by , 01/03/07

compact fluoresent bulbs, walmart, Wal-Mart,

It can be easy to bad-mouth Wal-Mart, but according to the New York Times the megaretailer is getting behind compact fluorescent bulbs in a big way this year, with the goal to get them into at least 100 million homes by 2008. It’s easier said than done — despite the fact that compact fluorescents use 75 percent less electricity and last ten times longer, consumers have remained loyal to inefficient incandescent bulbs, partly because fluorescents have a higher initial cost and generally give off less pleasing light — but if anyone has the retail muscle to make it happen, it’s Wal-Mart, right?

The Times
reports that they’ve been looking for better ways to market the bulbs, including better placement in store, getting manufacturers to change packaging to emphasize energy savings, and even a website proposed by “An Inconvenient Truth” producer Lawrence Bender that would track sales of compact fluorescents at retailers around the country, showing real-time data about how much energy Americans have saved by switching. No matter how they get there, if Wal-Mart is able to accomplish its goal, by 2008 the United States will have saved $3 billion in energy costs. We’re glad to see the big box retailer taking such initiative.

+ The New York Times

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  2. Ken Bolinsky September 24, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Nearly every lamp in my home is on a dimmer — and dimmable CF’s have a LONG way to go… Where I can use non-dimmable CF’s, though, I have — and find the “brand name” CF’s to be quite nice. After the initial warm-up, they light quickly, evidence no flicker, and are dead silent.

    KEEP AWAY from the Walmart “Great Value” brand! I recently purchased a 4-pack of 23W CF’s: One failed to light, one buzzed and NEVER warmed up, and the other two flicker like strobe lights.

    I guess I’ll be sticking to the more expensive brand-name CF’s for the time being…

  3. royal March 7, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    Love LEDs. Can’t stand the eyestrain from a fluourescent bulb. That 60hz flicker is killer on my parafoveal vision. Two or three years and the LED’s will replace CFLs and incandescents. IMHO.

  4. art donovan February 18, 2007 at 11:43 pm

    CFL’s don’t flicker and hum anymore when you turn them on. Most have Electronic Ballasts now- as opposed to the Magnetic Ballasts from 17 years ago.

    A big improvement, as are the new combinations phosphors that they are using to “temper” the C.I. (to look more pleasant- like an incandescent bulb.)

    I was the first designer to use CFL’s in my lamp designs 17 years ago and the only company that made them back then was G.E. They retailed for $27.00 each and they were a “horror show” aesthetic at the time because of the price, color and unappealing size of the thing. Believe me, they were a real tough sell.

    I’m very glad to see that things have changed for the better and that they are now so widely used and accepted.

  5. Inhabitat » ASK I... February 7, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    […] 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. […]

  6. David Bellona January 20, 2007 at 5:19 pm

    in pushing the fluorescent light bulb, wal mart should also instruct, or make information available/clearer, to dispose of them properly as some people will not know that they contain mercury.

  7. Michael Dooney January 10, 2007 at 2:59 am

    I think it’s a good move by Wal-Mart to replace all their lamps with PL’s (compact fluorescents) although I imagine most other companies may already be doing this, perhaps it is just a PR campaign. I know most companies in Australia use compact fluorescent technology (and they have for many years), one because your building can get a higher ‘green’ rating, they save money on energy costs, and they also save on maintenance (cost of lamp as well as labour for someone to install) as lamps don’t have to be replaced as often. So it’s really in their best interest to do this anyway, if they can educate the public about it as well, all the better.

    I’d be interested to see where it says that fluorescent lighting is bad for reading, especially since most offices use fluorescent lighting. The only real advantage for using incandescent lamps in some commercial applications is for colour rendering, and it would only be in specific cases where this would be required.

    As for the bluish tinge that comes from some fluorescent lights, warmer lamps are available (3000K- 3500K) which are around the same colour temperature as traditional incandescent lamps.


  8. Elliott January 6, 2007 at 12:32 am

    I found that painting, or tinting, my glass lampshades red has helped to cut down on the harsh glare. I switched over all of my bulbs over one year ago and am still using the same ones.

  9. Holly Kallman January 5, 2007 at 4:50 am

    I changed the 10 bulbs in my apartment to flurescent 3 months ago. For 100 dollar investment my bill reduced 30 dollars each month from the same month last year. And I haven’t replaced 1 bulb in those 3 months. The light is a tad bluer, but it does not feel at all like florescent lighting in an office building. I highly rcommend this switchover. It is win/win.
    I have little comment on Walmart. These are available in your local hardware store-which you can walk to.
    Holly Kallman

  10. EK January 4, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Check out the Fast Company magazine article online (simple search); they go into the specifics of the Wal-Mart CFL campaign.

    >It’s not the high cost, start up flicker or the light quality, but the constant buzzing that is the deal breaker!

    None of my CFL’s buzz, not even the older ones. I deal with light quality by using colored lampshades and sconces. It’s a design problem, not a mechanical one.

    >Are we figuring those btu’s and exhaust gases and particulates in the ledger of ‘green’ actions by walmart?

    Do we figure the emissions and energy expenditure for “regular” incandescent bulbs? Perhaps it’s a little lower because of the lighter weight, but the difference is negligble I’m sure. They come from the same general areas, so your point is moot. We have to get the bulbs somehow, and Asia happens to have the cheap labor required to sell them so inexpensively.

    >And how dirty are those factories in china? Where do they dump their toxic byproducts – what safety provisions >do they make for employees and offspring…

    I’m sure they are just as dirty as the ones producing incandescents, aside from the mercury.

  11. Ryan January 4, 2007 at 10:46 am

    Tim, I believe Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel debunked the myth that turning on a light blub uses a significant amount of power. No, really. They tested all different kinds of bulbs, and for all of them you’d have to be switching then on and off every ten seconds or less (some were less than a second) to use more electricity from the powering on than would be used if you had just left the light on. In other words, CFLs use less electricity, unless you plan on using it for ten seconds at a time.

    And Sarah, I don’t know what CFLs you’ve been listening to, but mine seem to make a slight buzzing for the first few seconds and that’s it. Really, it’s nothing I’ve ever thought of or noticed until you mentioned it. And frankly, I find it hard to believe that an Inhabitat reader will let some barely audible noise stop them from saving a ton of energy.

  12. Tim_2 January 4, 2007 at 7:46 am

    I heard fluorescent light bulbs used more power on startup more than 10 yrs ago, and believed it until recently when I became skeptical – Ulrike thanks for confirming my suspicion.

  13. Ulrike January 4, 2007 at 2:10 am

    Tim, that’s a myth. The CFLs that we use in our home take slightly more energy to turn on than to run continuously. However, if you’re going to turn them off for more than a few seconds at a time, it’s still more energy efficient to turn them off every time you leave the room. This is true of all the commonly available bulbs that you or I would have in our home (even the “old school” tube fluorescents that I have in my kitchen & office).

  14. Chris January 3, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    I love the line in the NY Times story that says walmart is shipping the bulbs over in cargo planes.

    Are we figuring those btu’s and exhaust gases and particulates in the ledger of ‘green’ actions by walmart?

    And how dirty are those factories in china? Where do they dump their toxic byproducts – what safety provisions do they make for employees and offspring…

    The initiative sounds like pr to me, like bs.

  15. AbbeyK January 3, 2007 at 9:22 pm

    Most of my clients don’t like the quality of light that CFLs give off. Maybe we need to play with different types more. They are great for outdoors, hallways, utility spaces. Also in bathrooms they are way too harsh. But for a soft look or feel, I prefer full-spetrum.
    I agree with Baron.

  16. Gretchen January 3, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Its great that Wal-Mart is promoting energy efficiency. Yet, I’d be more convinced of mega-retailer’s environmental savvy if they offered to collect spent bulbs for recycling as well. While fluorescents are more energy efficient and have a longer use life, they also contain mercury, which can pose serious environmental and health problems if not properly disposed of.

  17. Tim January 3, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    Is this a good thing?

    My understanding is that the power required to start a cfl is significantly large. If you put one where it will be turned on and off frequently, you are going to use more power, not less.

    It is a simple matter of education; teach people to put the bulbs where they are effective and they will save power. However, I have not seen any marketing material that says anything more than “buy this, save power”.

    A recent series of power outages puts this problem in scope in another light. The power company tried to re-power several circuits, but they could not because the power-on drain on the circuit was too much. They asked radio stations to request that people go around and turn off non-essential lighting to reduce the drain.

  18. Ulrike January 3, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    My local power company has teamed up with local grocery & hardware stores to offer instant rebates that bring CFLs down to $0.99 each. I bought 12 (the maximum allowed per household), and replaced every lightbulb in my house, except the ones that are on a dimmer switch or with fixtures too small to fit a regular CFL. All without stepping foot into Walmart.

  19. Sarah January 3, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    It’s not the high cost, start up flicker or the light quality, but the constant buzzing that is the deal breaker!

  20. Baron January 3, 2007 at 12:13 pm

    Know where sells these bulbs CHEAP? Ikea.

    However, I have read that fluorescent light isn’t very healthy to read in. So my home is a mix of fluorescent lighting for hallways, backyard, balcony, front porch and the kitchen but I use full spectrums in the reading rooms and bathrooms.

  21. Ryan January 3, 2007 at 11:08 am

    This is great to see. I was very excited to read that Walmart wants CFLs in 100 million homes. This is a perfect example of the power of the marketplace, and possibily even those “evil” mega-corporations, to do good things. I’m just worried about how they think they’re going to do this. Right now it seems to be mostly rhetoric. Are they *really* going to take extreme measures to get people to buy them? Will they stop selling incandescents altogether? Also, I think they should promise to replace all incandescent bulbs in all Walmarts with CFLs. Granted, most lighting in Walmarts is probably flourescent already, but it would look good for them.

  22. Chris January 3, 2007 at 4:47 am

    I have been continually impressed with Walmarts plans to go green. At first I thought it was just gonna be Greenwashing, but then again, if they can save and make money, then why the hell shouldn’t they do it? I applaud their actions and hope to see much more of the same this year and beyond!

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