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Author Topic: Is China the best place to make compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs)?  (Read 6420 times)

Offline rhade

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I noticed the compact fluorescent light "bulbs" I have been buying are made in China. Is it really reducing global warming to have them made in about the most polluting country in the world today and shipped in to the UK, burning up even more fossil fuels in the process of transporting them?
« Last Edit: 15/10/2009 19:47:39 by chris »


 

Offline Mazurka

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I am not aware of anyone having done a full "life cycle analysis" on CFL's, nor any manufacturer considering a new CFL factory in Europe on which a comparison can be made.

It is an interesting question, although as the UK has more or less completely outsourced mass production to China, it may not have a simple answer.  As we (the "west") have externalised a lot of our industrial emission's to China, it is shaky moral ground to blame them for pollution.

There is also a very intriguing argument that China has done more than any other nation to limit emission's - due to its one child policy.
 

Offline rosy

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I'd be surprised if traditional incandescent bulbs weren't also being made in China so the switch to Chinese made CFLs isn't going to make a new contribution to transport costs
 

Offline techmind

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Philips used to have factories in Holland (most likely Eindhoven) for making incandescent bulbs... but my recent stockpile (which happen to be Philips) all say "Made in Poland" on the carton.

Incandescent bulbs - a simple evacuated/back-filled glass bulb and a little coiled-coiled tungsten filament.
CFL 'bulbs' - a low-end electronic product which connects to an integral fluorescent tube.

The fact that the CFL is much more complicated may push the economics more strongly towards China than was the case for incandescent bulbs. Probably also inertia - incandescent bulbs have been made in Europe for decades, and the factories presumably ticking over with relatively little new investment, so you might only expect a gradual drift to China. CFLs however are a "new" product and with costs being so much cheaper in China, why would you set up a factory anywhere else?

 

Offline that mad man

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A few days ago I purchased 2 Philips CFL's at the local supermarket. They are marked "Made in China" and cost me 9p each.  :o

I agree with rosy as China have already been making incandescents. At the moment there is a surge in consumer demand for CFL's but as they get more popular it will slow. The fact that CFL's can last up to 10 years will also add to that.

I don't think China in the long run will uses much more energy or create more pollution in making them but see it more as a changeover from incandescent production to CFL's.
 

Offline Karsten

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A few days ago I purchased 2 Philips CFL's at the local supermarket. They are marked "Made in China" and cost me 9p each.  :o

I agree with rosy as China have already been making incandescents. At the moment there is a surge in consumer demand for CFL's but as they get more popular it will slow. The fact that CFL's can last up to 10 years will also add to that.

I don't think China in the long run will uses much more energy or create more pollution in making them but see it more as a changeover from incandescent production to CFL's.

9p as in 9 pounds? I hope not. The cheapest ones here are about US$1 per bulb.

Without the support of large test numbers, the early generations of CFLs lasted quite long. I had my first one for more than 10 years (and I did not even buy it - I found it). The newer ones, we will see. I had a few not function after just a year or so. I had a similar experience with a dirt cheap laser pointer. The first I bought I still have and use after 10 years of use, the second I bought 6 months after the first, broke right away. My paranoid mind makes me think that once we are hooked to a product, quality will go down. I don't think that cheap, profitable, and durable go together well.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Nine pence i.e. 0.09
An unusually good price but the supermarkets sell loss leaders from time to time.
 

Offline rhade

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9p. Only nine bloody pence? Really?

As I said elsewhere on this forum, I like the bit where it says on the packaging of CFLs that they will last eight years, then you read the small print and it says that is based on an average usage of 2.7 hours per day. Do you use your lights for only 2.7 hours per day? Maybe in the spare room you might hardly use it, but in the rooms you use most frequently? I don't- I use 'em much more than that.

My own feeling is similar to Mazurka's comments. I feel we've given over almost all UK manufacturing to other countries, and exported much of our pollution. I'm not against the globalised economy; on the contrary, I feel there are sound social and political reasons for it. But exporting our pollution in this way is a cop-out. It really kind of sucks.
 

Offline rhade

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And, techmind, you really don't sound impressed with CFLs.
 

Offline rosy

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We have (I think) 9 compact fluorescents in our house (plus a fluorescent strip in the kitchen). I think probably that of those maybe 3 are turned on for more than 2.7 hours per day in the depths of winter. From April to September I'd expect that to drop to one. That's in a house inhabited by five adults. On average I wouldn't say we used more than about 1 CFL more than 3 hours per day.

The only times I've ever had a CFL fail were (once) on first installing it and (once) after it had been trying to run at half-power whenever it was turned on for about a week (they don't like that..). Granted I haven't been using them for 10 years yet, but I've had several of the ones we're using now for four.
 

Offline chris

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What does CFL stand for please?
 

Offline that mad man

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What does CFL stand for please?

I understand it to mean Compact FLuorescentS, a low energy replacement for the incandescent bulb.

Not to sure about exporting the pollution as these, as do other fluorescents, contain minute amounts of mercury which we then have to dispose of. Where they are made is dictated by economics and if we cant compete then it goes elsewhere.
 

Offline rosy

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Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb, I think... slightly less contrived.
 

Offline rhade

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Rosy, you probably aren't up for large portions of the night, as I tend to be.
 
As for the mercury, I texted this to Dr. Karl on the Radio 5 Live science phone-in (broadcast at 3AM Wednesday night/Thursday morning, on which Dr. Chris, yes, OUR Dr. Chris, has often stood in when Karl is away!) Dr. Karl says that, unless the Australian government has been lying to him, as burning coal emits mercury, the overall amount of mercury released into the environment should be less using the CFLs. However, he did add that this depends on the CFLs being correctly disposed of and not winding up dumped in some landfill somewhere.

And it's nice to see a thread I started generating so much interest! This is an important issue, as are all environmental concerns these days- well, those days too, though in the past there was less awareness of it, which is where things went wrong. One of the things which keeps worrying me, and I'm sure you too, is that a lot of policies the governments of the world adopt in the rush to do something about it turn out to have a down side and not be so bright an idea as it first seemed. The business of making CFLs in China may possibly fall into this category. I don't know. My mind is not totally made up about it. I tend to the more cynical view, but many of the comments you guys made above could well be true, and they are all certainly worthy of consideration.
 

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