Compact Fluorescent Lights

There’s really no debating which save you money, energy and the planet? Compact fluorescent lights uses 75 percent less energy than its incandescent counterpart, lasts up to 10 times longer and prevents more than 450 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Over its lifetime, a single CFL can save the consumer $80 or more, depending on local electric rates.

But not all CFL bulbs are the same. Some have lower mercury content than others, and some last much longer. Unfortunately, you can't tell the best of the best by their labels - or the U.S. government Energy Star logo. Some Energy Star labelled bulbs could not be legally sold in Europe due to excessive mercury content.

Shopping suggestions:

When shopping for CFLs, buy those with the lowest mercury content. The Environmental Working Group maintains a list of low-mercury bulbs.

Safe use advice:

- Place CFLs in locations where they are unlikely to break, such as ceiling fixtures instead of floor lamps in high traffic areas.

- Screw CFLs in by the base, not by grasping the glass.

- Don’t use CFLs in rooms frequented by pregnant women or children (bedrooms, playrooms).

Proper disposal:

Dispose of broken and burnt-out CFLs through your municipal collection program or check EPA’s website for nearby disposal sites. Never throw them in the trash.

If a CFL bulb breaks, open windows to allow volatile mercury vapors to escape, keep people and pets away for at least 15 minutes. Wear gloves, a dust mask and old clothes when scooping up the bulb fragments. Seal the waste in a glass jar with a tight lid. Pat the area with sticky tape to collect tiny splinters and dust, then wipe with dampened paper towels or baby wipes. Place wipes and towels in the jar with the bulb. Properly dispose of the jar and its contents, and also dispose of any materials (bedding, etc.) that came in contact with the bulb or its dust. Towels, bedding, and clothing that come in contact with the broken bulb should be discarded--not laundered. Mercury particles could contaminate the washing machine or the water flowing into the sewage system.

If a bulb breaks on a carpet, the EPA recommends vacuuming it and then cleaning the vacuum. However, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted several tests and concluded that vacuuming stirs up room air and can result in elevated mercury levels in the air. Using the vacuum elsewhere in the house could spread the mercury to other rooms. The Maine DEP suggests removing the carpet altogether, especially if pregnant women or children spend time in that area. If the carpet is not removed, be sure to ventilate the area frequently since mercury vapors can release from the carpet over long periods of time.

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