When permaculture legend Paul Wheaton set out to trash compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), the undertaking proved too expensive so he appealed for Kickstarter help.
But his anti-CFL crusade continued.And now he has finally produced a rather in-depth, wonderfully entertaining, and thought-provoking exploration for why he believes CFLs are a distraction from genuine efforts to cut energy use and live greener.
Of course issues like the mercury in CFLs are an ongoing debate that's been covered many times before—with arguments going back and forth from all sides about the relative toxicity/environmental impact of manufacture versus actual use.
But there are some key findings from Paul's own experiments that are worthy of note:
1) CFLs last much, much shorter than advertised when they are used for short periods of time
2) In most instances in a house, lightbulbs are used for a very short period of time and then switched off. (Assuming you switch your lights off.)
Now, as I said before, as the man who showed us how to heat the person not the house with the help of a desk lamp and a pet-bed warmer, Paul is probably more energy efficient than most.
But I am coming around to his argument that even among relatively "normal" (I should probably say average) users of energy, most lights are (or at least could be) used for a matter of seconds, not minutes.
So whether or not you buy the "CFLs suck" argument, there are three things we can all agree on: let's turn off the lights, let's encourage a shift to LEDs, and let's remember that lighting is a relatively small piece of the energy efficiency puzzle.