Compact Fluorescent Light Question

With CFL bulbs being all the rage now, I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the benefits of CFL’s, the colour differences, etc. but I have yet to see any articles on what the production cost is to produce these CFL bulbs. Sure they’re more energy efficient to run, but how much more energy is required to produce them? Also, why do they have to be packaged in thick blister pack, which I’m sure is harder on the environment then the paper boxes that incandescent bulbs come in? What about all the plastic, electronics and glass that are now added to each bulb in regards to creation and disposal?


  • Al

Excellent question to which I don’t have the answer. There is one addition factor and it’s one that is CF’s favor. They last a lot longer than incandescents so if they were used to the maximum extent the total annual production of light bulbs would go down. If they do require more bad stuff to produce/bulb, fewer bulbs would be made.

I do agree that the total lifecycle affect on the environment needs to be considered in assessing the environmental value of products.

The cost (in energy and otherwise) of manufacture is reflected in the price of the cfl’s. If they required so much more energy to produce that it outbalanced their lifetime energy savings, they would not have any lifetime cost advantage over incandescents. But they do, so obviously they don’t require that much energy to produce.

This assumes that the manufacturers are unable to externalize any of their costs.

It seems to me that most of these corporate types have taken extensive post doctorate work in shifting part of their production costs onto society at large. :wink:

What is “externalizing” costs?

Partly marketing, partly theft deterrent is my guess. They’re still a relatively big-ticket item when compared to incandescents, which often cost $.50 apiece.

Examples: Dumping your factory waste into the nearby river for downstream people to clean up. Letting your soot, fly ash and noxious gasses go up the smokestack to dirty up the downwind countryside while the noxious gasses precipitate out in rain to destroy the fishing resource in downwind lakes. Ignoring workplace safety and letting society at large take care of the injured. Prior to the enactment of workmen’s compensation legislation the “fellow servan rule” got companies off the hook when a worker was injured by unguarded drive-belts and the like.

Stuff like that.

Re: the blister packs: because CFLs contain mercury, there’s a greater need to protect them in transit and on store shelves. Also, they’re a slightly higher-ticket item than an incandescent, so breaking one is more “oh, shit” than “oh, drat.”