Credit: Flickr / Tom Adamson

BC bans incandescent light bulbs in favour of energy-efficient compact florescent bulbs in accordance with Canada's new regulations for 2012


If you head to your local hardware store looking to replace a 75- or 100-watt incandescent bulb in the next few weeks, you may be in for a surprise.


A new energy-saving policy from the provincial government took effect with the arrival of 2011. This new policy prohibits retailers in BC from ordering new incandescent bulbs in favour of compact florescent lights (CFLs).


The good news on CFLs is they use one-third or less of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last between eight and 15 times longer. According to CBC News:


Natural Resources Canada has estimated that if every one of the country's 12 million households changed just one incandescent bulb for a compact fluorescent, that would result in a $73 million savings on our collective electricity bills as well as a corresponding 397,000 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of taking 66,000 cars off the road.

How to properly dispose of florescent lightbulbs

Compact Florescent Lightbulb (CFL)
(Image: Flickr / Liz West)

The problem is each CFL contains about 5 milligrams of mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause brain and kidney damage in humans and can poison streams and wetlands if not disposed of properly.


This means CFLs should not be thrown in the garbage for disposal.


And if you break a CFL bulb, the US EPA offers a rather disconcerting multi-step cleanup procedure:

  1. Air out the room for a quarter of an hour.
  2. Wear gloves. Sweep up the broken bulb. Double-bag the refuse (and recycle don’t toss the contents).
  3. Use duct tape to lift the residue from a carpet. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner, as that will only spread the problem.
  4. And the next time you do vacuum the area, immediately dispose of the vacuum bag.

Currently, there is no curbside recycling for CFLs. You can return spent bulbs to some of the big retailers with "take back" programs. Or check with Light Recycle, the BC Fluorescent Light Recycling Program, for a drop off near you.


Types of compact florescent lightbulbs

There are different types of CFLs available based on where you need to use them.
Select a "dimmable CFL" for dimmer switches and automatic lighting controls, and check the size of the bulb for use in recessed fixtures. For outdoor use with CFLs, read the package carefully as it will say if the bulbs work base-up or base-down and alone outdoors or enclosed in a fixture.
Check BC Hydro's buying guide to help you select the right bulb.
The problems with CFLs have made our family more interested in LED lighting—and while these lights aren’t a perfect solution (yet) we are using them where ever we can.

Comparison between incandescent and compact florescent lightbulbs
Note the difference in colour temperature of each of these lightbulbs (left to right): Compact fluorescent, General Electric, 13 W, 6,500 K; incandescent, Sylvania 60 W Extra Soft White; compact fluorescent, Bright Effects, 15 W, 2,644 K; and compact fluorescent, Sylvania, 14 W, 3,000 K. (Image: Wikipedia Creative Commons / Raymar)