Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs or CFLs replaced incandescent bulbs as the norm in the 90s due to their efficiency. However, they are not as efficient as LED light bulbs which are becoming more popular. There are many benefits to upgrading to LED bulbs:
- LEDs use less energy than CFLs.
- LEDs do not contain mercury and are safe to dispose or clean up if broken.
- There are many shapes, colors, and sizes of LEDs to fit your needs, even dimmable ones.
- LEDs do not emit as much heat as CFLs
Switching from incandescent/CFL bulbs to LEDs is an effective, easy change that homeowners can make to reduce energy use and prevent green house gas emissions that lead to global climate change. Lighting accounts for close to 20 percent of the average household’s electric use. LED bulbs can save up to 80 percent of the energy you spend on your home lighting.
How Should I Clean Up a Broken Fluorescent Bulb?
Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, the EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines for all mercury related accidents:
- Air Out the Room
- Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
- Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
- Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
- Clean-Up Broken CFL
- Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid or in a sealed plastic bag.
- Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.
- Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
- Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
- If vacuuming is needed to clean up spills on carpeting, after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
- Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
- Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors pending removal to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center (see address below).
- Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
- Glendale residents can take their broken or burned out CFLs to Glendale’s Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center located at to 780 Flower Street, Glendale, CA 91201 (818) 548-4030
Recycling Used CFLs
Like most electronic equipment, batteries and computers, fluorescent bulbs and ballasts, including CFLs should not be tossed out with the trash when they eventually burn out. Current regulations require that electronics and CFLs should be disposed of at a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center. For more information visit the Glendale Fire Department website or call (818) 548-4030. Local Home Depot stores also recycle used CFLs
Media Coverage of Mercury in CFLs
Media outlets have been reporting on CFLs containing a small amount of mercury in recent months. For perspective, the amount of mercury in the CFL GWP sent out is about 1/500th of the amount of mercury found in a newer mercury fever thermometer, and about 1/2500th the amount found in older household thermometers. That means it would take 500 of the CFLs we mailed to equal the same amount of mercury in a newer thermometer, and 2500 to equal the amount in an older fever thermometer. The amount of mercury in four of our light bulbs would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen.
A Word About Mercury
As with all products containing mercury, special precautions should be taken if they break. No mercury is released when the bulb is being used or is intact (not broken). In instances if the bulb does break, customers can follow these procedures below as a precaution.
Mercury is an element (Hg on the periodic table) that is found naturally in the environment. Mercury emissions in the air can come from both natural and man-made sources. This silver-colored liquid metal can be found in rocks, soil and the ocean. As a liquid metal at room temperature, mercury has been widely used throughout industry. Man-made sources of mercury include abandoned mines, energy production, sewage, industrial processes, mining, smelting, scrap metal processing, and incineration or land disposal of mercury products or waste.
How can I find more information?
Note that the EPA is continually reviewing its clean-up and disposal recommendations for CFLs to assure that the EPA presents the most up-to-date information for consumers and businesses. For more information about CFLs and fixtures, visit the Department of Energy's website or visit ENERGY STAR's website.