CFLs: The ugly duckling of the energy world

  • Published
  • By Thea Spriggs
  • 23rd Civil Engineer Squadron resource efficiency manager
The first time I saw one, I thought it was ugly; I still do. An acquaintance of mine had put one of these things in his ceiling fan, just one among three normal ones. "That's tacky- why would anyone put one of those things up there and ruin the aesthetics of a nicely decorated room?" he wondered.

That was somewhere around 10 years ago and chlorofluorocarbon light bulbs had just come out. I think they cost about $15 a piece. The quirky, spiral-shaped fluorescent thing was homely, obviously a poor attempt to scrunch a long, thin fluorescent tube into the space for a screw in socket. Why would I pay $15 for an ugly twisted wad of glowing tube?

Who would have thought that the CFL would turn into such a sensation? Who would have ever thought that this ugly duckling of the energy world would have turned into such a swan? They are now much cheaper, no longer buzz or flicker like that first one did and they have saved billions of dollars in energy costs, including cutting home energy costs by 20 percent. A beautiful "swan" now, but to me they are still ugly in a ceiling fan.

Others must think they are ugly as well since manufacturers are working to make them more beautiful by making them look like normal light bulbs. Some resemble floodlights, round bulbs, candelabra bulbs or decorative lights, which may be more expensive than the plain ones, but these prices are coming down as well.

We use the ones that look like a regular light bulb in the ceiling fans at our home and I don't think they're so ugly anymore, especially when the electric bill comes in.

Now, we see other "ugly ducklings" appearing- LED lighting, solar-assisted hot water, and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, wind turbines, biofuel heaters and pelletized fuel stoves, which are all ugly and expensive at the outset.

Who knows which will become our next swan?

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