Walmart Launches House Brand CFLs

Walmart seems really serious about this whole environmental thing. They’d really appreciate it if you’d buy their new house brand “Great Value” CFL light bulbs.

“The introduction of our Great Value bulbs make CFLs a more accessible option for our shoppers as we strive to sell 100 million CFLs by the end of 2007,” said Wal-Mart General Merchandise Manager Andy Barron in a statement.

The world’s largest retailer said the bulbs, which use less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and last longer, will save consumers money and protect the environment.

The Great Value bulbs will be cheaper than brand name CFLs and have less mercury, according to Reuters. Anyone thinking of switching?

Wal-Mart selling own brand of energy efficient CFLs [Reuters]
(Photo:AZAdam)

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  1. Adam291 says:

    Just what I want. A tube filled with vaporized mercury bought from Walmart, made in China. For all we know, they’ll coat it in lead and fill it with antifreeze.

  2. ElizabethD says:

    I really wish I could persuade myself to like the way those lights look when they’re on.

  3. CoffeeAddict says:

    Sounds awesome. Being more environmentally friendly is always great. Wal-Mart isn’t always the greatest one out there but this id definately a good step.

  4. NightSteel says:

    I’m with Adam. Regular CFLs are bad enough, I’ve heard of people who broke one on their kitchen floor and had to call in hazmat teams to remove the mercury. Wal-Mart CFLs are bound to be worse somehow. Besides, how can they use ‘less’ mercury, anyway? Last I heard, it was nigh impossible to reduce the amount of mercury in CFLs, it’s a required component. So is Wal-Mart shorting the necessary amount, which might lead to quality problems?

  5. Jeff_McAwesome says:

    I was going to make the same point Adam, you beat me to it. I love how people say that these are environmentally friendly. The amount of Mercury in one of these bulbs does 10 times the damage to the environment that the carbon that is burned to power incandescent bulbs does.

  6. UpsetPanda says:

    @NightSteel: Okay, so are CFLs really worth it? Sure they’re more environmentally friendly, but like NightSteel said, if you drop one, you have more problems than just broken shards of glass, right?

  7. Charles Duffy says:

    @MissJ: No. The “people-calling-in-hazmat-for-broken-CFLs” news articles are bad-consumer stories; the quantity of mercury in these things is trivial. CFLs have much, much less mercury than non-compact fluorescent bulbs (which are potentially trouble when broken).

  8. Charles Duffy says:

    @Jeff_McAwesome: Bull. A standard CFL contains 4.0mg of mercury (some have much less), and a coal-burning power plant will release 2.4mg of mercury powering that bulb over a 5-year lifetime. That same power plant will release 10mg of mercury when powering an incandescent bulb for five years.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Burning fossil fuels releases mercury directly into the air. The extra energy needed to run an incandescent bulb over its lifetime creates much more mercury pollution than the small amount in a CFL. Which (hopefully) will be recycled anyway.

    As far as HazMat goes, if one breaks, all you do is open a window and then scoop the mess up with some cardboard. EnergyStar says to put it in a bag and throw it out. Or take it to a recycling center, if you’re a better person that that. But I don’t think you ever have to get HazMat involved.

  10. Galls says:

    So I guess these CFL will have the same life span as a regular incandescent light bulb. With a great value product you have to calculate the price of replacing it every 6 months.

    For some reason Wal-Marts contractor’s sub-contractor in China seem to have even worse quality control than Nike’s contractor’s sub-contractor.

  11. liquisoft says:

    I don’t know that I’ll buy my CFL bulbs from Wal*Mart, since shopping there is absolute torture and introduces me to a side of humanity I strive to separate myself from (I don’t mean low-income people).

    I do, however, like the idea and I applaud the Mart for introducing cheaper CFLs. The ones you buy from Target/Home Depot/whatever tend to be kind of expensive in comparison to regular bulbs, and I think it turns people off. If more of the lower-income sector used CFLs, I think it’d definitely make an impact.

  12. UpsetPanda says:

    Yeah I’m not a fan of how they look when they’re on – they might save energy, but I end up with less light, so if I have to use two CFLs in a larger room in order to supply the room with enough light, how efficient am I even being?

  13. jesirose says:

    @Jeff_McAwesome: I think people call them more environmentally friendly because they use less energy, which if your energy source is not eco-friendly, is a good thing. Well it’s a good thing either way.

    @MissJ: Have you ever dropped one? We use these and I have dropped them plenty, and only one has broken. The others just bounced and rolled.

  14. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Two things:

    1) I use CFLs with frosted light fixtures and colored lampshades. The difference isn’t really noticeable when there’s some sort of filter involved. Yes, they take longer to reach full brightness, but not long enough to be obnoxious or inconvenient.

    2) I broke a CFL the other day, shrugged, and threw it in the trash. So far, nobody in the house has shown any effects of mercury poisoning. Breaking an old-fashioned thermometer would probably be more dangerous.

  15. edrebber says:

    If you break one of these bulbs, you must evacuate your home immediately and ventilate to allow the mecury gas to disperse. The trouble is, most windows don’t open from the outside.

    You can’t use a regular vacuum cleaner to clean up the mess. You have to wear latex gloves and pick up the glass by hand once the mecury gas has cleared.

    You can’t throw these bulbs away with your trash, because they will break and release mercury in to the air. You have to dispose of these bulbs as hazardous waste.

    These bulbs are not worth the risk or the hassle. Just use regular bulbs.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Will Wal*Mart offer recycling for used bulbs? You have to dispose of these properly if you are serious about the environment.

  17. Havok154 says:

    @MissJ:
    A mercury thermometer has much, much more mercury than a bulb. When was the last time you called a haz-mat team to clean up a broken thermometer. Also, mercury light switches usually contain more than a CFL bulb.

  18. saltmine says:

    @Jeff_McAwesome:

    Do you have facts to back up that “10 times more damage” statistic?

    @edrebber:

    Here’s some info from Treehugger.com:

    …Any mercury spill should be handled carefully, including one that results from a CFL breaking. Having said this, careful handling does not mean that expensive or complicated clean-up of the spill is needed or that you should be worried about you or your family’s health, if a CFL were to break in your home.

    This is because CFLs contain relatively small amounts of mercury — EPA estimates this amount to be 4-5 milligrams (mg) in a typical CFL. A spill of this amount of mercury is not likely to present any excess risk to you or your family. A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation shows why. [Note: This example is meant only as a quick and dirty example. It is not intended to represent every case nor every situation.] For example, we could imagine the following scenario:

    A CFL containing 5 mg of mercury breaks in your child’s bedroom that has a volume of about 25 m3 (which corresponds to a medium sized bedroom). The entire 5 mg of mercury vaporizes immediately (an unlikely occurrence), resulting in an airborne mercury concentration in this room of 0.2 mg/m3. This concentration will decrease with time, as air in the room leaves and is replaced by air from outside or from a different room. As a result, concentrations of mercury in the room will likely approach zero after about an hour or so.

    Under these relatively conservative assumptions, this level and duration of mercury exposure is not likely to be dangerous, as it is lower than the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard of 0.05 mg/m3 of metallic mercury vapor averaged over eight hours. [To equate these values, we could estimate the average indoor airborne mercury concentration for 8 hours, beginning post-spill at an estimated starting value of 0.2 mg/m3 and decreasing from there. If one assumes the the air exchanges completely in one hour (a fairly standard assumption), then the 8-hour average concentration would be 0.025 mg/m3.]

  19. Anonymous says:

    I think they’re just making a big deal out of the CFLs and mercury because many people are so used to throwing out incandescent bulbs. If CFLs take off like they think (and hope) they will, then it’s better to have it ingrained not to throw them away from the start.

  20. vitonfluorcarbon says:

    I’ve used CFLB’s for over 12 years. My power company actually put them in my apartment then, and I still energize some of the same bulbs today in the home that I own – even though the bulbs are 12 years old! What I have noticed is that light response and energy consumption with the newer bulbs is way down, while LUMENS are up. I now power my ceiling fan with 3 13 Watt bulbs instead of 3 75 Watt ones, and the light is brighter and much cheaper than before. Almost everything we have is CFL.

    Mercury? I hadn’t seen the warnings about this. I’m careful, but now somewhat worried about this if I break one. The energy savings are spectacular, but environmental risks are not worth it, even with high energy costs. I changed to CFL because it was better AND cheaper but did not know about the downside of Mercury. I will need to do some research based on this story.

  21. swalve says:

    @edrebber: Mercury itself really isn’t all that bad. It’s the various compounds of mercury formed when it mixes with other chemicals.

    That one guy is right, that CFLs have mercury thing is a canard. Unless your power is pure nuclear, the power used to light your inefficient incandescents will create far more, and far more dangerous forms of, mercury in our environment.

    More power generation mysteries unveiled:
    [www.ornl.gov]

  22. philbert says:

    Jeez people – do some research. The amount of Mercury is negligible in CFLs. Every major retailer is setting up in store recycling for used CFLs. If you can’t get off your fat asses long enough to drop off a used CFL on your next trip to Lowes or Home Depot then you truly are pathetic.

    You are surrounded by fluorescent light virtually everywhere you go: work – stores – elevators – parking lots – EVERYWHERE. You have a far greater chance of being exposed to a small amount of mercury at your place of work when some dufuss chucks a burnt out fluorescent light into the garbage.

    The bulbs last an average of twelve years. Replacing just one incandescent light with a CFL equates to having 80,000 less cars on the road a year so you can replace just some lights and still make a major impact. And unless you are some klutz who regularly breaks lights around your house there is only a miniscule chance you will ever have a mercury issue in your house.

    Think smart, folks, not lazy.

  23. caederus says:

    Wow, Wal-Mart sounds like it hooked up with whoever in china has been supplying Home Despot. I’ve been buying my bulbs for ~$1 each for that long already from them. Almost instant turn on with light equivalent to a soft white incandescent.

  24. Rusted says:

    Firefox still unhappy with Consumerist….. Must have been that last update. Teach me to trust automatic updating. Ugh.

    Generally speaking, I replaced 42 incandescents and halogens in one weekend and cut my wattage by over two thirds. The mercury used is negligible. The light quality is equal to or better then before. My waste heat level is way down. My air conditioning use is down.

    Adam291…All CFLs are made in China. So you can get your poison anywhere.

    Edrebber….

    “These bulbs are not worth the risk or the hassle. Just use regular bulbs.” No no no. My pre CFL electric bill was painful.

    According to some sources, use of CFLs will cause LESS mercury to be released into the environment by power generation.

    http://www.epa.gov/bulbrecycling is the EPA’s site on recycling. It’s not that hard to get rid of em’.

    Right on, Philbert.

  25. I had resisted CFL bulbs until I moved to a different, much pricier area in June. I went to Home Depot and found some compact CFL bulbs (that is, they’re smaller than regular CFL bulbs). I don’t remember the brand name — I think they were the “generic” brand that Home Depot is pushing — but they wer $2.49 per bulb and they are awesome. The light is clean and pure and it doesn’t give me headaches like the old CFL bulbs used to. I use them in lamps with shades and old-school track lighting alike, and I haven’t found any problems. (And I’m picky!)

  26. MotherFury says:

    Noticed these at our WM last week, they are not cheaper than brand name, and are actually a few cents more.

  27. ive still got my bountiful supply [read: 89 at this moment] because of stop and shop’s 1 for $1 sale and $1 coupon in the newspaper deal.

    Having that said, I’m not really sure I like these bulbs aesthetically…they just make the room look more depressed

  28. jstonemo says:

    CFLs are an interim solution to saving energy. The real savings of money and environment will come when LED lightbulbs become more affordable and mainstream. No mercury and even less energy usage than CFLs.

  29. Cowboys_fan says:

    We have to switch as it becomes law Jan 1 where I live.

  30. Trai_Dep says:

    @Charles Duffy: Sir, that’s some kind of awesome debunking there. Thanks!

    I wonder where the anti-CFL, call-Homeland-Security-when-bulb-breaks people are getting their information. Is there an anti-green cabel pushing incandescents basically because they hate polar bears, are makers of the old bulbs spreading misinfo to combat declining sales, or are they just squakers seeking attention?

    Weird.

    As much of a Wal-Mart hater as I am (and BOY am I), I have to tip my hat for them making such a big push. Still hate them, but it’s a nice thing for them to do.

  31. peggynature says:

    @ElizabethD: Me too. I hate them. Something about the quality of the light bothers me.

  32. peggynature says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Yeah, I know people who use them in their lamps under shades and whatnot. They don’t seem to notice the difference, but I do. I feel like I am perpetually in a Motel 6. Not pleasant.

  33. peggynature says:

    Also, my brother and I used to purposely break old thermometers in the sink and play with the mercury. We were obviously very intelligent kids.

    I haven’t shown any ill effects, except being hyper-sensitive to the presence of CFLs under concealing lampshades. But I would consider that more of a superpower.

  34. derobert says:

    @MissJ: CFLs use about ¼ the energy as incandescent bulbs, so even if you have to use two, you’re still only using half the energy. Not sure why you need to though; all the CFLs I’ve seen are at least as bright as the equivalent incandescent, at least once they’ve warmed up.

  35. bilge says:

    Break a CFL and you need to immediately evacuate your home? You need to call the hazmat team?

    Yeah. And there’s a street gang that drives around with their headlights off. When you flash your lights at them, they follow you home and kill you.

    [www.snopes.com]

    Break a CFL, sweep it up, throw it away, open a window, and go do something in another room for a few hours. And likely no harm done if you ignore that last step.

  36. doodaddy says:

    @jstonemo: thanks! I was gonna ask about LEDs. It seems to me that the whole CFL push is a GE trick to capitalize on an inferior technology before LEDs hit the scene. As far as I can tell, LEDs last forever, are insanely efficient and have a pretty white glow.

    CFLs start slow and remind me of regular office flourescents in color.

  37. bifyu says:

    The light quality of CFLs varies considerably depending on their color temperature. Unfortunately, most CFL packages don’t provide this info. Home Depot carries a brand with a “daylight” (too blue), soft white (too yellow), and bright white (acceptable) color temperatures. Annoyingly, they don’t appear to carry the acceptable bright white version in multi-packs. My conspiracy theory is that they do this so they can jack up their profits by charging more per bulb since they aren’t available in the discounted multi-packs.

    That said, I still prefer incandescents for reading, but for general illumination, the CFLs are ok. Another difference is that all the CFLs I’ve run across take a little while to warm up to full output, and after you turn them off, there is also a little residual light output as well.

  38. xskeptictankx says:

    As someone who gets migraines from flourescent lights, I’m dreading the big migration to CFL bulbs, which are just as bad for my head as flourescent tube bulbs.

    I wonder if they make that terrible buzzing sound that flourescent bulbs make, too.

  39. AD8BC says:

    My beef with CFLs?

    1) Dimmer switches. I have them all over my house — I put them there. Last week one of my reflector bulbs in the kitchen burned out and I bought a dimmable CFL version… It sucks. Takes forever to reach brightness and it won’t dim all the way down.

    I’ll replace that with an incandescent and save it for when one of my non-dimmer bulbs burns out.

    2) They look hideous in clear or open light fixtures.

    Gonna stick with my Incandescents for most of my lights for now… until they get the LEDs working well.