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CFLs Causing Utility Woes

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the so-very-simple-that-only-a-child-can-do-it dept.

Power 859

dacut writes "We've seen compact fluorescent lamps start to take over shelf space at the local hardware store. Replacing a 60 watt incandescent with a 13 watt CFL seems like a great savings, though many consumers are disappointed with the slow warm-up times, lower-than-advertised lifetimes, and hassles of disposing the mercury-containing bulbs. Now EDN reports they may use more energy than claimed due to their poor power factor. Mike Grather, of Lumenaire Testing Laboratory, 'checked the power factor for the CFLs and found they ranged from .45 to .50. Their "real" load was about twice that implied by their wattage.' The good news: you're only billed for the 13 watts of real power used. The bad news: the utilities have to generate the equivalent of 28 watts (that is, 28 VA of apparent power for you EEs out there) to light that bulb. Until they fix these issues, I'll hold on to my incandescents and carbon arc lamps, thanks."

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Still... (5, Interesting)

revlayle (964221) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510279)

Since I have switched to CFL... none of my light bulbs has ever burned out yet for 9+ months. With incandescents, I was changing 5-6 light-bulbs a month (I live in an older house, the electric grid and the wiring in the place I live is not always ideal for traditional light bulbs)

Re:Still... (5, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510505)

I agree, and even if the article is 100% accurate, you are still saving more than 50%.

About 3 months ago I decided to switch over, and since then I've been slowly replacing all my incandescents with CFLs as they burn out. I was initially afraid of the flicker factor, since the flourescent tubes in my laundry room flicker like crazy and give me headaches when they are first turned on, especially when it's cold. However, I haven't really noticed any flicker with the CFLs so far.

As for the lifespan, it is kind of silly how they report it (9 years, but only if you use each bulb less than 3 hours a day), but it's still longer than an incandescent.

So basically yah, CFLs aren't the best we can do, but they're the best affordable replacement for incandescents we have so far.

Re:Still... (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510613)

I've been using a run of the mill GE 100watt replacement CFL in my room for something on the order of 2-3 years now. It's a little dimmer than when it was new but it's still plenty bright enough and works fine.

LED is a viable option in 40 Watt replacement (4, Interesting)

xzvf (924443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510723)

While a little more expensive they last even longer (20 years?). They really aren't available much greater than 40 watt replacements but I've been happy with the performance. Not effected by cold and come on instantly.

Re:Still... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510739)

About 3 months ago I decided to switch over, and since then I've been slowly replacing all my incandescents with CFLs as they burn out. I was initially afraid of the flicker factor, since the flourescent tubes in my laundry room flicker like crazy and give me headaches when they are first turned on, especially when it's cold. However, I haven't really noticed any flicker with the CFLs so far.

I've had mixed luck. I initially decided to try switching some in the basement, where I'm less picky about the light. Bought a 4 pack of bulbs as a trial. I could hear them buzzing right away, so I returned them. This was a couple of years ago.

Then the hardware store started selling heavily subsidized (by PG&E, the local power company, i believe) bulbs, for only $1 a piece. I bought a few as a trial and they were much quieter, so I bought a bunch more and have been gradually replacing incandescents as they burn out.

The light isn't quite the same softness as an incandescent, but not nearly as harsh as I would have thought, and it hasn't really bothered me much.

But two of the bulbs after some use, but not a huge time (maybe a year?) have started to buzz in a very annoying way. If they all start to do this, I may stop the experiment and return to incandescents. Or do more expensive bulbs perform better over time?

I also bought a pair of (more expensive) CFL floodlights for the backyard. They take a ridiculous amount of time to warm up to full brightness. For the first couple of minutes it's a very dim light. I probably should've returned them, but it's too late now.

And I haven't seen any reasonably priced dimmable CFLs to test out (do you need a special dimmer?), so all of the lights that are on dimmer switches are still incandescents, even when they need replacing.

You can fix your laundry room bulbs (4, Informative)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510759)

It is possible the bulbs are just old/damaged and new bulbs would do better but most likley it is the ballast. Old ballasts were mechanical and operated at line frequency. This means that you are going to get flicker at 120Hz since it crosses the null 120 times per second. That is noticeable to some people.

New ballasts, including those in CFLs, are electronic. They cycle at a much higher rate, generally in the realm of 30kHz, because that's more efficient. That also gets rid of visible flicker, of course.

So what you need to do is replace the ballasts. You can get new ones at any home supply store. Alternatively you can just replace the whole fixture, new ones will come with ballasts. Should stop your flicker, reduce your power draw, and last longer to boot.

Re:Still... (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510525)

I live in an older house, the electric grid and the wiring in the place I live is not always ideal for traditional light bulbs

That's an interesting statement, since that is precisely the application it was developed for!

-Peter

Re:Still... (3, Informative)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510529)

The incandescent in my bedroom light has been replaced twice in 6 years. I put in a 100 watt bulb and dim it 75% and this one is lasting almost as long as the CFl's.

The trick with CFL's if you want a good one is you have to pay for them. you can't buy the $2 home depot specials. however if you spend more than $3 per lamp you will lose money. on energy saved versus dollars spent for the same light.

Re:Still... (1)

Bent Mind (853241) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510601)

I too have an older house. I tried out a few different CFL bulbs. They last just as long as incandescents in my experience, about six months. However, I have not experienced the slow startup time I've heard about. I've started switching to 40w incandescents in rooms that don't require bright lights. I'm waiting to see if there is a difference in how long they last.

Power factor compensators (5, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510657)

Since a CFL consumes a exactly constant amount of power it shoul dbe trivial to put in an inductor and capacitor in the package to exactly compensate for it.

Moreover if the power factor is really 0.5 then it seems like just having two of these running in quadrature ought to null the power factor back to 1.

Re:Power factor compensators (4, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510731)

This is /.!
No thinking!

Re:Still... (-1, Flamebait)

Obfuscant (592200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510699)

On the other side of the story, there are incandescents I've not changed in my house since I bought it 15 years ago, and I'm constantly replacing CFLs.

More expensive and shorter life is a real problem. Getting rid of them isn't, they fit into the regular garbage bags just fine.

CFLs are penny-wise and pound foolish. Some day there will be a report of all the damage to the environment being caused by discarded CFLs and people will wonder what the hell we in this century were thinking, replacing low-pollution cheap lights with mercury-containing costly electronics gizmos. By then, they'll be using LED lighting for everything.

RTF.... (2, Funny)

Quantos (1327889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510287)

The headline convinced me that the Canadian Football League was causing woe....

Re:RTF.... (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510405)

No, it's context-free languages. The utilities in question are obviously not YACC or LEX.

Canadian Football League are terrorists!!! (4, Funny)

rts008 (812749) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510721)

ARGHH!
Those pesky Canadians causing trouble again, next they will try to burn down Washington...again. But I have news for them, the next time they try it, we will help them!

i like the slow warm up (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510291)

it makes it easy on the eyes - allows them to adjust.

Hard to dispose of? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510303)

Only if you have a conscience.

Re:Hard to dispose of? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510733)

You're leaving out those who are too lazy to give in to their conscience. It's really easy to sit on the couch feeling guilty once you get the hang of it.

Re:Hard to dispose of? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510763)

OR you realize that we've been throwing bulbs with more mercury and less efficiency in landfills for HOW many years? Seriously, in light(ahem) of what we've already done to the earth, these are a drop in the bucket comparatively. I'm not saying it's acceptable but we've done far worse.

P.S. my captcha is "photon"; very fitting.

But still... (3, Interesting)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510305)

28 60, so still a good power savings. Plus, all of the CFL's I've bought in the last year don't have the same warmup problems that most of the early models had. They're not quite instant-on, but that's ok with me; I like that my bedside light comes on slowly in the morning, it's less of a shock to my eyes.

Re:But still... (2, Interesting)

Mike Buddha (10734) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510707)

I have some high power ones (replacements for 75W incandescents) that turn on instantly, but they do get brighter after they've been on for a few minutes. They don't turn on to maximum brightness. It's not annoying or anything, just something I noticed. I use them in a torchier in the living room.

Well (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510309)

Time for slightly more expensive bulbs then. It's not like PF correction is particularly hard, it just costs a couple bucks a bulb. My datacenter UPS's report a demand side load factor of .91 and that includes a fairly large amount of load with no PF correction.

B.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510317)

Volt-Amps is not power.
The utilities might not like to carry the extra amps on their lines, but that isn't the same as them having to generate more power.

Re:B.S. (3, Informative)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510409)

The utilities might not like to carry the extra amps on their lines, but that isn't the same as them having to generate more power.

You are absolutely wrong. The additional current increases the resistive losses on the transmission lines. Hence for a lower power factor, more energy must be generated to deliver a given amount of watts.

Re:B.S. (2, Informative)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510501)

He is wrong; but the summary is also wrong: "The bad news: the utilities have to generate the equivalent of 28 watts" is not correct. As you say, 13 watts consumed + transmission losses on ~28VA means more energy than does 13 watts consumed +transmission losses on ~13VA. TFS, though, seems to be under the impression that apparent power is 100% consumed, rather than just subject to transmission losses.

No surprise (2, Insightful)

ekimd (968058) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510319)

I'm an electrical engineer and I've been saying this for years. To bad I always get modded a troll for doing so.

Re:No surprise (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510439)

I had the idea to mod this post troll, as a joke, but I would have felt bad for your karma. So this way I get to make the joke, and you get to keep your karma. (ignoring the fact that I don't have modpoints :) )

Re:No surprise (1)

theNetImp (190602) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510469)

is sad his mod points from yesterday are gone, I totally wanted to mod you a troll ;-)

Re:No surprise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510725)

Consider it done.

Re:No surprise (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510575)

don't worry your not alone. CFL's need to be left on for hours in order to realize their full energy savings too. So for bathrooms, and kitchens they are good. for the rest of the home not so much. Not to mention if you want to use a dimmer you have to buy the $15 a lamp bulb completely negating any potential benefit you might have had.

Re:No surprise (1)

hankwang (413283) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510735)

CFL's need to be left on for hours in order to realize their full energy savings too.

Says who? Their electricity consumption doesn't vary that much, only the light output for the first few minutes.

Oh Please (5, Insightful)

Joe7Pak (461962) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510325)

Yes, they may consume more than they advertise, but they still consume half the power of the incandescent bulb they are replacing.

Re:Oh Please (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510605)

The whole point is not the amount of power consumed by either bulb, but the fact that the profit-per-bulb for the utility companies is lower for CFLs than incandescent. This isn't about efficiency or conservation, its about the bottom line. Not only do CFLs use less power to begin with, some of what it does use isn't even billable. Its almost like stealing. I like it!

Re:Oh Please (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510667)

The summary exhibits the type of thinking that some people use to justify avoiding alternative energy sources (not necessarily all people; I'm talking about the logic, not trying to pull this off-topic). Windmills kill birds, nuclear has radioactive waste, tidal looks bad -- therefore, we must stay with coal. That is, you're completely avoiding something that is absolutely crucial to making such a decision: the disadvantages of the current system.

The fear of change is sometimes a useful instinct, but considering how quickly things move these days (relative to the whole of Human history) it's often more of a hindrance than a help.

That pretty bad (2, Insightful)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510345)

Interesting - this is a pretty serious blow to the CFL concept, and if they're really that bad, I'm surprised why it's taken this long for it to come up. Maybe it's fixable but I doubt it could be done without adding significant cost to the bulbs.

A mechanical analogy to help you understand power factor: say you have a weight on the end of a wooden stick. You lift the stick up and down and the weight moves. You are transferring energy efficiently. Now change the stick to a spring. You can still move the weight up and down but it moves a lot less for a given amplitude. Now it may seem that no energy is lost because the spring is returning the energy to the source on each cycle, but in fact it is being lost because of the resistance in the distribution line. The loss is incurred by the power company even if it doesn't appear on your meter.

Power factor is the reason UPSes are rated in volt-amps instead of watts. Switching power supplies usually have power factors significantly less than 1.0, so it's the VA that matters.

Re:That pretty bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510503)

You're doing it wrong...all analogies should start with "Imagine a car..."

Re:That pretty bad (2, Funny)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510631)

Imagine a car hanging by a spring from the end of a stick.....

Re:That pretty bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510513)

Watt = Volt * Ampere

Re:That pretty bad (1)

chihowa (366380) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510651)

Watt = Volt * Ampere

For DC, yes. It gets more complicated in a real AC device. See: power factor [wikipedia.org]

Re:That pretty bad (1)

TimeTraveler1884 (832874) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510751)

I've never understood this myself; yet I understand a lot about electronics. How a VA is not a Watt I am unsure; for now I just take it as face value that they are different units. If the GP or someone else would kindly explain better than Wikipedia does, I would appreciate it.

It's probably just some semantic detail I am overlooking. For example, for the longest time I did not understand why wall outlets are polarized. I mean, since alternating current flows in both directions, how can AC be polarized unless it has a DC offset? After a long time, I came to understand on my own it's not about positive/negative charges, but just an indicator of which conductor is hot and which leads to ground to complete the circuit.

Re:That pretty bad (2, Interesting)

dattaway (3088) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510569)

I checked the power factor on my LCD big screen television as it uses fluorescent backlighting. I am very surprised that its 0.99. It looks like electronic power supplies can have perfect power factor. Would it cost much more to make a CFL with .99 pf too?

Re:That pretty bad (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510625)

If we're going to give analogies like that, you will have to forgive some ragging on the realism:
     

Now change the stick to a spring. You can still move the weight up and down but it moves a lot less for a given amplitude.

You've said nothing about the possible *resonances* of the mass-on-a-spring model. For some driving frequencies ( fdrive >> fresonance ) you're right: the response amplitude of the mass will be much smaller than the drive amplitude. However, at very low frequencies (fdrive fresonance) the response amplitude is the *same or larger than* the drive amplitude (this is the limit of your stick analogy), and near resonance, the response amplitude can be much, MUCH larger than the drive amplitude.

      Additionally, the mass-on-a-stick model assumes all of the energy dissipation is in the resistance felt by the drive, not the mass (which is, somehow, associated with the lightbulb?).

Re:That pretty bad (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510637)

Interesting - this is a pretty serious blow to the CFL concept, and if they're really that bad, I'm surprised why it's taken this long for it to come up. Maybe it's fixable but I doubt it could be done without adding significant cost to the bulbs.

They aren't really that bad, which is why it's taken this long. Do you really think utility companies would be pushing the technology (as they are here in the UK at least) if they were? Read the comments on the article. First off, it's only some designs that have an issue. Second, the issue can be corrected for with very little cost by the power companies adding capacitance to the distribution network to even the load. It's virtually a non-issue.

Re:That pretty bad (5, Informative)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510649)

sure they are that bad. A CFL draws roughly half the power it emits as light (if you see what I mean) giving a power factor of about 0.5, which is dreadfully inefficient.

However, power factor refers to the current load, so a CFL of 0.5 will draw twice the current, but it will still be drawing the wattage it claims. So yes, they need to shove more current down the wires, but its costing you the rated watts.

Also, the CFL will be rated at 13W, the comparable IL at 60W. even if the CFL is drawing twice the current, its still using a quarter of the energy used by the incandescent.

Put it another way, a 60W incandescent draws 0.5 amps (60W/ 120V = 0.5). A 0.5 PF CFL at 13W draws 0.2 amps (13W/120/0.5)

I doubt its a serious blow against CFLs, just a serious attempt at FUD to talk up ILs, or an attempt to justify power companies charging you more (as that 13W lamp still costs you for 13W even if the power company has to deliver more).

Here's an less sensational article [iaeel.org] about the problem.

Re:That pretty bad (1)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510659)

Except that even with the poor power factor if everyone switched to CFLs it'd still work out to be better in the long run. Why is it that any time any sort of flaw, no matter how minor, pops up in CFLS people run screaming that it's a serious blow to the entire concept and we should all go back to candles and burning sticks because it's a failure but whenever someone points out any sort of flaw, no matter how serious, in incandescents and older tech people run screaming to defend the lack of perfection...

Summary is wrong. (5, Insightful)

the_povinator (936048) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510363)

The utility does not have to *generate* the 28W of "real" power. It just
has to *transmit* it (and typically only from the local transformer to the
customer, since phase changes can be handled using capacitors when the voltage
is down-coverted the last time).

Re:Summary is wrong. (4, Informative)

seanadams.com (463190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510461)

The utility does not have to *generate* the 28W of "real" power. It just
has to *transmit* it (and typically only from the local transformer to the
customer, since phase changes can be handled using capacitors when the voltage
is down-coverted the last time).

Sort of... the lower power factor means higher losses in transmission. So they don't have to generate the entire 28W, but they do have to generate more than the "apparent" load to compensate the additional loss in transmission.

Re:Summary is wrong. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510753)

That is correct, but it overstates the magnitude of the problem. If the PF is 50%, then the utility has to supply (transmit) twice the current. That extra current is not used up by the load, but it does translate into additional transmission losses.

T&D losses for the whole grid average about 10-15%. However, local T&D (from the substation) is much lower, because there is much less distance involved.

Let's conservatively say that the local T&D loss is 5%. Then the 13 watt bulb consumes 13 watts at the load. In addition, it is responsible for the dissipation of an additional 13 * 0.05 = 0.65 watts due to the additional line losses from the extra current being supplied.

So now your 13 watt bulb uses 13.65 watts.

Big.

Fraking.

Deal.

Nothing to see here. Please move along.

Re:Summary is wrong. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510791)


but they do have to generate more than the "apparent" load to compensate the additional loss in transmission.

So what's the real number here? It sounds like calling it 28 watts is incredibly misleading. How much more energy does it take? 10%, 20%, 30%, what?

Re:Summary is wrong. (2, Insightful)

evanbd (210358) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510545)

It's not a simple phase shift. CFLs rectify the AC wave, meaning they only draw current on the peaks of the waveform. If you hook up a scope to your outlet (don't be an idiot; to all the non-EE types, don't try this if you don't know how) you can see it -- the waveform will have flatter tops than it should.

You can put complex bandpass / lowpass filters in the line that help a lot (by reflecting the distortion back at the load) but they get mode complicated and thus expensive.

There are lots of plausible answers, and most of them are annoyingly pricey. The best one I can think of is to just switch billing to VA instead of real watts, and let the customers sort it out.

Re:Summary is wrong. (1)

mkcmkc (197982) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510767)

If you hook up a scope to your outlet (don't be an idiot; to all the non-EE types, don't try this if you don't know how)

I'm pretty sure this is okay if you wet your fingers first and have a bucket of water nearby. Either that or it's putting out a candle—I can't recall...

P.S. I've read all of these posts and chapters in several books and I still don't understand this reactive power/power factor/phase/whatever sh*t...

Well, as Ted Nugent would say (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510367)

fuck it, shoot 'em all and let God sort it out.

Wang dang, sweet poontang.

So they are still more efficient (2, Informative)

iamacat (583406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510371)

CFLs wattage is significantly less than half of incadecent wattage. So, while this is an additional plus for LED lighting, this is still the most economical solution available otherwise.

In any case, regular florescent lighting was in use for decades and nobody found it less efficient than any alternative.

Re:So they are still more efficient (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510527)

Is there any reason to think that LEDs would be better in power factor terms? I'd strongly suspect that, once they become economically viable, LEDs will spend their lives connected to cheap switchmode supplies, not exactly a component known for its good power factor.

Re:So they are still more efficient (1)

iamacat (583406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510635)

I would hope that homes will get 12V DC outlets with a single, efficient, power supply to power all the LED lights, computers and other electronics and a car battery next to circuit breakers that would allow lights to stay on for hours during a power outage.

Math? (4, Insightful)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510375)

It's been a while since I was in electrical theory classes, but doesn't a 13 watt CFL lamp consuming 28VA of power still consume less power than a 60W incandescent bulb?

28W less than 60W ??? I would hope so or I need to start studying new math.

I'm still confused. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510377)

28 Watts of "Apparent Power" (CFL) versus 50-100 Watts of real power. (Incandescent) Help me understand how we are still not getting a net gain, and why I should care about this?
Is it:
A. I'm saving money at the expense of the power grid.
B. I'm still using at least 50% less wattage than I was before.
C. My lights never burn out anymore, and my only major worry is taking care not to break the reasonably tough bulbs since they contain mercury.

Re:I'm still confused. (1)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510489)

I have found that the CFL's burn out WAY faster than advertised, at least the way I use them, which is in ordinary light fixtures. So I am not sure I'm saving any money or doing the environment a favor.

Re:I'm still confused. (1)

Bazer (760541) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510807)

If they burn out before the advertised period then just go and get your free replacement.
I've had every Phillips CFL I bought, replaced 3 times over the period of 5 years of their advertised life.

Re:I'm still confused. (1)

modecx (130548) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510813)

If the fixtures are completely enclosed, yeah, that'll fry 'em real quick... If that's what you mean.

Re:I'm still confused. (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510555)

Consider D. Certain people have a reflexive aversion to conservation efforts of any kind, even economically rational ones, and seek to discredit them by any means available, nonsense or otherwise.

Re:I'm still confused. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510695)

My lights never burn out anymore

I can only assume you haven't been using CFLs for very long. They do burn out, they just take longer than incandescents. I think I only had to replace one last year, but they do burn out. They also get dimmer as they age, so I tend to keep the newer ones in main light fittings and demote them to lamps as they age.

Re:I'm still confused. (4, Informative)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510797)

A. is true to some extent. The 28 VA will cause some losses on the net on top of the 13 watts you are billed for. But I doubt those losses are greater than maybe 1 or 2 watts. Disclaimer: I'm an electrical engineer by training, but don't work in the power grid business. So take this as an educated guess, not something I have calculated.
B. True. With the above estimate, make it 75% less or better.
C. Not entirely true, but good quality CFLs last pretty long. In my apartment, both the two 15 Watt CFLs I put in 8 years ago still work fine. A rather small sample but I think it gives you an idea of CFL durability.

Inductive and Reactive loads... (1)

McNihil (612243) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510389)

To counter CFL lamps (Inductive load) one can easily use a reactive load to counter the imbalance... this is a non issue so move along... nothing so see here... and so on.

Re:Inductive and Reactive loads... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510743)

Ugh CFL are not inductive, they are capacitive and their power factor is really a good thing since they act as power factor corrector. The other problem that you find with CFLs is harmonic distortion but it happens that the more CFLs you install it gets smaller.

I wonder why normal people should worry about this when even most EE have problems understanding this stuff.

great logic (2, Insightful)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510391)

So because a 13W light really uses 28W you are going to stick with a lights that uses even more?
Great logic.......

Even with these issues they are still cheaper in the long run....
The lifetime advertising stuff is really a non-issue, 'old-style' bulbs have the same advertising problems.

Should have listened to Edison (1, Flamebait)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510399)

If they had just gone with Edison's DC instead of that dope Tesla's AC, this would not be a problem.

Besides, AC is far more dangerous than DC. There's a reason why they use it in electric chairs.

Now let's see, who disagrees with me?

Re:Should have listened to Edison (1)

Nathan Boley (1042886) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510749)

Besides, AC is far more dangerous than DC.

Really? Aren't you more likely to clench on to a DC source? On the other hand, I've heard that AC is more likely to stop your heart.

There's a reason why they use it in electric chairs.

Maybe because the grid is AC and they will both kill you?

Now let's see, who disagrees with me?

I guess that's me :-)

The bigger issue in the AC/DC debate seems to be transmission. Is converting to DC at the last transformer really cost effective?

spectrum (2, Funny)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510411)

For some reason, my skin looks, I don't know, pale green under CFLs. I'm sticking with incandescent lights in my bachelor pad. Can't look bad in front of the ladies...

Re:spectrum (1)

tenton (181778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510493)

Pale green in pictures or when you look in a mirror?

Pictures? White balance your camera better. Many cameras don't auto white balance so well under fluorescents.

Mirror? White balance your eyes. :P

And this is /. Is this a hypothetical looking bad in front of the ladies that never come over? (j/k) :P

Re:spectrum (1)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510509)

Get an orange filter/lampshade to go over your CFL..... makes your skin look fleshy again.

Or start dating girls that are into zombies.

ZX Spectrum (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510521)

For some reason, my skin looks, I don't know, pale green under CFLs.

It's because you have pale green skin.

(cf. "Does this skirt make my backside look big?" "No, having a big backside makes it look big.")

Re:spectrum (1)

Quantos (1327889) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510537)

If this wasn't /. I'd recommend some sunlight...

Re:spectrum (1)

lupine (100665) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510693)

Get a black light, then you will look tan and your teeth will be pearly white.

Idea (5, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510425)

I think have a great idea as to how to solve this.

But unfortunately I'm still waiting for the CFL bulb above my head to light up.

Saving the Envorinment (1)

colganc (581174) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510427)

So the least expensive item is more environmentally friendly. Who could have known?!

Uh, yeah, okay. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510441)

Why has my electric bill dropped by $20/month since replacing all my incandescent bulbs with CFLs?

Oh noes, they're using moar powerz then advertiszed!!11111111 Big freaking deal - they're still a huge savings over incandescents.

Now if they could do something about that problem of catastrophic failure with flames hot enough to compromise metal, we'd be set. The problems LED lighting faces can't be worked out soon enough. :p

Faulty Math (1)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510453)

Until they fix these issues, I'll hold on to my incandescents and carbon arc lamps, thanks.

If I read the article right all it says is that the 13W CFLs actually use more than twice that. This is due to their design in how they are powered. So a 13W CFL may actually use 28W. It's been a few years since I've been in school but the math they taught me back then was 60W > 28W. Sure you're not saving as much energy as you thought but the CFL is using half as much energy as your incandescent. Or is their a new fangled math I don't know about? And get off my lawn.

Re:Faulty Math (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510737)

Did the reference to carbon arc lamps not give you a hint that this line is meant to be a joke? No one is going to seriously suggest using carbon arc lamps.

apparent and real -- misused? (2, Informative)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510473)

IANAEE, but from wikipedia:
Due to energy stored in the load and returned to the source, or due to a non-linear load that distorts the wave shape of the current drawn from the source, the apparent power can be greater than the real power. In an electric power system, a load with low power factor draws more current than a load with a high power factor for the same amount of useful power transferred.

FTFS:
the power factor for the CFLs and found they ranged from .45 to .50. Their "real" load was about twice that implied by their wattage.'

But the real power is never greater than the apparent power, so there is something very screwy in the summary. Probably the summary meant the "apparent" load was twice that implied by their wattage. That is, if you actually measured the volts time current flowing, you'd find it to be 28 VA, but for whatever reason, it only "uses" 13 "real watts."

Re:apparent and real -- misused? (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510761)

That's the same thing I was thinking. The reactive power (difference between the lower real and higher apparent) is transmitted back to the power grid during each cycle. The only loss is in transmission resisistance and the need for higher capacity lines. Seeing as the waveform we see is created at the transformers, the transmission capacity and resistance loss should be negligible.

Power factor of CFLs isn't new (1)

AceJohnny (253840) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510479)

Funny, I learned about the power factor problem of CFLs back when I was in high school, at least 10 years ago.

I thought the problem was solved since then, seeing how CFLs are taking over.

Huh, guess I was wrong, and it was just that the economics had overtaking the "minor technical problems" ...

Stopgap (2, Informative)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510481)

Compact Fluorescents are only a temporary solution until we get cost-effective LED light bulbs [ccrane.com] . They are available now (even at Costco). Which means pretty soon they should actually make sense to use. Right now, they are still a little pricey, despite lasting 30 times longer than incandescents. Plus, those "environmentally friendly" CFLs contain mercury... just what we need more of in our landfills!

Re:Stopgap (2, Insightful)

Rhys (96510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510599)

LEDs still need DC, not AC. Feed AC to an LED and you get a nice 60Hz strobe light (see also: LED christmas lights). Maybe you can't see 60Hz, but I can and it makes me want to get a baseball bat to fix it.

So you still need a power supply("ballast") that has a high PF for converting AC->DC.

Or we need to figure out how to rewire houses to have a single AC->DC conversion point, and pipe DC around to the lighting fixtures. With LEDs, that might be plausible, but I haven't done the math.

Re:Stopgap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510817)

Maybe you can't see 60Hz, but I can and it makes me want to get a baseball bat to fix it.

You must love watching PAL

Your government knows better than you! (-1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510483)

You're holding on to your incandescent bulbs? School teachers will be telling little 7-year-old kids that you want to drown polar bears. What will you say in your defense?

Besides that, it will be illegal to sell incandescent 100-watt bulbs after 2012. You'll be sacrificing what's in your best interest For The Earth. (And why shouldn't you? You're just a human. Who cares about them? You're probably not even a minority.)

Your government knows what you should do. Use the bulbs they tell you. Whatever you do, don't think for yourself. Just obey.

Shut Up Dipshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510771)

Dumb people like you shouldn't do sarcasm.

CFL watt exaggeration (1)

Gizzmonic (412910) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510485)

Another thing I don't like about the CFL swirls-they always seem to exaggerate their comparative lighting power in watts. I don't mind waiting a couple of seconds for bulbs, but when they print "replaces 60 watts" on their label they'd better damn well be as bright as a 60 watt bulb. Either I'm getting cataracts, or the manufacturers grossly exaggerate the efficiency.

Oh and BTW, CRTs are still better than LCDs for watching TV...color and motion are far better.

OLED wallpaper (1)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510491)

now THAT would be cool. probably prohibitively expensive, though. I don't mean an actual OLED HDTV the size of your wall (yet) I just mean ambient lighting via OLED. I'd do all my ceilings with soft white, and use spot lighting or individual lamps for reading or accents.

Re:OLED wallpaper (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510803)

OLEDs still fade too quickly for this kind of use, but you might consider LED-driven DLP projectors mounted along the ceiling. You won't be able to project a picture if you mount them close to the wall (although there's nothing stopping you mounting one with a fish-eye lens in the middle of the room, projecting all the way around, or just four pointing at the walls), but you should be able to project colours and patterns easily.

Lets take this from a personal stand point (1)

ADRA (37398) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510519)

> slow warm-up times
I have several bulbs at home I've never really paid attention to the 'warm-up times' problem. It could be a matter of the 'gold plated audio cables' syndrome where 99.9% of the population can't tell the difference and don't give a damn, but obviously the article poster has a rant to unleash.

> lower-than-advertised lifetimes
There will always be bulbs that fall below the standard estimated lifetime, so I don't know if this is just a matter of standard failure rates deviation, or a blatant lie by manufacturers. As for me, I've never had a dead CFL yet (several years of casual use), so here's hoping...

> hassles of disposing the mercury-containing bulbs
See last point

Summary has very poor sarcasm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510557)

Either the submitter was serious or doesn't understand how to convey sarcasm properly (or maybe my sarcasm detector is messed up).

But even at 28W of generated power required, it's still more than twice as efficient as 60W lightbulbs (incandescants have a power factor of 1).

And you only get charged for 13W anyways, so you're halving your energy requirements due to lighting & cutting costs by 1/6. That's pretty good I'd say.

My ass. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510565)

My ass. That about sums it up.

Burn Out (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510633)

I think the burn out issue is caused by how stable your power supply is. I have watched ours burn out ever few months. I think it has to do with the constant power fluctuations on the local grid. The mercury thing worries me too. In CA if you dropped a box of those, I think you would have to seal the house off and have it decontaminated. I am a fan of the newest LED and compact halogen. Safer, brighter, and soon similar cost.

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510639)

From my point of view, this just looks like some stubborn guy making something out of nothing so he has an excuse not to change.

So what. (4, Insightful)

sricetx (806767) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510647)

If the customer is only billed for the 13 "real" watts used per the summary, then this is a non-issue. I paid for a 13 watt bulb advertising $x in saving on my electric bill, and I get $x in saving on my electric bill. I make my purchasing decisions based on the cost to me, not on the cost to the power company.

Arrgh! (5, Informative)

goodmanj (234846) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510653)

As someone who teaches physics for a living, the Slashdot summary is making my eyes bleed.

Now EDN reports they may use more energy than claimed

Argh! No, they don't use more energy, but they do have higher "Load".

Here's the analogy. Every day, hundreds of thousands of people travel in to Boston. Does that mean we need to build hundreds of thousands of new apartments every day? No, because every day they all leave again: they're commuters.

Boston needs to design its roads to handle the rush hour traffic, but it doesn't have to build a ton of houses for them to stay.

Energy in a low power factor circuit is like a commuter: it flows into the device, then it flows back out again. The utility company needs to design its power lines to handle the rush hour flow, but you're not "using up" the energy in any sense.

TFA talks about real wasted energy caused by this "rush hour" flow, but transmission losses are a small fraction of total energy use. This isn't going to affect the overall efficiency of CFLs.

TFA talks about requiring "power factor regulation" on CF light bulbs. This is a pointless extra expense. While CF bulbs make life harder for the power company, other common appliances act to counterbalance the effect, so averaged over an entire city, the problem is mitigated. But even when it's not, the *power company* can always install devices (giant capacitor banks, typically) which compensate for the power factor. There's no need to build more power plants.

So what it comes down to is, CF light bulbs don't use more energy than they claim, but they do generate higher peak loads. We can force either the consumer or the power company to install equipment to compensate for this.

I say, "Hey power company. I'm paying you guys to deliver me some kilowatt-hours. Nothing in my contract limits how I suck up those kWh: if I do it in a way you're not expecting, it's your job to install equipment to handle it."

Weak argument... (3, Insightful)

EvilAlphonso (809413) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510675)

Great logic there... "I'll stick to incandescent 60W seeing that CFLs consume 28W and won't last longer than me".

For what it is worth, I switched to neon tubes in most of the house... a single 36W TL totally pwns a 300W setup of incandescent or halogen bulbs, more light and more accurate colours. Those can be bought for a song nowadays and they are almost instant-on. The conversion actually made me money as I was able to sell two of the previous fixtures at a flea market for more cash than all the neon kits I bought.

I also have a couple of 1.2W LEDs for the night lights in the main hall, but the electronics are quite flakey in my experience.

Going a step further (2, Informative)

hwyhobo (1420503) | more than 5 years ago | (#27510729)

While I am happy with the savings from using CFLs, I would not hesitate to spend a little more up front to get even more savings and greater longevity from LED lights. Does anyone have solid data on how the three types differ? For example, if to produce the same amount of light incandescent uses 100W, CFL uses 60W (including power losses), how much would LED require? Also, of the above three light sources, if the incandescent lasts 6 months, CFL lasts 10 months, how long would the LED last?

you i8sensitiOve clod! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27510747)

and 5houting that
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