…and some Humor from Massachusetts

From the Easy Opinions blog, “Opinions about the not so Obvious”    
Fred: Thank you Jim for landing the CFL United ad account. Let’s work out the ad campaign. Mike: I didn’t get the memo. What does CFL United do? Techno: They make Compact Fluorescent Lights. They are like those four foot tubes you see in warehouses, but these are about 1 foot long, really thin, and twisted around so they can fit in a the space of a light bulb. They have a different coating so the light isn’t so blue, but more yellow. Sometimes they put a glass bulb around them so they look more regular. Jim: These CFL’s are great. Should be a lot easier to sell than bottled water. They actually save money, use less electricity, and are cooler. Let’s just sell them as a win win win. Fred: Here are the talking points: Costs less Uses 1/4 of the electricity for the same light as from a Regular 100 watt bulb Lasts 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for a regular bulb. Techno: Uh, they don’t cost less. A CFL is $5.00, a Regular is $.50 . Mike: OK, there is big hit up front, but they save money on electricity, right? Techno: Over its lifetime of 10,000 hours, a 25 watt CFL uses 250 KWH (kilowatt hours), compared to the same light from 10 Regular 100 watt bulbs, each lasting 1000 hours, and using 1000 KWH total. Here is the summary for 10,000 hours of use, with electricity costing $.10 per KWH. 100 watt Reg 10 bulbs $5.00   1,000 KWH $100.00 25 watt CFL 1 bulb         $5.00       250 KWH    $25.00       Saves $75.00 Mike: OK, no problem. Buy 10 CFL’s and save $750. Get rich! Techno: Yeah, if you don’t turn them off. Fred: Is that supposed to be a joke? Techno: Not really a joke. CFL’s are complicated. First, they need a high voltage to operate, which they get from some miniaturized electronics in the base. Second, they have a coating on the inside metal contacts which helps the electricity start flowing. They are hard to get going. When you turn one on, the electronics take some stress and that metal coating evaporates a bit. Turning one on takes away some of the CFL’s life. Once on, no problem. Turn one on and it can last 10,000 hours. If you turn it off, you have to turn it on later, which costs some of its life. So, don’t turn it off!. Jim: Whoa! We can’t tell people to just leave them on. How long do they last if you turn them off? Techno: That’s hard to say. CFL United isn’t too clear about the matter. They don’t say, really. And the aftermarket studies don’t dwell on this either. But, reasoning backward from some statements here and there, I estimate that the consumer grade CFL loses 5 hours of life each time it is turned on. Mike: So you get 10,000 hours or 2,000 on/off cycles, whichever comes first. What if I put one in the bathroom? I bet my family turns that light on and off about 10 times a day, for about 5 minutes each time. Techno: That CFL is going to last about 6 months (200 days). A Regular bulb in that use would last about 39 months. Regular bulbs don’t care if they are turned on and off. In that use, the CFL costs $9.89/yr compared to the Regular at $3.04/yr, counting cost of bulbs and electricity. This is mostly the cost of bulbs for the CFL, and the cost of electricity for the Regular. Mike: (shaking his head slowly) Not good. Not good. Is there anywhere these CFL’s can actually be used cost effectively? Jim: How about the kitchen or family room? Techno: Yes, if you need to leave them on for a while, CFL’s are cost effective. Fluorescent bulbs are always used in warehouses and offices, where they are on for 8-16 hours per day. Jim: Cut the suspense. How long for our CFL? Techno: I figure that the break-even is about 20 minutes. If you need the light on for at least 20 minutes, the CFL saves enough on electricity to offset the cost of turning it on, compared to a Regular 100 watt bulb. After that, you actually save money, about $.0075 per hour (3/4 cents). In the winter, the break-even is 38 minutes, because you benefit from the expensive heat that the Regular bulb puts out. In the summer, the break-even is 15 minutes, because the greater heat of the Regular bulb requires more air-conditioning. Mike: We’re saved. They are actually good for something after all. Fred: OK people, calm down. We’ve been through this sort of thing before. We have our campaign. Saves 75% of the electricity of a regular bulb. Lasts 10,000 hours* compared to 1,000 hours for regular bulbs. Saves $50 per bulb over its lifetime, compared to using regular 100 watt bulbs. Environmentally friendly * As measured in bulb-life studies. For maximum bulb life, leave the bulb on for 15 minutes or more for each use. Jim: I like the part about maximum bulb life. It slyly suggests that even if the bulb might be injured by short uses, you can heal it by leaving it on a bit longer. Mike: Why do we claim only $50 per bulb in savings? Fred: Clearly these bulbs aren’t going to last 10,000 hours, so we’ll claim more reasonable savings, but still big. Since they can use less energy, in the right situations, they are environmentally friendly. Right? Jim: You have a strange look on your face Techno. Techno: What about the other facts? Do you guys have my memo? Mike: I didn’t quite read that memo. What’s in it? Techno: There are a few other things. •   Most CFL’s contain about 5 mg of mercury. They are supposed to be disposed of as hazardous waste, but there is no program to take them. They need a careful cleanup if you break one. •   The twisty ones, with no outer glass bulb, can emit enough UV radiation at 1 foot away to produce a sunburn. •   If you use them in an enclosed fixture, or base up in the ceiling, the electronics get hot, and its life is reduced. I couldn’t find out by how much. •   There are many manufacturers, and you can’t tell how long a brand is going to last, or how it reacts to heat or on/off cycles. You need to trust, or you can always pay more for a higher quality CFL. They are somewhat longer and wider than a regular bulb, so they don’t fit everywhere. •   Many CFL’s, especially the $5 ones, have a slow start-up. It takes them 30 seconds to 3 minutes to fully light up. •   If you use them outdoors in the cold, some of them never fully light up, or they don’t start at all. •   You can’t use the cheap CFL’s with a dimmer, but there are some that will work. •   CFL’s are fluorescent. Some people get headaches from the light, or they see the 60 cycle flicker and can’t read by them, or they hate the color of the light, or they hear a faint buzz. •   CFL’s get 20% dimmer as they age toward failure. •   A house has many bulbs that are almost never used. It makes no sense to place $5 bulbs in those locations, rather than a $.50 bulb that will last for 5 years anyway. Jim: That is a lot to handle. How is CFL United going to sell these things? Fred: Need I remind you that CFL United has hired us? We are helping them sell these things. Also, we are informed that CFL United has done a good job in the US Congress pushing the idea of saving energy. So, everyone is going to buy CFL’s, because the Regular bulb is going to be prohibited. Green technology and all of that. Guys, we have our campaign. Techno, you are always unhappy. CFL’s have a few flaws, but there is no need to go into the small details. Let’s get the art work in production and sell, sell, sell.
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