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Reports on exploding CFL light bulbs

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April 19, 2011

The CFL Fraud

By Edmund Contoski

A compact fluorescent light (CFL) on the ceiling burst and started a fire in a home in Hornell, N.Y. December 23, 2010. "Those are the lights everybody's been telling us to use," said Joe Gerych, Steuben County Fire Inspector. "It blew up like a bomb. It spattered all over." Fire Chief Mike Robbins said the blaze destroyed the room where the fire started and everything in it, and the rest of the house suffered smoke and water damage.

"Bulb explodes without warning," reported NBCactionnews.com, May 21, 2010.

"Tom and Nancy Heim were watching TV recently, when Tom decided to turn on the floor lamp next to his recliner chair. 'I heard this loud pop...I saw what I thought was smoke, coming out of the top of the floor lamp,' says Tom. Nancy suddenly found glass in her lap. She says, 'I did not see it. I just heard it, and I noticed I had glass on me.'"

On February 23, 2011, TV NewsChannel 5 in Tennessee covered "a newly-released investigators' report that blames a February 12 fatal fire in Gallatin on one of those CFL bulbs." Ben Rose, an attorney for the rehabilitative facility in which Douglas Johnson, 45, perished, said, "This result is consistent with our own private investigation. ...We have heard reports of similar fires being initiated by CFLs across the country."

Here are some examples from across the country:...

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I've never heard of an incandescent bulb being the cause of a fire. Faulty wiring, sure, but never a bulb.

I just can't wait until I run out of incandescents and have no choice in the matter. Aren't you excited that we're going to be saving the planet?

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I've never heard of an incandescent bulb being the cause of a fire. Faulty wiring, sure, but never a bulb.

I just can't wait until I run out of incandescents and have no choice in the matter. Aren't you excited that we're going to be saving the planet?

For what it's worth, I once saw an incandescent bulb explode without provocation and shoot out of its socket. It left a somewhat clean cut through the narrow part with the now-open bulb half flying across the room.

As an individual choosing what products to buy, who can predict this? It's a reminder to take the usual precautions:

Ensure everything.

Backup everything. Keep some backups off-site.

Store irreplaceables in a secure, fire-protected location to the extent practical, and for papers, keep copies backed up.

Live in a home with fire sprinklers.

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I've never heard of an incandescent bulb being the cause of a fire. Faulty wiring, sure, but never a bulb.

I just can't wait until I run out of incandescents and have no choice in the matter. Aren't you excited that we're going to be saving the planet?

For what it's worth, I once saw an incandescent bulb explode without provocation and shoot out of its socket. It left a somewhat clean cut through the narrow part with the now-open bulb half flying across the room.

As an individual choosing what products to buy, who can predict this? It's a reminder to take the usual precautions:

Ensure everything.

Backup everything. Keep some backups off-site.

Store irreplaceables in a secure, fire-protected location to the extent practical, and for papers, keep copies backed up.

Live in a home with fire sprinklers.

First, a person cannot ensure everything. Second, I will be 43 in a few months and I have never been in a house with a fire. I have lived in a house with 3 fireplaces for about 7 years and never once did I have a fire outside the fireplaces nor did I have fire sprinklers, a fire extinguisher nor fire alarms. It makes sense and is not very costly to have a safe for irreplaceables and important paperwork, but I do not live my life expecting bad things to happen so I put no more thought nor action into them then I deem necessary. A person can choose to attempt to ensure everything and with that put a large amount of undo stress upon themselves for very little gain. Or they can choose to learn the difference between what is possible and what is probable and take actions in accordance.

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First, a person cannot ensure everything. Second, I will be 43 in a few months and I have never been in a house with a fire. I have lived in a house with 3 fireplaces for about 7 years and never once did I have a fire outside the fireplaces nor did I have fire sprinklers, a fire extinguisher nor fire alarms. It makes sense and is not very costly to have a safe for irreplaceables and important paperwork, but I do not live my life expecting bad things to happen so I put no more thought nor action into them then I deem necessary. A person can choose to attempt to ensure everything and with that put a large amount of undo stress upon themselves for very little gain. Or they can choose to learn the difference between what is possible and what is probable and take actions in accordance.

"Everything" isn't to be taken strictly literally.

That said, I prefer to shift my personal risk surface more strongly toward being risk-averse than perhaps many people. I would back up the contents of my mind if technology made it possible.

I would be enormously negatively affected if a fire were to occur in my home, or if my hard disks were to fail without backup. Everyone should consider their personal situation, and can adapt the advice accordingly.

[And argh, I misspelled "insure" as "ensure" above--reminds me of a recent thread...]

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[And argh, I misspelled "insure" as "ensure" above--reminds me of a recent thread...]

Do not feel to bad as I copied your mistake with my own. :)

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I noticed that the cheap ones I bought off of Amazon.com didn't have any Underwriters Laboratories certification. That's pretty unusual for any equipment using 110V in the US. The cheap transformers built into the bases of two of them burned out. I haven't had any fires, but there was very visible heat damage and the kind of smell you get when turning on an old, dirty electric heater.

I've long been amused by the downtown San Francisco environmentalists, who worry about energy waste from incandescents and rushed to replace the things before they even burned out. They have electric heat that they run 50 weeks out of the year. Where do they think the extra energy consumed by incandescents goes?

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Exploding light bulbs spewing mercury are required, but batteries must be banned:

U.S. laws in the 1990s restricted batteries from containing mercury with the exception of silver-oxide cells, which use a small amount of mercury and lead to prevent corrosion. Silver-oxide cells, or button cells, are primarily used in wristwatches, toys and medical devices. Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Louisiana and Connecticut are in the process of banning the shipment of these mercury cells. Mercury is a heavy metal toxic to humans and wildlife because it affects the immune, enzyme and nervous systems...

Maine led the mercury-free initiative beginning in 2005 when the state Legislature worked with battery manufacturers to create a five-year deadline for removing mercury from button cells. John James, an environmental specialist in Maine's Department of Environmental Protection, said the state is trying to reduce the amount of mercury emitted into the environment.

"When the batteries get incinerated, the mercury gets emitted into the atmosphere," he said. "The mercury battery industry puts out at least 2 tons of mercury [annually]. We think nationally if we can go mercury free, it reduces it in the environment and high levels of mercury in fish."

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40W light bulbs will remain legal until the end of this year in Sweden, so I'll stock up enough to last me until it makes sense to transition to an acceptable alternative such as LED's. I will not needlessly expose myself to mercury in the name of environmentalism.

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From the Washington Examiner:

Light bulb wars and Big Green's dim bulbs

By: Ron Arnold | 07/21/11

By now, most of us know that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a measure last week to block the ban on ordinary incandescent light bulbs that's scheduled to begin next year.

Odd that a common, inexpensive household item could start a white hot political war, but tea did that once, and last week's vote has become a symbol of American freedom of choice -- and a big election-year issue.

Last month, presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., told the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans that "President Bachmann will allow you to buy any light bulb you want."

The anti-ban measure that passed wasn't Texas Republican Rep. Joe Barton's Better Use of Light Bulbs Act that Bachmann co-sponsored. It failed, even with a clear majority (233-193), because it couldn't muster the two-thirds majority required under special rules.

What passed last Friday morning was Texas Republican Rep. Michael Burgess' amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill. It blocks money to enforce the federal light bulb standards mandated in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

A Time magazine blog immediately began calling Republicans stupid for fighting energy efficiency, and trotted out a number of claims that suggest the author may never have read all 310 pages of that 2007 law.

Time magazine claims about that law: "It does not -- as conservatives have argued again and again -- ban incandescent bulbs." Then I wonder what Section 331 of that law meant by providing a "backstop" to any fumbled rulemaking by ordering that "the Secretary [of Energy] shall prohibit the sale of any general service lamp that does not meet a minimum efficacy standard of 45 lumens per watt." Ordinary 100-watt incandescent lamps don't meet that standard. Then, too, "prohibit the sale" sounds like a ban to me.

Time claims: "Philips and other manufacturers are already making more efficient incandescent bulbs." That's short of an outright lie but it's way beyond hogwash. What Philips is making is halogen lamps, which are incandescent alright, but complex electronic circuit devices about as close to an ordinary incandescent lamp as a third-degree burn, which you can efficiently obtain from a halogen lamp.

Philips' 36-page "product information" manual, shows on page 23 that their "Clickline" halogen lamp operates at temperatures as high as 480 degrees Fahrenheit (on the contacts), and 1,650 degrees F. (on the bulb). All aren't that hot, but not by much. By the way, aluminum melts at 1,220.58 degrees Fahrenheit.

Other highly efficient lamps: the CFL (compact fluorescent light) contains toxic mercury. If you mention that to an energy conservation advocate, you get many answers, all adding up to "yeah, but. ..." You can dispose of CFLs safely, and if they break in your bedroom it's not really too dangerous -- yeah but, yeah but, yeah but.

Cost is the ultimate "yeah but." These new energy efficient lamps are expensive. Yeah but they last longer so they cost less in the long run. Tell that to the unemployed, the working poor, or disadvantaged minorities and you get back, "Hey, in the long run, we'll all be dead. It's gonna cost me ten missed lunches to replace a lousy light bulb."

At root, the light bulb war is not about energy conservation, but about freedom of choice versus the ideological demand to force less energy production and less energy use -- until America's power flatlines.

Energy conservation is the polite version of eco-lawyer Christopher Manes' 1990 book, "Green Rage: Radical Environmentalism and the Unmaking of Civilization."

Big Green's dim bulbs hope you won't realize that conservation doesn't light the lights.

Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

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I'm glad the GOP shot down the light bulb ban, but I'm always looking for ways to stay afloat, financially, so anything I can do to have decent illumination for less electric costs is on my plate. To that end, I replaced nearly all incandescents with CFLs in 2002 and am now in the process of transitioning to LED bulbs, one to three bulbs at a time as I can afford. The CFLs stemmed the bleeding in electric costs, but were too dim when powered on. The new LEDs I've bought are great. Quality light output, instant on and dimmable. I like getting 75W of light output for 14W of power used. It means I don't have to live by the light of one 25W incandescent for the whole house; I can afford to have cheerful, brightly lit rooms for the same electric use of one conventional bulb. I switched out of free choice, not because the government told me to. You see, electricity costs over 25 cents/kWH here with taxes and fees. These LED bulbs will promptly pay for themselves.

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I'm glad the GOP shot down the light bulb ban, but I'm always looking for ways to stay afloat, financially, so anything I can do to have decent illumination for less electric costs is on my plate. To that end, I replaced nearly all incandescents with CFLs in 2002 and am now in the process of transitioning to LED bulbs, one to three bulbs at a time as I can afford. The CFLs stemmed the bleeding in electric costs, but were too dim when powered on. The new LEDs I've bought are great. Quality light output, instant on and dimmable. I like getting 75W of light output for 14W of power used. It means I don't have to live by the light of one 25W incandescent for the whole house; I can afford to have cheerful, brightly lit rooms for the same electric use of one conventional bulb. I switched out of free choice, not because the government told me to. You see, electricity costs over 25 cents/kWH here with taxes and fees. These LED bulbs will promptly pay for themselves.

I don't know that the House appropriations bill withholding funding to enforce the ban on incandescents has passed in the Senate.

Why do you think the more expensive LEDs are cost effective? How much light can you get out of a single bulb and how much do you get for the same power consumption?

We use the more expensive CFLs in some lights where they work only because the politically correct town is subsidizing them with "rebates" that we have already paid for. No explosions yet but there has been some breakage.

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