In the fourth quarter of 2008, one out of every four bulbs sold in the U.S. were compact fluorescent bulbs. This was actually a dramatic upswing from previous years, but still, to me, it seems ridiculous.
How have incandescent lights managed to hold on for so long? I'm going to do a little bit of guessing here, but this article, I hope, will help explain some of the resistance.
First and foremost, people who use CFLs simply buy fewer light bulbs. If half of America is already on CFLs, but CFLs last five times longer than incandescents, then the 50% of America that uses incandescents will be buying five times more bulbs.
So that's somewhat encouraging... it says to me that the numbers don't tell the whole story.
But what about those people who still rush out to the store every time an incandescent dies and replace it with yet another lame bulb. In my head, I put them in four groups. Just to be clear, I don't think there's anything wrong with any of these groups, but I think they should definitely consider revising their opinions of CFLs.
#1 The Ain't-Broke-Don't-Fix-Its
These are the group of people who've been using incandescent bulbs their whole lives, and simply can't see why we need to change. They've learned the quirks of the bulbs. Why learn a whole new set of quirks when, truth be told, incandescents work just as well, if not better, than the rest.
I say to these people: "Incandescents are broken...we just never knew it. The waste is staggering. You're also probably the kind of person who thinks that inefficiency is a travesty...well there isn't much less efficient than an incandescent light bulb."
#2 Moms Who Love Like Crazy
The mercury content of CFLs can scare away a certain percentage of folks...I think most of these people are moms who want to protect their kids from everything. While there's a certain level of futility in this, I'm willing to yield to their authority as I have never been a mom (or even a dad.)
I say to these people: "Check out LED bulbs. Not only are they more efficient than incandescents AND CFLs, but they're safer than both. Don't think incandescents are unsafe? They are one of the few things in the world that can burn your skin off without any visual cues as to their temperature. If you really love your kids, LED bulbs are the way to go."
Coasters, of which I am one, are the sort of people who recognize that there is something wrong, but just don't do anything about it. I obsess about green technology, so it's one of the few things that I don't coast through, but I coast through all kinds of other things. I'll eat the same Subway sub every single day, not because I like it or I'm on a diet...but because I did it yesterday, and making a decision takes time away from whatever else my brain happens to be doing.Coasters have no reason...they just keep doing things even though they know there are better ways.
I say to these people: "It just takes one decision and you're on a new path, so let me make the choice for you. Next time you're in a store, just grab a CFL. I'm giving you no reasons, I'm just telling you to do it. Get the wattage you want, and don't worry about anything else.
#4 Martha Stewarts
Some things are more important than the environment...like the shade of paint you chose for your living room. And if the paint looks different with a new light bulb...well...that's just not OK. These people tend to have CFLs where it doesn't matter or isn't practical...like in the closet. They like them, in theory, but they need bulbs that are dimmable, in the correct form factor, producing a specific number of lumens with a specific color temperature.
I say to these people: "Sorry...but next time a friend comes over to your house and scrutinizes your light bulb choice instead of complementing your paint color, that's when you'll know what you really need to do. Look at this as an opportunity. Experiment with different sconces...colored glass will make any bulb do the right thing for your home.I'm sure Martha herself has covered the subject (certainly better than I could.) See what she has to say."
I probably missed out on some people, but without resorting to demographic analysis, I think that these are the folks who want switch, but haven't been able to for one reason or another. If you haven't switched, and feel I'm oversimplifying or completely missed out on your reasoning, I'd love to hear from you in the comments.