electric current.
Sure glad Congress took action to ban Mr. Edison. Good intentions pave the road to disaster.