Los Angeles Giving Out Free CFLs

  • Published on February 13th, 2009


First, the EU banned incandescent light bulbs.  Now, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) is distributing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to its 1.2 million households, citywide. Oh, and for free! What’s next?

As we all know, CFLs come with many energy-saving advantages compared to traditional incandescent bulbs. A CFL last 10-times longer when compared to an incandescent. Also, CFLs operate at lower temperatures, which can reduce air conditioning use. A big plus for a city like LA!

Go Into The Light, Carol Anne

The program projects a savings of up to 240 GWh of energy and 131,000 metric tons of CO2 each year—the equivalent of taking approximately 24,000 cars off the road or enough energy to power 40,000 homes for a year. The savings will equate to about  $61.3 million in fuel costs for generating electricity.

LADWP sponsored teams will distribute the two free bulbs door-to-door over several months. Included with the two CFLs are other energy saving materials.

Nobody Walks In LA

Now, this part I have to say I have a major issue with. CFLs good. Driving bad!

Yes, CFLs are great. Sure, the light quality is a bit fugly and they kinda buzz a bit. But the reduction in energy use is major. Though, I admit I am a bigger fan of LED bulbs.

But why do LADWP reps need to drive to each resident to deliver the bulbs?

First off, Los Angeles is not really a car-friendly kinda city. California’s largest city, and spanning 500 square miles, it seems all the energy savings would be negated by that useless driving. Am I missing something?

Hey, LA! You know what already goes door to door daily – the postman!

Green With Envy

This initiative all falls under the recently announced GREEN LA.

“Today, the city of Los Angeles is leading again, bringing simple, effective energy-efficient tools door to door (for) every Angeleno. The Department of Water and Power is doing its part, and we want Angelenos to do theirs,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

To account for the fact that CFLs cannot be thrown in the trash due to the mercury they contain, disposal centers are being setup across the city. Info on them can be found at www.LACity.com.

About the Author

is a web developer, part-time blogger, and a full-time environmentalist. His crusade for all things eco started twenty years ago when he ditched his meat-and-potatoes upbringing for something more vegetarian-shaped. His passions include cooking, green tech, eco politics, and smart green design. And while he doesn't own a car anymore, he loves to write about those too. Jerry studied at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. During his time there he was a DJ at the campus station KCPR and he also wrote for the campus paper. Jerry currently resides in San Francisco, CA with his cat Lola. You can stalk him on Twitter @jerryjamesstone.


  • Nothing new really as there has been a long subsidy in the purchase of CFL bulbs in CA. I still do not get the blinders people wear when reporting about the “miracle” CFL bulbs as the panacea for environmental & energy issues. At least this piece does mention the Hg issue.

    First new tech full spectrum LED lights are FAR superior to CFL’s.

    First they do not contain the MERCURY that CCFLs do…granted a single CFL does not contain a lot of Hg but given the vast majority of them will be disposed of improperly on a daily basis. This WILL lead to Hg issues in ground water/soil/eco-system in general.

    Landfill run-off is also going to affect lakes, oceans and streams/rivers. As well as Hg released as vapor when these bulbs are broken.

    Do know I am far from a tree hugger. In fact I like animals because they taste good. But this Hg issue is good common sense. For decades business were required to properly dispose of CCFL tubes properly or face fines. Anyone think this will be the case for us Joe Average sorts? Like people will learn to and then follow through on proper disposal…heck, they usually don’t take time to RTFM for things they use in real life.

    Second, the current tech of LED lights basically last forever and run on pennies/month even when left running 24/7/365.

    I do feel we are heading in a bad direction promoting these bulbs over a far better option of LED lighting. And how is the issue of Hg in CFLs any different from Hg in solder connections of electronics? Why do we pay a fee at the time of purchase for monitors, TV’s, etc…but they give away MILLIONS of CCFL bulbs free of charge.

    Chip: sadly as much as I try to do exactly as you mention, buy USA, there are so few options. Plus 99% of people don’t see why not looking for that “Made in USA” label matters. Maybe we are dinosaurs but, I just always looks for a Made in USA product first. And even if it costs a bit more, I find a way to make it work for me.

    FYI, you can take the Made in USA idea even farther by learning your produce codes and buying ONLY MI-USA produce. Even though we really do not have indie farmers anymore, it is still a USA product.

    And yes, I know the logic that even items not made here employee people…I just prefer to support more ethical businesses here in the USA. I love to use Tom Bihn, for my travel & computer bags, as a shining example of solid ethics business wise as well as taking care of their employees.

  • I found some heavily discounted 13 watt CFL's at Home Depot. About $3.00 for a pack of 4. The label mentioned it was a government sponsored program that offset the cost to the consumer. I say let the businesses take care of the logistics. They will do it more efficiently than the post office and certainly more efficiently then individual truck rolls to residences (are they serious??).

    It's paid for by taxes but I think of it as an investment. Reducing energy consumption reduces expenses. We are forcing ourselves to invest in our future. Not just speculate and put everything on credit – I like that.

  • If they are hand delivering them, hopefully that means (1) they will actually get used, (2) the delivery person can give the resident info about CFLs and answer any questions, and (3) tell residents where they can get more CFLs to replace the rest of the home's bulbs.

    Also, if they deliver them in batches — say, stop at 10 people in a neighborhood on one trip — then the CO2 savings will still be massive regardless of whether they drive or not. Ideally they could hand deliver them by just walking door-to-door with a large bag of CFLs (I've done this before and it is easy).

  • As a lifelong LA Resident I can't begin to tell you the horrors of Villaraigosa and his buddies (DWP president David Nahai).

    None of them use our schools or subways, and they all love a press conference.

    He's the undoing of my town.

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