Monday, January 15, 2007

Jane Galt: Compact Fluorescent Lights

First of all, I am not talking about some platonic ideal of Compact Fluorescent Lights which may or may not exist; I am talking about the actual ones I purchased at Wal-Mart, which s---. I got several wattages from (as I seem to recall) several manufacturers; they all s---ed. Since CFLs at Wal-Mart were the subject of the article, these are the relevant items to discuss, not some fantastic CFLs you mail-ordered from Japan.

Second of all, I don't have the choice of finding some lampshade in which they don't suck. I live in a 400 square foot apartment, and my landlord picks the white glass shades that go on my overhead lights. I'm sure that if I found some lovely tiffany glass in just the right hue, they'd be adorable.

Third of all, unlike almost everyone on the planet, I am dependent on these lights all day. My apartment does not get enough natural light to work by, and I often work at home. There is a big difference between having kind of sucky light for a few hours a day, and spending your whole day drenched in it. Light really does have an affect on your spirits: that's what Seasonal Affective Disorder is all about, and why people fight so hard for offices with windows.

Fourth of all, I did actually try these things; I'm not mindlessly extrapolating from the lights at work. I don't know what I hate about them--the colour, the glare, whatever. I don't care about the shape, and didn't notice any particular flicker (I'm one of the unlucky ones who can see it in offices with cheap lights). I just know that the one in my range hood now, the equivalent of a 100 watt incandescent, emits an ugly glare that is strongly reminiscent of being interrogated by the Mossad, and did so no matter what light fixture or lamp I screwed it into. The actual 100 watt incandescents now there do not. This was the bulb that was advertised on its freaky high-security plastic wrapping as being just like an incandescent.

Nor is this some hysterical reaction from someone prone to hate CFLs. I wanted to like CFLs; indeed, I believed so strongly in them that I had to throw out about $50 worth when I found out they didn't work in my apartment. And everyone else who walked into my apartment with a CFL in the socket had the same reaction; approximately: "Eeeeeeew." The place, now a warmly lit corner of paradise in the cold-hearted city, looked like a badly planned ladies dressing room in a failing discount department store chain. Now, what's really funny: someone who tried CFLs and found that she couldn't stand the way they looked in her apartment, or someone who is so completely unable to imagine any circumstances in which someone might have had a different experience from him with a product, that he writes several thousand words from another city asserting that I must be mistaken? Although I do want to make it claer, for the record, that I fully support Michael O'Hare's right to insert his foot in his mouth, clear up to the sacrum if he chooses.

Now, since my experiment five months ago, perhaps Wal-Mart has changed their entire line of bulbs. Perhaps they are all wonderful now. But they weren't, when I bought them. I'm sure that some people have found that they work wonderfully in a variety of places, but they do not work wonderfully for someone in a cheap, dark rental apartment. I'm just guessing of course, but I imagine that sort of apartment is fairly common among Wal-Mart's clientele, which might be why their bulbs aren't doing so well.

That said, I do plan to experiment, very cautiously, with other brands. I'm cheap, and as I say, I want to conserve electricity. But if they look like the Wal-Mart ones, they go right back out again. My green street cred may suffer, but given that I live in a tiny apartment in a highly efficient dense area, have no dishwasher or car, use a tiny gas range, do only full loads of laundry, and run a single air conditioner only in the room where the dog is, I feel like I've got a little reputational capital there to burn.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Try these... I use them in our house and find them quite good.