#669 – Spurt

We’ve had a good experience so far with the CFL bulbs in our house. We’ve had them for years now and only the very first one we bought has burned out. My wife’s parent’s don’t have the same story. They have a bunch of inset ceiling lights that are chewing up the new bulbs like white licorice. I can’t figure out if they are buying a bad brand or if CFLs are bad in enclosed spaced or if they are sensitive to the wonky electricity they have out here.


37 thoughts on “#669 – Spurt”

  1. genesismonk says:

    Ingeniousness or idiocy? Only Biff can tell for sure!

  2. Craig says:

    Vibrations used to always burn out ours. Turning them on and off a lot causes damage as well (before everything is properly vaporized while warming up, the ions are in too low of pressure and fly the whole length smashing into the electrodes). Also, the enclosures might cause them to run hotter which could effect the life of the plastic and electronic parts.

  3. alecho says:

    hahaha, good one (once again!). it sure takes a long time~ 😉

  4. StrikerNZ says:

    I bet he’s been standing there for months..

    I’ve never been a fan of those bulbs.. Maybe it’s just the risk of all the mercury in them.. So much for environmentally-friendly..

  5. Vennificus says:

    the swirly ones?
    yeah they don’t go good in enclosed spaces, dunno why. go halogen for those

  6. LazerWulf says:

    hmm… but how do you get the plant to turn the light off? A chain saw?

  7. Just Ryan says:

    I’ve noticed a similar problem with the CFL’s in my apartment complex; the only difference is that they are using them to light up our entryways, and they are exposed to the elements. i think they replaced the ones in front of my apartment twice last year…

  8. jake says:

    re: They have a bunch of inset ceiling lights that are chewing up the new bulbs like white licorice

    some CFLs don’t like being upside down. They get hot and the heat is trapped in the base with all of the expensive electronics. I’d try a different more robust (read: expensive) version

  9. With this technique, the light will flip on at some random, unexpected moment. Most likely while he’s sleeping. I should try this with some device, preferably loud.

  10. Michael says:

    The real environmentalists are using LEDs by now, I’m sure. Companies just produce fluorescents because they die eventually, and they can keep on selling them. LEDs probably wouldn’t blow for anything short of a power surge, and use a bare trickle of power, even compared to CFLs.

  11. Micah says:

    (Sorry if this has already been guessed): Biff doing something the hard way, so it takes him a long time.

  12. that guy says:

    It’s pretty late here, but my brain seems to be telling me that CFL + recessed lighting socket = bad.

    I think it was something my mom mentioned in passing last time she visited, but who can say.

  13. Cpt.Ziggy says:

    This is funny to me because I have an apple tree in my apartment right now!

  14. Thane of Eurmal says:

    No, not Energy Saving week – how would roasting marshmallows in front of a TV save energy? I think the theme is hidden in the Subjects. Let’s see…

    First … Novel … Packed … Solar … Spurt … !


    Never mind. I’ll just go back to lurking now…


  15. faultylogic83 says:

    hooray for exercises in futility week

  16. Zaffa says:

    Yeah, I already guessed that one, Micah. Anyway, my whole house is full of flourescents… Sure is saving a hell of a lot on electric bills, I tell ya.

  17. Karen says:

    You’re one of the few people I’ve heard of having GOOD experiences with the CFLs … between my parents and myself, we’ve never had one last more than a year and a half (they’re supposed to last 3), and we’ve tried so many different kinds. And they’re so finicky! They don’t like being upside-down. They don’t like being in a place where they’ll get too warm. They don’t like any dampness whatsoever. The list goes on. We even had one in my parents’ basement explode rather violently, and upon looking it up we discovered that this is a somewhat common thing.

    I’ve gone back to using halogen bulbs until they manage to make LED technology affordable.

  18. Reg says:

    I see why Biff creates insane and complex machines now. When he tries to make something simple, it doesn’t work! XP
    My first expierience with those enviro-friendly bulbs was at a friends house. I would turn them on and they’d be dim. But come back later and it would be bright! I thought I was going insane for a while until he explained they get brighter after leaving them on for a while.

  19. Saiph says:

    The tree will die long before it turns that light on. Tree branches never change in elevation as the tree ages. New ones grow at the top, and the old ones at the bottom die off.
    Now you know…..

  20. reynard61 says:

    “They have a bunch of inset ceiling lights that are chewing up the new bulbs like white licorice.”

    Are they on a dimmer circuit? Dimmers + CFL = Burnout, burnout, burnout…

  21. GuyD says:

    I using CLF bulbs since years and never had any troubles. The one in my desktop lamp is in service since four years and I use it a lot.

    Some CLF don’t like to be turned on too many times. To start the bulb, a big amount of energy in a very short time is necessary. Cheap electronic devices don’t withstand that too many times.

    Starting a CLF takes the same amount of electricity like let it burn for about five minutes! That means, if you leave the room only for a short period, let the light on! You save energy and take care about the bulb.

  22. Linzleh says:

    Dear Biff those ‘green habits’ do take time to develop…wondering how you will manage the green ‘depowering’ function?!

  23. taber_man says:

    Halogens are generally better for recessed lights, but at the same time, a lot of CFLs in the ceiling lights I’ve seen (same type) do work pretty well (my friend’s house and my dentist’s office). Although, for best bet on those, use a different type of flourescent.

    Don’t use the twirly kind, use the ones like in lanterns, in the long tubes bent at like, 90 degree angles. Those are more built for that kind of use, I believe.

    Also, our CFLs are doing well. We have two in our breezeway, I have one in my room, they’re in our lamps in the living room, and the one in our basement (which has a nice rosy tint to it) we’ve had since at LEAST 2005, if not earlier, maybe even 2003. It’s been on almost that entire time save certain times when we had to turn it off or it simply was off (people sleeping, etc.).

    All in all, good bulbs I’d say. Maybe their power is kinda wonky.

  24. Evan Lee says:

    I don’t want to be “that guy” but my current profession is logging. From what I learned a tree doesn’t grow “up” per say. That branch will stay in the same place and at the same height forever. The very top of the tree splits to allow for the growth of a new branch and a higher elevation. So Biff is going to be in the dark forever, or at least until the tree dies and falls over on the switch.

  25. Trevor says:

    At first I thought it was talking about the sun, even though the first thing I noticed was the plany being underneath the switch.

  26. skywerwolf says:

    biff goes green. story at elven. maby he can cut back on the energy all those other machines of his use. minus the lightning powered tape despincer.

    da wolf has spoken.

  27. Stealth1525 says:

    im gunna say tedius week
    first time poster, very good comic Chris!

  28. caffiend says:

    point of note about CFL’s they don’t mention to loudly… Almost all of them contain mercury. My recommendation is that you don’t install them where any cooking will be occuring on the off chance it shatters. Also if one does burn out, you should dispose of it at one of those household HazMat sites.

  29. Akaroshii says:

    Yeesh. He should’a gotten one of those plants that grow, like, three feet in one day. THEN his lights would be on! 😀

  30. If he stuck some kind of species of bamboo under that switch, his idea might work. Some types of bamboo grow so fast you can actually see it growing. Amazing plants.

  31. OJ Smoke says:

    A $3 CFL pays for itself in lower electric bills in about five months. Be careful about buying CFLs so that you’re not fooled by so-called “long-life bulbs.” These are NOT CFLs and will not last nearly as long as compact fluorescent. Look for compact fluorescent light bulbs that have the U.S.EPA’s Energy Star seal of approval on them, and you’ll be guaranteed that you’re buying a real CFL.

    Also- consider quality. The lifespan of your CFL is determined by the ballast, the big white thing below the glass. You can think of a flourescent light bulb like bottled lightning. The ballast send electrons into a gas and the gas gets excited to a higher energy when it “sees” the electron. It then spits out that electron and when it relaxes down, it releases it’s excited energy as a photon, or light. So basically, the light produced is arcing electricity, or lightning, contained within glass. The ballast is solely responsible for safely distributing the appropriate amount if electricity to the gas to get the desired amount of light. Note- the ballasts are very delicate. Heat, vibrations, inconsistent electricity such as brown outs, and being turned on and off will wear them out VERY quickly because these things wear on the ballast. Being in an enclosed space may not seem like it will heat a ballast much, but being a poor quality ballast will wear out very quickly if over heated even a little. The only way to get a CFL that will last a long time is to buy a quality ballast.

    As for the mercury content, according to the EPA, CFLs contain an average of 5 milligrams of mercury, which increases the bulb’s efficiency. That means you probably shouldn’t just trash them — CFLs ought to be properly recycled. The amount of mercury contained, however, could only damage you if you breathed in the powder hard core or boke several and rubbed the powder all over yourself and left it there for a few hours. You could visit Energy Star or Earth 911 for recycling instructions.

    Popular Mechanics did an interesting comparison of brands at http://www.popularmechanics.com/home_journal/how_to/4215199.html?page=1 if you’re interested…

  32. Jykcor says:

    hey, everyone is quoting what Chris said about the house eating bulbs like white locorice, but nobody is asking what I want answered, and I know it’s just like an analogy, but…….

    Is white licorice real? I’d buy like 5 bags instantly.

  33. rlbell says:

    I second the request for white licorice information; although, if it is not licorice flavoured, I will wonder why it is called licorice. I married into a dutch family and learned about proper licorice, sweet and salted. When she was still my only my girlfriend, my wife gave me a piece of fortisal (loaded with table salt and a another salt) with the not-warning of it being black licorice. Taken by surprise, I was revolted. Months later, when I was offered a piece of double salted licorice by a dutch friend, I was expecting it and appreciated the flavour. My father-in-law has it worse. He does not like licorice, so one Sinter Klass day, he was given a bag of fruit drops, but, being dutch candy, only the ingredients list hinted that they were actually licorice and fruit flavoured drops– He was rather put out.

    Back to CFL’s, the fact that they say on the packaging and the lights, themselves, not for use with dimmers implies that fluctuating voltages is what does them in. Getting a 23w CFL to pay for itself takes 900 hours (I prefer 100w bulbs to 60w bulbs) of continuous use. I have enough voltage variations that I either get unlucky with the infant mortality, as enough CFL’s have failed to last that long for me, that I doubt the claimed 3-year lifespan. I am looking forward to when LED’s take over from CFL’s.

  34. When I bought my house about two years ago, I started installing CFL’s. The first set I installed were GE’s. These take about a second to turn on after flipping the switch, then come up to full brightness in a bit. They’re in a variety of fixtures – open ceiling fixtures, enclosed ceiling fixtures, a standard floor lamp, a horizontal desk lamp, and one in the old rattly range hood. The second set was was the wal-mart brand. These are instant-on bulbs, and are in the same variety of fixture types. Haven’t had one burn out or otherwise fail yet, and I have fairly wonky electricity. (now they will all probably fail in the next day or so since I said that). I did notice a fairly large drop in my electric bill, since some of the lights are on 24 hours a day. Of course, now I’m making up for that with electric heaters since my furnace blew up (quite literally)

  35. Hornswaggler says:

    I like the little lights that take a few minutes to brighten fully. 8D Then they don’t burn your eyes when you turn ’em on at night.
    I have no idea about all the fancy bulbs, I just like the ones we have. x3

  36. Mr. Meval says:

    A whole house surge suppressor will protect all of your electrical and electronic devices. CCFL’s are far more sensitive to power problems than incandescent.

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