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ASK INHABITAT: What are the greenest lightbulb options?
Posted By Emily Pilloton On February 7, 2007 @ 5:36 am In ASK INHABITAT,Design,Green Lighting,San Francisco | 22 Comments
With all the recent talk of CFL’s , LED’s, and other fancy-sounding efficient lighting options , we thought it fitting to resolve some of your lingering lighting and lightbulb questions for this installment of Ask Inhabitat .
As far as screw-in bases go (the usual configuration for residential applications), your non-spiral options take the shape of candles, globes, reflectors, and covered (or “capsule”) CFL bulbs. Each has its appropriate use- candles for chandeliers, reflectors for recessed “can” lighting found in many a living room, and covered bulbs for outdoor applications. “Capsule” CFL’s  are simply the basic spiral version encased in a plastic or glass globe, giving it the more common lightbulb aesthetic. Probably the best family room solution is a reflector CFL , or R-CFL, whose reflective conical shape provides a broader down light than other options. There are even dimmable options  available now including flood and reflector CFL’s from both GE and Philips. Bulbs.com  and Energy Federation Incorporated  both have great selections of R-CFL’s in a variety of color temperatures to perfectly complemented your newly-upholstered sofa.
It’s important to understand, though, that while some of the more aesthetically-pleasing CFL’s may look more common, they use the same technology- strategically encasing the spiral to provide light diffusion, reflection, or just a barrier to hide the so-called ugliness. So, a CFL’s spiral form is primarily determined by its function- it needs the tube to work, and the spiral allows the tube to function with in a fairly compact space.
On a related note, the U.S. Department of Energy  recently held a competition  for the most energy-efficient R-CFL’s. The winners  include models from GE, Sylvania, and Philips. All of the winning models are Energy Star  qualified and have surpassed a stringent set of standards set by the Department of Energy . They are now available online here , through Energy Federation Incorporated .
Q: Like the good energy-conscious person that I am, I have been replacing my incandescent lights with CFLs, which has left me with a pile of incandescent bulbs that I don’t know what to do with. Being constructed of glass, steel, and tungsten, one would thing these would be an excellent candidate for recycling. Please help me, Inhabitat! What can I do with my pile of bulbs?
A: While it breaks my heart a little to provide this answer, it seems there are currently no comprehensive or widely available recycling and/or disposal resources for incandescent bulbs. Despite the fact that incandescents contain hazardous amounts of lead along with recyclable clear or quartz glass, these components are not viewed as “economically-extractable.” The silver lining of all this, if you are an uber-optimist like I am, is that incandescents’ lack of recyclability is just further proof that they are exceedingly un-green, strengthening the argument to switch to CFL’s.
Yes, all types of fluorescent bulbs, including CFL’s, contain hazardous mercury, but there are a ton of recycling and disposal services, programs, and resources available to both residential and commercial markets that make them not just energy-efficient during their lifespan, but easily recyclable and safely disposable. Some states even go so far as to require the proper recycling of all fluorescent bulbs. Bulbs.com  has a great ship-and-pack recycling program for fluorescents and fluorescent ballasts, and www.lamprecycle.org  has a directory of local fluorescent recyclers.
It’s worth calling your local recycling center or hazardous waste disposal service to ask them specifically about their incandescent recycling/disposal efforts- you never know! But if all else fails, your best bet is to allow your incandescents to burn out before disposing of them (thereby mitigating the effects of any remaining hazardous metals), place them in a brown bag to keep your local waste collectors’ hands safe, and bid them adieu. Or if you’re the crafty type, paint them red, wrap some wire around their base, and use them to adorn next year’s Christmas tree.
Emily Pilloton is the Managing Editor of Inhabitat, a furniture designer, and freelance design writer based in Chicago and San Francisco. Trained in architecture with degrees from UC Berkeley  and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago , she now designs conceptual and sustainable furniture and writes for print and online publications. She has also taught design in Chicago, given lectures about green design and sustainability, and worked with Chicago-based Foresight Design Initiative , a non-profit organization that supports sustainable design and business practices.
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URL to article: http://inhabitat.com/ask-inhabitat-what-are-the-greenest-lightbulb-options/
URLs in this post:
 Image: http://inhabitat.com/2007/02/07/ask-inhabitat-what-are-the-greenest-lightbulb-options/
 CFL’s: http://inhabitat.com/2007/01/03/walmart-compact-fluorescent-bulbs/
 efficient lighting options: http://inhabitat.com/2006/08/16/green-building-101-environmentally-friendly-lighting/
 Ask Inhabitat: http://inhabitat.com/2007/01/21/ask-inhabitat-your-green-dear-abby/
 -George, Kentfield, CA : http://
 “Capsule” CFL’s: http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/2050_25_44_168
 reflector CFL: http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/2050_25_44_171
 dimmable options: http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/2050_25_44_169
 Bulbs.com: http://www.bulbs.com/Reflector-Compact_Fluorescent_Bulbs,_Screw--in_Base-Bulbs-Category/results.aspx?kw=flgen&Ntk=all&Ntt=fluorescent&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&Nty=1
 U.S. Department of Energy: http://www.energy.gov/
 competition: http://www.pnl.gov/rlamps/
 Energy Star: http://www.energystar.gov/
 here: http://www.energyfederation.org/consumer/default.php/cPath/2106_2107
 Energy Federation Incorporated: http://www.efi.org/
 Bulbs.com: http://www.bulbs.com/recycle.aspx
 www.lamprecycle.org: http://www.lamprecycle.org/
 Emily Pilloton : http://www.emilypilloton.com/
 UC Berkeley: http://arch.ced.berkeley.edu/
 School of the Art Institute of Chicago: http://www.saic.edu/
 Foresight Design Initiative: http://www.foresightdesign.org/
 firstname.lastname@example.org: mailto:email@example.com
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