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Despite good, some are irked by fluorescent bulbs

By WASHINGTON POST
Published May 12, 2007


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NESKOWIN, Ore. - Alex and Sara Sifford, who live on the Oregon coast, want to do the right thing to save a warming world.

To that end, Alex Sifford, 51, has been buying compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use about 75 percent less power than incandescent bulbs. He sneaks them into sockets all over the house. This has been driving his wife nuts.

She knows that the bulbs, called CFLs, save money and use less energy, thus cutting greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change. She knows, too, that Al Gore and the Department of Energy endorse them. Still, the bulbs, with their initial flicker, slow warm-up and slightly weird color, bug her.

"What really got me was when my husband put a fluorescent in the lamp next to my bed, " said Sara Sifford, 53. She said she yelled at her husband for "violating the last vestige of my personal space."

Experts on energy consumption call it the "wife test." And one of the dimly lighted truths of the global-warming era is that fluorescent bulbs still seem to be flunking out in most American homes.

The current market share of CFL bulbs in the United States is about 6 percent, up from less than 1 percent before 2001. But that compares dismally with CFL adoption rates in other wealthy countries such as Japan (80 percent) and Germany (50 percent).

"There is still a big hurdle in convincing Americans that lighting-purchase decisions make a big difference in individual electricity bills, " said Wendy Reed, director of the federal government's Energy Star campaign. "... I have heard time and again that a husband goes out and puts the bulb into the house, thinking he is doing a good thing. Then, the CFL bulb is changed back out by the women."

[Last modified May 12, 2007, 01:53:04]


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