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Here’s What to Do If You Break a CFL

Know the right way to dispose of broken compact fluorescent bulbs.

If you break a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL), you need to know the proper way to dispose of it.

Compact fluorescent bulbs consist of gas-filled glass tubes that emit light. They’re gaining in popularity because they are up to 75 percent more energy efficient than incandescent light bulbs and last 10 times longer.

However, people are growing concerned about the amount of mercury they contain. While it is a small amount, you need to handle a CFL carefully if one breaks in your home, according to Carl Pedersen, North Dakota State University Extension Service energy educator.

Here are the steps the Environmental Protection Agency recommends you take:

  • First, vent the room for about 15 minutes. If the room has forced air heating or air conditioning, shut that off as well.
  • Scoop up any glass or powder with a stiff piece of paper or cardboard. Do not use a broom or vacuum on hard floors since it can spread the dust. Place the glass and dust in a sealed container, such as a jar or plastic bag.
  • Pick up any additional small pieces of glass or dust with a strong tape, such as duct tape.
  • The next step is to wipe the area with a damp paper towel or wet cloth and then dispose of all materials in sealed containers. Place the materials outside and then bring them to the local approved recycling center for CFLs.
  • If you break a bulb on a carpeted floor and you need to use a vacuum cleaner, use the same procedure as above and then vacuum the carpet after you’ve removed all visible material. After vacuuming, remove the vacuum bag and place it in a sealed container or bag, as you did with the pieces of the light bulb.

Researchers are making constant advances in CFL technology. For example, the light given off by CFLs has been improved. Also, manufacturers are making CFLs in a globe shape that can be used in decorative lights such as those found in bathroom fixtures.

Pedersen says CFLs should not be used with dimmer switches, but manufacturers are making bulbs that will work with dimmers.

If you have any questions about disposing of broken CFLs or any other energy-related topic, contact Pedersen at (701) 231-5833 or carl.pedersen@ndsu.edu.


NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Carl Pedersen, (701) 231-5833, carl.pedersen@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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