Thursday, 4 November 2010

Moralistic Lightbulbs

The clocks have now gone back an hour in the UK, and the days continue to shorten, so it's pretty gloomy in the afternoons. When I get home from work, I sometimes feel the need for a little extra light, even though, technically, it's not yet actually dark. So I switch on the light.

Infuriatingly, until yesterday, nothing would happen. At first, I thought the bulb had gone, but replacing it with another identical energy-saving bulb made no difference. Logically, my next thought was that there was a fault with the electricity. But the computer was grinding away (must get a new one before that hard drive expires), so it would have to be the circuit in the ceiling, but bulbs in the next room were fine.

Eventually, I realised that it was the bulb that was the problem, but in a subtle way. The bulbs I had bought have a built-in light sensor and, as far as they were concerned, it was not yet dark enough to turn on. How about that? A moralistic, greener-than-thou lightbulb... The only way I could get one to do its job was to fool it by stumbling into a dangerously gloomy room and reaching up to darken the sensor with something. This began to infuriate me out of all proportion. I wanted to rip out that puritanical little know-all bulb, and stamp it into dust.

But, the consequences of breaking energy-saving flourescent bulbs are less than green: they contain mercury, would you believe? Here is DEFRA's advice for a broken bulb:
Vacate the room and ventilate it for at least 15 minutes. Do not use a vacuum cleaner, but clean up using rubber gloves and aim to avoid creating and inhaling airborne dust. Sweep up all particles and glass fragments and place in a plastic bag. Wipe the area with a damp cloth, then add that to the bag and seal it. Mercury is hazardous waste and the bag should not be disposed of in the bin. All local councils have an obligation to make arrangements for the disposal of hazardous household waste.
Holy shit, and lucky for you, you preachy little lightbulbs! But I've bought another lot without sensors, and they do my bidding without a thought. I'll decide when it's dark round here, thank you very much. It's very dark indeed in the cupboard under the stairs, but that's where those too-clever-by-half smarty-pants bulbs are staying. In their boxes.

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