Billions of lights flicker on every day in homes across America. We purchase approximately 2.2 million light bulbs every day—and those light bulbs inevitably fail, usually within six months. A typical light bulb lasts only about 750 to 1,000 hours before we toss it into the trash and replace it with a new one, rarely thinking of the ramifications one light bulb may have on the earth.
Short lifespan is just one of the problems. Most of the electricity expended to power these bulbs is given off as heat. Only 10 percent of the electricity is converted into light. And incandescent lights cannot be recycled or reused.
There is an alternative. Compact fluorescent light bulbs are three to four times more efficient at converting electricity into light. Studies have shown that these lights can last up to 6,000 hours. And compact fluorescent bulbs use less electricity overall—only 15 watts of electricity compared with 60 watts for an incandescent. For every compact fluorescent you place in your house, you can avoid replacing up to thirteen incandescent bulbs. According to Energy Star, one compact fluorescent can save you up to $25 over the bulb’s lifetime (including replacement bulbs and electricity costs).
Compact fluorescents cost anywhere from $8 to $15 depending upon the style, so it is expensive to replace every bulb in your house at once. Replacing spent incandescents with compact fluorescents one by one will spread out the initial cost over time.
Fluorescent bulbs can also be recycled, unlike their incandescent cousins. And because compact fluorescents contain low-pressure mercury, it is essential that they are recycled intact or the mercury will escape. Throwing these bulbs in the trash risks leaking hazardous mercury into the environment. Contact your local landfill facility for recycling information in your area.