Energy saving bulbs (eco-bulbs, compact fluorescent lightbulbs or CFLs) are smaller fluorescent lamps that can directly replace standard incandescent bulbs. Their colour and brightness are comparable to incandescent bulbs.
Energy saving bulbs consist of two parts – a gas-filled tube and a ballast. The gas in the tube glows with ultraviolet light when electricity from the ballast flows through it. This in turn excites a white phosphor coating on the inside of the tube, which emits visible light throughout the surface of the tube. Incandescent lamps work differently.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs contain small amounts of mercury as a vapour inside the glass tubing.
Eco-bulbs (CFLs) do not produce Radio Frequency (RF) interference. They have been tested and passed CISPR 15 and have the C-tick.
Benefits of using eco-bulbs
Energy saving bulbs save money, time, energy, and the environment:
- each ordinary bulb replaced with an eco-bulb saves approximately $130 in power over its lifetime
- replacing five ordinary bulbs with eco-bulbs can therefore save around $650 on your power bill
- eco-bulbs last 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs, so you do not have to change them very often
- the power savings from Eco-bulbs reduces the risk of power cuts in winter
- every Eco-bulb installed prevents nine ordinary bulbs going to landfill.
Disposing of CFLs
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs may be wrapped in paper and placed in the red-lidded rubbish bin for collection and disposal at landfill.
Please do not put CFLs in the yellow lidded wheelie bin as they cannot be processed at the recycling facility.
Some hardware stores provide a free drop-off facility. Please check prior to dropping off your CFLs.
Most eco-bulbs have a 2-year warranty, so you can return any bulbs that fail within that period to the retailer in exchange for a new eco-bulb.
The Household Hazardous Waste drop off points at the three EcoDrops have bins for household quantities of fluorescent bulbs and eco-bulbs. These bulbs are not recycled but are collected separately so the disposal can be carried out under safe conditions.
If you have large quantities to recycle, you can take them to a company called Interwaste at 57 Edmonton Road in Hornby. Free phone 0800 10 21 31 for locations in other areas of the country. There will be a charge associated with this.
When bulbs break
If the bulb breaks, air the house for about 10-15 minutes. Sweep the broken bulbs fragments into a bag (don't vacuum) and place them in the rubbish. Be sure to wear gloves to avoid being cut.
The National Poisons Centre has more comprehensive information about cleaning up broken CFLs.
Improving CFL disposal in New Zealand
Composite materials like computers, cell phones and light bulbs are extremely difficult to recycle. We need businesses to respond to this public concern.
We encourage you to correspond directly with the manufacturers of CFLs.
Voice your concerns to these producers about the recycling and disposal of compact fluorescent bulbs, or complain about the limited options for recycling of CFLs:
It would also be very effective to call for product stewardship or producer responsibility of the items made or imported into the country.
If you wish to advocate for a Central Government response to provide consistency and certainty for manufacturers and importers (e.g. a legislative backstop to require all brand owners to respond to this issue), contact the Ministry for the Environment.
Alternative energy saving light sources
Some homes and light fittings (e.g. down lights) can make use of different forms of energy saving lighting.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), according to Which? and Consumer Reports magazines are more efficient than compact fluorescents and last a great deal longer. LEDs can be 95% efficient and last up to 50 years.
If you cannot use normal CFLs because you have light sensitivity, try using standard incandescent halogen bulbs with a dimmer.