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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Harshness of compact fluorescents casts pall on green efforts -

Harshness of compact fluorescents casts pall on green efforts

By Mary-Liz Shaw / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Friday, November 7, 2008 -

MILWAUKEE - Does this sound like you?

You are doing The Right Thing. You are thinking globally and acting locally.

You eat what’s in season, and you buy it at the farmers market. You opt for paper at the grocery store; you recycle the bags. You compost. Maybe you even drive a hybrid.

So when the gods of the green movement thus spake, "get thee some compact fluorescent light bulbs to reduceth thine carbon footprint," you rushed right off and replaced all of your incandescent bulbs with those twirly thingies.

And now your living room looks like a morgue. Your bedroom is screaming for a gurney instead of a four-poster. And the kitchen? It’s fine, if you’d rather dissect the chicken than cook it.

Let’s face it: Compact fluorescent lamps, or CFLs, can turn even the most environmentally conscientious a sickly green. To say nothing of their homes.

"They lost my wife. She gave up on them," says Jim Hunzinger, owner of a Brookfield, Wis., construction company that specializes in sustainable, environmentally friendly building practices. Hunzinger is building a state-of-the-art show house that will meet the Green Building Council’s strict Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design ratings.

It’s fair to say Hunzinger thinks about energy savings and being kind to the environment at levels few of us knew existed.

Yet, about six weeks ago, when Joyce Hunzinger swapped out their kitchen’s dimmable incandescents with fluorescents, the light produced by the new bulbs was so ghastly and harsh, she marched them all right back to the store.

"And her conclusions are, I think, typical of most consumers’: Tried it, didn’t like it, moved on," Jim Hunzinger said.

The story might have ended there were it not for Jim Hunzinger’s vow to save energy if it killed him.

"I just wouldn’t give up," he said.

A month after his wife’s disappointing foray into fluorescent territory, Jim Hunzinger went ahead and replaced almost 60 incandescent bulbs in and around his house with CFLs.

He managed to approximate the lighting quality he had with incandescents, but the experience left him exhausted and bleary-eyed from reading the fine print on dozens of CFL packages. After three trips, two stores and conversations with a store salesman and a professional lighting designer, Hunzinger emerged an inadvertent expert on fluorescent technology. He also chose not to put the bulbs in his main living spaces because the light they emitted wasn’t pleasing to him.

Jim Hunzinger is ahead of the curve, but it’s a road we’ll all be traveling soon.

With the new Energy Independence and Security Act passed by Congress late last year, the humble incandescent light bulb as we know it today will be phased out beginning in 2012. Before the bill passed, however, bulb makers, interior designers and other lifestyle watchers raged against the dying of the incandescent light so strenuously that lawmakers wrote in a host of exemptions, including appliance bulbs, colored bulbs, candelabra bulbs and other odd shapes.

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