Canadian Consulting Engineer

News

Compact fluorescent lamps alarm consumers

Compact fluorescent lightbulbs have long been touted as environmentally friendly, but the Electrical Safety Authori...


Compact fluorescent lightbulbs have long been touted as environmentally friendly, but the Electrical Safety Authority in Ontario has had to respond to public concerns about the way they finally fail.
The lightbulbs use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs, and can last up to 10,000 hours, much longer than incandescents.
However, when compact fluorescent light bulbs fail they sometimes emit smoke and an odour. The base also may become discoloured and charred. After homeowners called in fire departments and appeared on television with concerns, the Electrical Safety Authority responded with a Product Safety Alert on March 22.
As a safety precaution ESA encourages consumers to discard the compact fluorescents at the first sign of failure or aging. Early warning signs of impending failure include flickering, a bright orange or red glow, popping sounds, an odour, and browning of the ballast enclosure at the base.
ESA also warns that unless otherwise specified, compact fluorescent lightbulbs should not be used in the following situations: “in totally enclosed recessed fixtures; with dimmer switches; in touch lamps with photocells or with electronic timers.” They should also not be used where they are exposed to weather or to water.
The authority is asking product manufacturers to review their packaging information.
Compact fluorescent lightbulbs can contain small amounts of mercury (approximately 5 milligrams) but this is smaller than the amount in a watch battery (25 milligrams).