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Wal-Mart Is Pushing Compact Fluorescent Bulbs 923

While we all know from reading the internets that Wal-Mart is irredeemably evil, the world's largest retailer has committed to get compact fluorescent lightbulbs into 100 million homes this year. CFLs are found in only 6% of households today. These energy-saving bulbs use 75% less electricity than incandescents and produce far less greenhouse gas to manufacture and use. Wal-Mart seems determined to use its marketing prowess to do what hasn't successfully been done in the CFL's 25-year history: to convince consumers to pay more upfront for large savings over the product's lifetime.
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Wal-Mart Is Pushing Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

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  • Brilliant! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kid Zero ( 4866 )
    I'll assume the extra cost vs regular bulbs is just a happy side effect? That said, I buy 'em because they last longer.

    • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by omeomi ( 675045 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:20AM (#17439714) Homepage
      I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that the reason I don't use them has nothing to do with their cost. I had one once, and the delay between the time that I switched on the light and the time the light actually turned on really annoyed me. I know it's stupid, but that's why I haven't bought any more. That, and it didn't really last all that much longer than other regular bulbs that I have. It didn't ever burn out, but it started flickering to the point that it would give just about anybody a headache.

      Personally, I'm hoping LED-based lightbulbs become more common in the near future...
      • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Informative)

        by exploder ( 196936 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:24AM (#17439748) Homepage
        The delay is pretty much a thing of the past. The ones in my house turn on instantaneously, as far as I can detect. If they are very, very cold (way colder than you'd ever let it get inside your house), it can take maybe half a second.
        • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Informative)

          by Mad Quacker ( 3327 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:34AM (#17439878) Homepage

          The delay is pretty much a thing of the past. The ones in my house turn on instantaneously, as far as I can detect.
          I just bought 2 packs from (speak of the devil) Walmart last week.

          Guess what? There is a delay.. maybe a second or so - and then on top of that it takes them about a minute to get up to full brightness. So the 100W equivalent CFL's I have put out (guesstimate) 20W of incandescent equivalent light. I keep my house at 70F. When the bulbs have been operating and are up to about (guesstimate) 100F, they turn on with about a 1/4 second delay. Who keeps their house at 100F?

          This makes them inappropriate for stairwells, bathrooms, and any place with automatic light sensors.
          • Re:Brilliant! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by exploder ( 196936 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:40AM (#17439928) Homepage

            I just bought 2 packs from (speak of the devil) Walmart last week.
            Guess what? There is a delay.. maybe a second or so - and then on top of that it takes them about a minute to get up to full brightness. So the 100W equivalent CFL's I have put out (guesstimate) 20W of incandescent equivalent light. I keep my house at 70F. When the bulbs have been operating and are up to about (guesstimate) 100F, they turn on with about a 1/4 second delay. Who keeps their house at 100F?
            Sounds like I have significantly better bulbs than you do. I don't remember when/where I bought them, but they say "Commercial Electric" on them...who the hell are they? I guess they can make a good bulb, whoever they are...

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by plover ( 150551 ) *
              I've bought over a dozen Commercial Electric bulbs in the past few years (Home Depot specials.) My bulbs exhibit the same kind of delay-on that the GP claims. The bulb is usually in the 60-70 degree Fahrenheit range and it's darn slow to turn on, maybe 0.5 to 1.0 seconds. And it takes them roughly a minute to come to full brightness.

              Overall, I'm not thrilled with the illumination performance of CF bulbs. I keep using them in all my sealed ceiling fixtures for two reasons: I don't like the risk of fire

              • I have the 100 watt equiv. versions in my garage which is rarely above 40 degrees this time of year (I live in Maine) and is frequently close to freezing. I see a delay similar to what I see with the 40 watt and 60 watt equiv I use in other parts of the house.

                There are places they work, and places they don't work.

                In my kids' bedrooms -- especially their closets -- they work wonderfully. The kids constantly leave on lights and I get slightly less pissed off about it this way. In places that need a lot of
            • Home Depot sells the Commercial Electric and nVision tubes. No delay. They work really well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Antity-H ( 535635 )
          I have been reading and testing quite a bit lately with the CFs and yes some show startup delay others don't. I think the form factor is important, in my experience the delays were inversely proportional to the size of the bulb. the larger the bulb the lower the delay until it becomes unnoticeable. I bought a large globe for my kitchen which lits up instantly, while the ultra compact "spot-like" bulbs in my living room will take half a sec to lit up and then a few more seconds before reaching full brightne
      • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by radtea ( 464814 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:27AM (#17439802)

        Zero delay on modern bulbs. My only current complaint is that they don't play nice with dimmers. I use them everywhere else.
        • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:53AM (#17440506)
          My only current complaint is that they don't play nice with dimmers.

          Visit Home Depot. They have a larger selection and include dimmable and hard to find sizes including candelabra bulbs which are dimmable. A set of 8 3 watt dimmable bulbs in my decrative chandelier is a nice touch.

          Power wise it replaced 8 25 watt bulbs.
        • by dakirw ( 831754 )
          My only current complaint is that they don't play nice with dimmers.
          GE makes some dimmable CFL bulbs now. I picked up a couple from WalMart. The downside is that the dimming range isn't very big (the dimmest output is about half of the max) and are less flexible than incandescent bulbs. They're also rather expensive - about $12 per bulb. Not cost effective yet.
      • by phulegart ( 997083 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:06AM (#17441292)

        Are you freaking serious? The delay was too long? Have you become so immersed in the current culture of Instant Gratification, that when you weigh the individual bonuses and global bonuses of using these bulbs, against the minor annoyances of how long the bulb takes to achieve brightness and the exact color of "white" light that the bulb throws off (Ok, that wasn't YOU, but I'm replying to other freaks who agreed against the bulbs.. sue me)

        Come ON! Let's see.. the bulbs use an incredibly small amount of electricity compared to regular incandescent bulbs.. so you get to save money there. Don't need to save money? I'll give you an address you can throw money at. I'm only one of the MILLIONS of people who could use that money you are throwing away by not switching to CF bulbs.

        Don't like a "whiter" light? You prefer the yellowed light from incandescents? Ok, sure it is a "warmer" tone.. that is because it is created by a glowing filament... it is a "white" light born of a red light... you know... red as in infrared, red as in burning, red as in fire and heat.. remember playing with metal and campfires, getting a piece of metal glowing brightly orange, or even white hot (if the fire was hot enough). Seeing a common theme of wasted energy here, thrown off in HEAT that is unnecessary to the process of providing light? I say unnecessary, because if you want heat, use a blanket. Not a light bulb.

        You bathe your head in more radiation coming from your cell phone. You are in no danger from your CF light bulb.

        I just can't believe people are whining "But it takes soooo long for it to light up. WAH! Mommy! Make the bulb light faster!" It takes longer for a web page to load with broadband, than it takes for the light to come on. Christ, it takes less than a second. Time measured in Microseonds. Why aren't you whining about how seconds it takes your car to start between turning the key and actual ignition? WHy aren't you whining about how long it takes the BIOS to check your drives before booting begins off the harddrive? Why aren't you whining about how long it takes your OS ((Linux or Windows) to boot? My God. Is 30 seconds just way way too long to melt butter for you as well?

        As far as the color of the light goes... get a life. There is more variation in the shade of white in the background of this freaking web page, from computer monitor to computer monitor, than there is in the difference between regular bulbs and CF bulbs. And if you are complaining about the color, and you DON'T have a specific color profile set up for your monitor, as well as the exact INF file for your monitor, and programs like Adobe color correction running, AND an accurate, less than 4 month old AFGA color chart nearby to check your monitor color reproduction against.. you have no right to talk about the shade of white.

        Stop burning paper money and get with the program. And go buy some damn CF bulbs. At Walmart!
    • Re:Brilliant! (Score:5, Informative)

      by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:25AM (#17439760)
      Regular bulbs are cheaper to produce - namely because they don't need a ballast (what is hidden in the base in CFLs) like all fluorescents do. Price a replacement ballast at homedepot for a digital (T32?) fluorescent - it costs between $16-25 for four tubes, sometimes more. So I'm surprised they CFLs got so cheap.

      BTW, 60 watt equivalent CFLs cost roughly $1.50 a piece (8 pack) at Costco. Much cheaper than Walmart. Nice, bright, instant on.

      (A while back, in my dad's new garage, within 3 weeks - 6 of his fluorescent tube fixtures broke. It was a batch of bad ballasts in them. It would have been a bitch replacing just the ballasts - lots of cutting wires, tying the new one together, tearing the fixture apart and putting it back together again - in other words a PITA. We decided to go with regular bulb fixtures with CFLs because we would get the fluorescent cost benefits but the screw in bulb convenience.)

      Anyway, the upfront cost is not worth complaining over - with regular use you got your money back within 3-5 months.
    • by Fallen Kell ( 165468 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:31AM (#17440328)
      LEDs are here. Even MythBusters did an episode on lights and costs. In it, they created a testing device to simulate the abuse a light takes turning on/off with it cycling every 2 minutes. After 2 weeks in that, only the LED lights still worked, traditional, florescent, and CFL's all stopped working by that point, with traditional going first, the regular florescents and the CFL's going approx the same time (the edge went to the CFL's). The LEDs also produced more lumens per watt power consumption as well as used the lest amount of energy to turn on, whereas the traditional florescents had a 7x power spike for turn on, and the traditionals had a 1.5x spike, even the CFL's had a power spike. Everything says to use LED lights now.
      • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @03:18AM (#17441020)
        The LEDs also produced more lumens per watt power consumption as well as used the lest amount of energy to turn on, whereas the traditional florescents had a 7x power spike for turn on, and the traditionals had a 1.5x spike, even the CFL's had a power spike. Everything says to use LED lights now.

        Unfortunately we live in a market economy. The cost is a real factor. My average lamp is 900 Lumens. My 1 watt flashlight is only 32 lumens.

        If I live another 30 years in my present home, what is the cost to outfit a 6 bedroom 3 bedroom home with LED lamps and will I have any savings over CF bulbs I now have installed?

        LED lamps are about 20 cents / Lumen.
        Refrence PDF alert. http://www.aceee.org/pubs/a042_l11.pdf [aceee.org]

        At 5 lamps in the kitchen overhead, 2 under the microwave, 5 in the dining room, 4 in the living room, 15 in bathrooms, 12 in bedrooms, 6 in porch and drive, 4 in the laundry, 2 in the hallway, and 5 in the rec room. Average size 60 watt equivelant. Total numbers of lamps is 60 for a total of 54,000 lumens needed.

        To make matters of finding a proper replacement, many LED's are not rated in Lumens but intensity. I don't need a spot of light on the celing above the light. I want the room lit up. Remember there are aproximately 1,000 Mcd to a Lumen. Using that compare this bulb to a typical 14 watt CF lamp.

        http://item.express.ebay.com/Home-Garden_Lighting- Ceiling-Fans__16000-MCD-P60-48-White-LED-110-V-Edi son-Type-Light-Bulb_W0QQitemZ220015435889QQihZ012Q QddnZHomeQ20Q26Q20GardenQQadnZLightingQ20Q26Q20Cei lingQ20FansQQcmdZExpressItem [ebay.com]

        I don't think a 16 lumen lamp is a direct replacement for a 14 watt CF lamp of nearly 900 lumens.

        The LEDs also produced more lumens per watt power consumption

        http://members.misty.com/don/lede.html [misty.com]
        "The better usual modern white LEDs (as of September 2006) produce about 29-45 lumens of light per watt of electricity

        http://hes.lbl.gov/hes/makingithappen/no_regrets/l ighting.html [lbl.gov]

        "while the fluorescent produces over 50 lumens per watt"

        The high effeciency LED's just are not on the market yet for most white LED's.

        I'll stick with CF's as the additional cost of LED's don't yet produce a measurable savings. I have been watching the lumens/watt and cost race for some time. It's getting close, but the average modern white LED is still not as effecient as a typical CF lamp.

        A laboratory prototype of a white LED achieving 150 lumens/watt has been announced on 12/20/2006.

        Wake me when these are on the shelf at a competitive price.
  • by exploder ( 196936 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:15AM (#17439682) Homepage
    ...does it take to change your light bulbs?
    • Three... (Score:5, Funny)

      by KingSkippus ( 799657 ) * on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:24AM (#17439752) Homepage Journal

      One to screw it in the socket, and two to lock the employees of the store that sold it in for the night [nytimes.com].

  • Oh come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jarjarthejedi ( 996957 ) <christianpinchNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:19AM (#17439700) Journal
    "While we all know from reading the internets that Wal-Mart is irredeemably evil"

    What is that? Sure, the majority of people don't like Wal-Mart, but why do you feel the need to mention it in an article where Wal-Mart is doing something good?

    As for the article it's mostly a "duh" thing. It's main points seem to be that Wal-Mart's trying to sell a lot of these bulbs, the people who make money off of incandescents don't like it, and then it goes into the history of the light bulb.

    I'm glad Wal-Mart's doing this, too many people refuse to buy them, if Wal-Mart does what they always do (cheap) then their plan should work and power consumption should drop.

    ((Why do I see myself losing Karma here...?))
    • Re:Oh come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:27AM (#17439786)
      Sure, the majority of people don't like Wal-Mart...
      No, the majority of slashdotters don't like Wal-Mart. The majority of people, in general, either like it or don't have any feelings for it one way or another. Same with Microsoft, SCO, and the RIAA.
      • by adolf ( 21054 ) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:42AM (#17440410) Journal
        As long as we're explaining general viewpoints for karma, here's how I see things:

        RIAA is evil. They're suing their customers.
        Microsoft is evil. They lock people into their products and make my job difficult with obscure licensing requirements and feature omissions.
        SCO is evil. Sure, UNIX(r) was great and all, but we got over it years ago.

        Wal-Mart? Come on. All they do is sell products that people want, for less money than the competition, and offer correspondingly little in the way of customer service. Just like Newegg, Amazon, or any of most of the other faceless online entities who are struggling to charge as little as possible in an attempt to get ahead. This might hurt the local specialty merchants, but then, so does Newegg limit the market of a brick-and-mortar specialty PC parts store, who stands no chance at all at matching the pricing, availability, or product diversity such a beastly online merchant.

        That said, I'm an informed sort of fellow, and I don't really want to pay someone to hold my hand while I make a purchase, anyway. The decisive lack of knowledgeable sales representatives at Wal-Mart and Newegg is, to me, a clear advantage, because I don't have to pay extra for supposedly-clued people to stand around and bullshit me.

        Right then. So you say that they only sell stuff made in China. But so do all of the other places where I can actually afford to shop.

        And so, at the end of the day: I could either pay less for those cheap Chinese goods, or I could pay more. Obviously, I'd rather pay less. Just like I'd rather get a raise, than continue toiling away undercompensated. Just like I'd rather sit, than stand. And I'd rather lay down, than sit. And so on, and so forth.

        So now, they're making a concerted effort to boost CFL lighting, so as to cause people to spend less money on electric lighting instead of more money on more money on electric lighting. A boon for everyone. Cool!

      • Re:Oh come on... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@mon k e l e c t r i c . com> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:50AM (#17440464)
        A subject that nobody *EVER* discusses is the limits of human perception. Our brains our designed to make quick evaluations about things. This is the *ONLY* strategy that works because you have to evaluate thousands of things in your life.

        When we give a name to something, an entity as large as walmart for instance, that allows us to sum up the hundreds of thousands of people and millions of actions they take on behalf of walmart as one concept. But in reality, walmart is hundreds of thousands of people and millions of actions.

        Add this to a blurry concept of good and evil, and you've got a real mess that can't be summarized easily and thus can't be easily comprehended by our brains.

        The truth about walmart (and every other thing) is it is neither evil nor good. Some of the people are evil, some of the policies are evil, some are good, some of the people are good. I worked for walmart after college during a hard time in my industry ... I met all those people, good, bad, evil, and the majority just people trying to feed their families. Most aren't even capable of understanding the damage walmart as a hole does to the country (wage depression which leads to manufacturing outsourcing which leads to more wage depression)

        • Re:Oh come on... (Score:5, Informative)

          by MindStalker ( 22827 ) <mindstalkerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @10:56AM (#17444160) Journal
          Most aren't even capable of understanding the damage walmart as a hole does to the country (wage depression which leads to manufacturing outsourcing which leads to more wage depression)

          But ultimately that is exactly where we should be heading. As more products are purchased overseas more Americans are able to afford more stuff with less and less actual work. Its the same theory as with robotics. Your not replacing workers with robots (or people from china) your allowing us to get stuff cheaper and those workers to move to more knowledge based work. :)
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            What wishful thinking. This process allows the ownership class (read: not you) to capture the wealth of the middle class. Any time you hear the term "globalization" or someone singing it's praises this is secret code for "capturing the wealth of the middle class."
  • by kennedy ( 18142 )
    and i do hate to admit it - but with their buying power this really could actually help drop the cost of these sorts of lights for everyone.

    in any case, good for wal-mart. this, along with that $4 RX deal they've started (in some areas? dunno if it's company-wide yet), and we've got a few small steps in the right direction. now if only wal-mart would use it's buying power to get a good deal on gas...
  • by Heir Of The Mess ( 939658 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:20AM (#17439710)
    I've found that replacing my 100watt bulbs with the equivalent in CFLs was ok, but light coming from them somehow seemed dimmer due to it being a colder temperature light. What I would like to see is really bright CFLs, like 150W equivalent, which would use about 30W. I think this would encourage people to buy them more because as well as only using 30% of the electricity they also get bulbs that produce 50% more light, not to mention the immediate wow factor of having brighter bulbs. Unfortunately things seem to be going the other way, as at my local store I can now only buy 18W CFLs.
    • by Belial6 ( 794905 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:38AM (#17439910)
      I don't think it is the color of the light that makes them seem dimmer. I think it is just a case of over exaggerating the benefits. When they say the bulb is equivalent to a 100 watt bulb, you can expect to actually get the equivalent of an 80 watt bulb. This wouldn't be so bad if they, as you said, sold 150W equivalent bulbs.

      There are two issues I have with CFLs though.

      1) I have had problems with them interfering with IR remotes. The first time it happened to me, I thought I was mistaken about the TVs channel changing on it's own, as I wasn't really paying attention. The second time it happened, I freaked me out, because my wife was out of town, and the idea of my lights changing the channel never occured to me. I had to do a complete check of the house with a golf club to make sure there wasn't someone in the house. When the house checked out empty, I started looking for other possibilities. Over the next few weeks, I figured it out. Having the remotes stop working when the lights were on was the final determination. This may be better know, but it has kept me from using CFLs at all in any room that needs the use of an IR remote.

      2) The county dumps in my area have declared the CFLs to be toxic waste. This makes it illegal to throw them in the garbage when they do die. The stores that sell the bulbs are not collecting them, so the only legal way to get rid of them is by driving them to the dump.

      I don't know the actual toxicity of the CFLs, but I have to wonder what the actual environmental impact is when you account for the bulbs being toxic, and the extra trips to the dump to dispose of dead bulbs. Anyone with real data on this care to chime in?
    • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:41AM (#17440408)
      A colder light will generally appear brighter since it is close to neutral. Outdoor daylight varies but on a clear day is usually in the realm of 5500-6500k. Compared to a normal incandescent, which is around 2800k, is very warm by comparison. The normal problem with fluorescents is that their colour spectrum sucks. They don't have a very even distribution of power across the light spectrum, at least compared to the sun and incandescents. However, you can buy much better fluorescents if you look. The term used is generally "full spectrum". Also they may talk about color index or CRI or the like and it'll be above 90 (incandescents are 100 by definition). These generally seem much brighter than normal ones as they have better colour spectrum. Only downside is they tend to be more expensive, like $12 per bulb.

      I personally buy mine from BlueMax (http://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com/compact_fluo rescent_32_ctg.htm). I've not done much shopping around so there's probably cheaper options out there, but I buy infrequently enough as to not care, and I like their lights. Very neutral light (cold compared to incandescents) and they claim quite a high CRI.

      I think if you pick up a good CFL, you'll find that it's not the temperature that's the problem but the spectrum. However, if you want warm CFLs, they are easy to get. Check any Home Depot or similar store, and they should have them for sale. That's what I used prior to discovering the full spectrum variety (which I can only find online).
  • by amigabill ( 146897 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:21AM (#17439720)
    When will these things become dimmable? Or get good LED "bulbs" dimmable? I've got dimmer switches in 4 rooms of my house which means I'm not able to use these things there. I do have a few elsewhere in the house, and I'd love to use them exclusively, but they don't freakin' work in some things. If they don't freakin work, I don't freakin use them there...
  • It all depends on what the bulbs sell for, and whether they will fit in every place that a normal bulb goes. Yes, that's correct, sometimes they don't fit.

    If they sell those compact energy saving light bulbs for 99 cents, hey, I'll bulb (although not from them). If they sell if for $5+, it's not worth it, especially since you throw them away before they're dead (yes, dimming is a huge problem over the lifetime). Some stores do have sales on them, but it really matters as to what brand. Shop smart, and do th
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `vdalived'> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:26AM (#17439774) Homepage
    This is just smart. Car companies do it too. They sell to people who want fuel economy. If a car company could make a powerful safe car that ran for 500 miles on 1 gallon of gas, they'd do it.

    Walmart has no vested interest selling electricity or energy. Since CFLs are more expensive up front, they get a greater slice of profits. The more expensive the item, the larger profit margin. Warmart is still a company that's only interested in profits, and I'm not ready to slap the saintly tag on them, but this is purely capitalism at it's best. The invisible hand will see where the profits are and follow the money, and when it comes to light, the money is in saving energy.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:32AM (#17439854) Homepage Journal
    Go ask - women do not like the light they throw off.
    • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:52AM (#17440036) Journal
      Seriously, where are we supposed to find these "women"? Are they over on Usenet? Fark? Digg? Homestarrunner? Where?
    • by adrianmonk ( 890071 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:26AM (#17441420)
      Go ask - women do not like the light they throw off.

      AFAIK, the two main quality issues with fluorescent lights are:

      1. Ballast frequency, which is a very similar issue to refresh rate.
      2. Color temperature, which is essentially whether the light is yellowish or neutral or blue/greenish.

      With CFLs, the ballast frequency issue was solved a long time ago. Basically, the voltage needs to be stepped up way higher than line voltage (120V in the US, 220V many other places). The low-tech way to do this is with a transformer. This means you get 60 Hz (or 50 Hz, whatever) current at that high frequency. That means flickering. Flickering doesn't happen with incandescent bulbs because it is heat of the filament that is causing the light to be emitted. The electrical current going through the bulb goes to zero 120 times a second (with 60 Hz power), but the filament's thermal mass is high enough that the bulb "coasts" through the zero voltage (and zero current) crossing and continues to emit light. You can even turn off an incandescent and watch it continue to glow for a fraction of a second after power is removed, because it takes time for the filament to cool. But this continuous lighting thing is not the case with a fluorescent, as I understand it. The gas in the tube only produces light when there's a voltage, and it stops pretty much instantaneously when it's not being electrically excited. Thus, with a fluorescent and a low-tech ballast, you get an effect similar to what it looks like when your monitor is set at a painfully low refresh rate, only not quite as bad, but still annoying.

      But, as I said, compact fluorescents don't suffer from this issue. The reason is they have electronic ballasts. Instead of simple, dumb circuit with a transformer in it, they have a circuit that steps up the voltage, but it converts it to a much higher-frequency A/C voltage before it gets into the tube. I'm not sure of the frequency, but googling indicates it is in the tens of thousands of Hz. So, it's fast enough your eye really can't perceive it.

      The other issue, color temperature is a little different story. As this explanation [lightbulbsdirect.com] says, "Warm light is preferred for living spaces because it is more flattering to skin tones and clothing." I think this is the key reason for aesthetic objections to CFLs. Incandescents produce warm light at a color temperature of about 2700K, because that's what happens when you heat up a filament. With compact fluorescents, different options are available. If you want something similar to what you're used to with an incandescent, you should choose a 2700K CFL! It's not at all uncommon for CFLs to come in color temperatures in the range of 4000K or 5000K. That will appear considerably bluer or even weird and greenish compared to an incandescent. Nobody wants their skin tone to appear overly greenish, so 2700K it is, for aesthetic purposes, in most cases.

      On a side note, things are different if you want to, say, take pictures of things. In that case, you might want to go with a higher color temperature, because 2700K is considerably warmer (yellower) than what you see outside on a nice sunny day.

    • by vga_init ( 589198 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @05:40AM (#17441742) Journal

      That's because they're brighter (the CFL--not the woman). We know from experience that women find these two things odious:

      1. Seeing themselves.
      2. Being seen by others.

      Most women expend incredible amounts of time and effort to avoid being seen, either by altering their appearance cosmetically to mask or otherwise obfuscate their features or by insisting that you turn the lights off during sex.

      When confronted by a well lit area, a reasonably intelligent woman, upon realizing that you installed the new light, will complain that she "doesn't like the way it throws off light," thereby marrying her distrust toward optical clarity with her natural prejudice against new technology.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ojQj ( 657924 )
        You are exagerating the contrasts between men and women. Speaking as a woman, I prefer CFL's... especially for certain tasks.

        1.) Cooking -- I can more easily check that the color of certain foods is correct. So I don't overcook the vegetables for example.
        2.) Arts and Crafts -- I have trouble distinguishing the difference between blue and black and the difference between grey and beige with incandescents and halogens. When sewing or painting its good to be able to see these differences.
        3.) Choosing matchi
  • by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @12:51AM (#17440034) Homepage
    If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008

    They will also have converted about 28% (nearly a third) of their yearly lightbulb sales to somthing that is 8 times as expensive.
    Given that profit margins normally work on percentages, that should roughly octuple 28% of their profit margin on lightbulbs.
    They should be making 2.96 times as much selling light bulbs, of course they want to push this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MLease ( 652529 )
      They will also have converted about 28% (nearly a third) of their yearly lightbulb sales to somthing that is 8 times as expensive. Given that profit margins normally work on percentages, that should roughly octuple 28% of their profit margin on lightbulbs. They should be making 2.96 times as much selling light bulbs, of course they want to push this.

      Um, one problem with that. The fluorescent bulbs last 10x longer on average (see TFA). So while they may make 2.96 x as much profit on one bulb, they're
  • it's about time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Yonder Way ( 603108 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:01AM (#17440088)
    I've been pushing these things on everyone who will listen for almost ten years now.

    It's amazing to think that in all that time, I've only lost three bulbs. Two of them burned out after 6+ years of regular use. One of them met an early demise thanks to a kinetic incident involving a toddler and a toy.

    The initial investment may seem high (and when I started buying them, it was easy to spend around $20 on a single bulb) but over the years you more than get your money back.

    The only real gotchas I've found is that they don't work at all with dimmer switches, and they may require a warm-up period if you use them outside and it is quite cold out. Indoors they are instant-on now. The old ones used to hum, flicker, warm-up to full brightness, etc. but those problems have pretty much been overcome years ago.

    On the upshot, a relatively small desktop lamp can usually accommodate an incredibly bright CF bulb. To achieve similar brightness with a conventional bulb would no doubt destroy the lamp. If you like to read by a strong light source, you ought to try this.
  • by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson @ g mail.com> on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:05AM (#17440116) Homepage Journal
    Fluorescent lights cause fading/bleaching in book covers. [loc.gov] Though not as prnounced as the effects of sunlight, it still damages books, which is why, as a book collector [rr.com], I won't be replacing my incandescent lights anytime soon...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ranger ( 1783 )
      Most Wal Mart customers don't read much anyway. So for them it's not a problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nemeosis ( 259734 )
      My college library designed the building so that the lights would shine up and hit the ceiling, and the light would reflect off the white paint.
      Maybe you should buy a vertical upright lamp.
  • by ink ( 4325 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @02:01AM (#17440572) Homepage
    http://www.centennialbulb.org/photos.htm [centennialbulb.org] It's a bulb in a Livermore/Pleasanton fire house. It has a carbon filament that is much thicker than modern bulbs and also burns much cooler/darker. (105 years old)
  • Another advantage... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sifi ( 170630 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @04:33AM (#17441448)
    I'm a big fan of these bulbs.

    Another advantage I've come across is that you can put a brigther bulb in a light fitting only designed to take a low wattage bulb.

    e.g. if the light fitting says "40W Max" you can put in a "100W equivilent" CFL bulb since this is really only 20W in terms of actual power, and it is the heat that they are worried about.
  • by Randym ( 25779 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @05:31AM (#17441728)
    I'll consider Wal-Mart as a source when they commit to taking back -- and actually recycling -- the old CFL bulbs. Otherwise the bulbs just end up in a landfill somewhere leaking mercury into the environment -- and Wal-Mart will come across as a typical corporate greenwasher, benefitting from appearing "socially conscious" while externalizing the nasty end result. In Europe, they have laws mandating that 'waste electrical and electronic equipment' must be recyclable [eu.int] in this way. Here's the wikpd link [wikipedia.org].

  • They is good! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation ( 858215 ) on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @07:29AM (#17442258)
    My first CF bulb from *13* years ago is still going on my front porch, having been exposed to the elements all that time.

    Of course here in So Cal we don't get many, er, elements. Hey, how's that weather, Colorado?
  • by amper ( 33785 ) * on Wednesday January 03, 2007 @01:22PM (#17446406) Journal
    I used to use only fluorescent bulbs, both traditional and compact in my house, until I started recording my music again. I don't remember if the early CFL's were any better (the $20 ones made by the bigs, like Philips, rather than the cheap-ass ones made by the off-brands they sell at Lowe's and HD), but I got so much interference in my systems because of them, that I had to turn off all the lights in the house just to get anything done. This did not well please She Who Must Be Obeyed. So, I replaced all the CFL's with regular incandescents, and I'm back in business. The regular big fluo's I can live without, but they're noisy, too.

    As an aside, as an Amateur Radio operator, I can tell you that many, many, household appliances are guilty of severe RFI these days. I really don't think that I should have to run around putting chokes and such on devices I paid several hundred dollars to own.

    Now, where's that FCC when you need them?

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"