Compact Fluorescent Bulbs: THE Discussion!

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jaizei

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Edna said:
I'm glad you have opened up this topic as a discussion thread. It seems like our forum has a way of dealing with questions about CFLs that would tend to bring a halt to discussion and any discovery of truth. When we ascribe motives to to the questioner, such as thrift or convenience, that discourages questions. When we simply repeat the mantra "CFLs are bad" over and over again, that stands in the way of information.

Neal said:
The problem I have with this debate is that most of the arguments I have seen against CFL's have lacked the specifics and details as to what brand of bulb was used and how it was used, and instead have labeled all CFL's as inherently evil. On the same hand, there have been MVB’s that have had issues which have had equally severe consequences as the CFL’s have had…yet we never read any threads or tirades over them.


I don’t think there is anyone who would disagree with the better safe than sorry mindset...I certainly have no need for them currently, and do not recommend them. But, I often change lighting set ups, and to help any future decisions I make I would be curious to see if the issues have been with all brands of bulbs being set up as they were designed, or if it is some type of operator error. As of yet, I have not seen enough details to really establish some sort of conclusion about CFL’s.

I am glad that Michael made this thread as well, and that there are others interested in learning more.




StudentoftheReptile said:
My main objective of this thread was to help clear at least SOME of the confusion surrounding them, mostly for those who still had questions and/or were still stubborn enough to still use them. I figured since there are:
- 4 principle brands
- 2 principle bulb shapes (coil/spiral and straight/U-shape)
- 2 different mounting orientations

...there could be some pattern behind this madness, given all the possible variables. While I'm not necessarily trying to justify or advocate these bulbs, I feel it behooves us as hobbyists to make sure what we're saying is true. It almost is like saying "Don't ever feed your tortoise lettuce!" Okay...well, yeah iceberg lettuce has virtually no nutritional value and obviously, no lettuce should be used as the sole food source. But other lettuces are not harmful if used to compliment a well-rounded balanced diet.

I look at the statement "All CFLs are bad!" kind of the same way. Are they really?

I could say "All tube fluorescent bulbs are bad" because one blinded my tortoises. Well, the truth of the matter is that I was using a Zilla Desert 50 T-5 bulb on a tropical forest species (redfoots). Not the brightest idea I've had, but I learned and the tortoises got better, thankfully. My point being, it would not be accurate for me to dismiss all tube florescents because of that one experience, would you not agree? If I was using a Zilla Tropical 25, would the same thing have happened? Who knows?

So back to the CFLs...are all of them really bad because of one brand? is it because people weren't mounting them properly? Were they using 10.0 desert series bulbs on tropical species?

Even though it is somewhat out of date, I think that uvguide.co.uk is still the one of the best sources. The numbers are probably useless, but the ideas in general can help how you approach this.

I think the following points are important, and explain why the issue may persist even if there is no manufacture/design defect:
A combination of other factors apparently increased the risk of photo-kerato-conjunctivitis with these lamps even further:
  • In some cases, product literature did not give adequate information. It is essential that lamps are not sold without clear recommendations regarding suitable basking distances and the hazards of over-exposure. Many reptile keepers are unaware that there are any risks associated with close contact with a fluorescent UVB source. The history of fluorescent UVB lamps is such that they are often perceived as "weak" sources of UVB and keepers are often advised to position them close to the reptile.
  • When placed in aluminium reflectors, in some cases UVB beneath compact lamps was increased by more than 700%. The extreme increase in UVB underneath aluminium reflector domes has not been widely known, or the hazard recognised, either by manufacturers or hobbyists.
  • Most of the lamps have a low visible light output. They are therefore less likely to induce an aversive reaction, or pupillary constriction, when in the reptiles' line of sight. They do not "look like" very intense, direct tropical sunlight.
  • Most of the UVA output of these lamps is not in the visible UVA range for reptiles, since the threshold for vision is about 350nm. This reduces even further the visual impact of the lamp to the reptile.
  • Fluorescent lamps produce a small amount of heat. This is insufficient to deter a reptile from a close approach, and in fact the gentle warmth may even prove an attraction.


Even though the lamps now come with instructions, how many people really read them? I think most of the recent problems were caused by the way the lamps were used, and human nature. While I will argue with you all day about the lamps being designed for both mounting orientations, I do think there should be some consideration before just sticking the CFL in any old dome fixture. And using one of the combination hoods can be beneficial because it couples the CFL with a heat source.





wellington said:
Edna said:
wellington said:
Was wondering, wouldn't testing these bulbs with a UVB meter (not sure the tech. name) settle this discussion?

Apparently not, since they've been tested with UV meters and those links have been posted.

None of the links are updated, 2009. The link you posted, well foreign to me. What I got out if it, is that one of the zilla bulbs puts out pretty much 0 uv. Most of us don't even know how much uv is exceptable. A simple experiment, without risking a torts eyes, by a member that has a meter, a few do, and this could possibly all be put to rest. Just a thought for any of you that wants to use them.

I doubt it would make a difference in how this forum approaches this topic.





Tom said:
I've gotta say... I'm a bit sick of this issue. I don't understand what the problem is.

I've never seen anyone say to someone who has used a CFL bulb with no problems, "Yes you did have a problem..." There is no doubt that some percentage of people have used them without issue, right?

Now, is someone arguing that those that DID have a problem really didn't? Is that what we are arguing here?

I don't get it. SOMETIMES these bulbs blind reptiles and cause eye irritation. Sometimes. Not all the time. Only sometimes. This is not some problem from when these bulbs first hit the scene and needed some bugs worked out. I'm still seeing these issues within the last few months. The best policy, the only sensible policy, is to just not use them. If a noob asks a question of someone with experience, isn't it simple to just say, "Sometimes those cause problems. I recommend against them. Simply use this, this, or this instead..." What is wrong with that? Why all the discussion? There are other products available that do NOT cause these problems.

Our local unhelpful troll posts another pointless argumentative post on some other thread, and it leads to ANOTHER discussion about this same issue? Frustrating.

I love you too, Tom.

Discussion is one of the ways we learn. And when people are unafraid to ask questions or post their opinions/experiences, it's works even better.
 

wellington

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Len said:
Could part of the problem be the enclosure setup, back in the late 90s my mep had eye problems that I blamed on the uv tube, but as time goes on I think the biggest problem was that the tortoise was forced to be in the direct uv rays unless he was in his hide, now I always make sure there are shaded areas in their setup for them to retreat to. just a thought.

That could probably play a big roll, in my opinion. In the wild, they would never stay in the sun for 8-12 hours a day. Heck, just watch them outside. The hottest, sunniest part of the day, they are hiding. However, on the other hand, the coils effect them within a week. A week or less being in a lot of safe uv, doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, bad uv, a big deal.

Good point by the way:D
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Update: It was pointed out to me by another member that Exo-Terra does specify either mounting is fine with their CFLs.

The spiral shape of the bulb enables vertical or horizontal mounting without compromising performance.

I don't know how I missed it. Guess I saw what I wanted to see. My mistake. [let it be known that I can admit when I am wrong ;)]

Mgridgaway said:
Testing is hard mainly because UV meters are fairly expensive and such a niche tool. I don't know about you, but I have absolutely no interest in spending $100+ on testing equipment.

Ditto. It be nice, IF I already had a UV meter, and I already had some CFLs lying around, but I'm don't have the time, money or the will to risk the health of my tortoises to do this kind of test.

Also worth mentioning is that the type of reflector used can have a impact on the intensity of the CFL rays. I'm talking about aluminum inside vs white powder coat inside vs open cage, etc. I believe I read this on uvguide but has since been taken down since they're updating their page.

Could part of the problem be the enclosure setup, back in the late 90s my mep had eye problems that I blamed on the uv tube, but as time goes on I think the biggest problem was that the tortoise was forced to be in the direct uv rays unless he was in his hide, now I always make sure there are shaded areas in their setup for them to retreat to.

In the wild, they would never stay in the sun for 8-12 hours a day. Heck, just watch them outside. The hottest, sunniest part of the day, they are hiding. However, on the other hand, the coils effect them within a week. A week or less being in a lot of safe uv, doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, bad uv, a big deal

See....THIS is the kind of stuff I want people thinking about! Good points definitely!

For what it's worth, I used a ZooMed CFL 10.0 bulb for my Iguana for nearly a year off and on while waiting for the whole reptileuv situation to work itself out. I had absolutely no problems mounted horizontally in a wire cage style fixture.

Thank you.
 

Alice.S

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Hi,

Yeah, the subject heading was not optimal. I have no interest in UVB or UVA CFLs. I sought to use them for illumination to see by. The bulb I mentioned, a BluMax is intended for people who have SAD, your are supposed to have some eye contact with the bulb, that's why they sell them, that's why some medical professionals suggest their use. But the inherent problems with CFLs, the manufacture process damaging the phosphor coating, and the quality of the components of the ballast indicate to me, that no matter the type of illumination, they are not reliable from one bulb to the next. Perhaps some manufactures have better QC than others to monitor the phosphor coating issue, but I would presume they all use least cost ballast components.

I am not seeking to get UV from the bulb. So it goes back to simple psychological needs from illumination.

I will try the BluMax T5 bulbs on myself and get a meter and measure their output. Again this bulb is intended for people to be under, on purpose, like being outside in the sun, for psychological well being. Most applications of all these bulbs (not tortoises) is under some sort of glass/plastic cover so that would mediate any chance UV exposure to people. As I'm not seeking to use the bulb for UV, if any issue arises I could easily get a panel of high-light greenhouse panel that cuts out the UV for greenhouses. Green house workers don't tan so much for all the hours they spend there.

I'll let you all know how it works out, with detail such at the excellent post by 'StudentoftheReptile' and recommendations for reporting results.

My interest in bright illumination is to grow actual food plants right in the enclosure. Activity patterns of some wild tortoises suggest they can do well in full sun on not so hot days. It seems temperature dictates their being out and about more than light. Do in-situ tortoises go blind?

Any idea on what a tortoise does in the wild under the sun that prevents their going blind? I've seen tortoises out and about in full sun on a cool day at zoos, like Galaops. Do they sit with their eyes closed? They don't seem to be going blind?

I have sat in the shade of a tree, and watched a group of galops for several four hour episodes tracking their behavior for a psychology course in college. They did not go blind. A few just sat in full sun for the whole duration of the four hours.

An idea how this could be, compared to the NON-UV bulbs of any type?

As for alarmist posts, anyone recall that one year cranberries caused cancer? I don't find alarmist information of much utility. If the house is burning down, well alarm me. If we are talking about something, like a purchase decision, it provides no useful information. I worked retail for awhile, 'where's the bathroom' is the number one question. I did not sell it's sue it was just a part of the situation. I apologist for seeking information in the forum that you all have beat to death, but that a few answered with cogent rational thinking is very valuable to me, thank you.

Alice S.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Yeah, the subject heading was not optimal.

Sorry for the confusion. Its too late to change it now, unfortunately. I suppose a moderator could, but enough moderators have seen the thread since its creation and have presumably deemed that it is not that misleading.

I have no interest in UVB or UVA CFLs. I sought to use them for illumination to see by. The bulb I mentioned, a BluMax is intended for people who have SAD, your are supposed to have some eye contact with the bulb, that's why they sell them, that's why some medical professionals suggest their use. But the inherent problems with CFLs, the manufacture process damaging the phosphor coating, and the quality of the components of the ballast indicate to me, that no matter the type of illumination, they are not reliable from one bulb to the next. Perhaps some manufactures have better QC than others to monitor the phosphor coating issue, but I would presume they all use least cost ballast components.

I am not seeking to get UV from the bulb. So it goes back to simple psychological needs from illumination.

I will try the BluMax T5 bulbs on myself and get a meter and measure their output. Again this bulb is intended for people to be under, on purpose, like being outside in the sun, for psychological well being. Most applications of all these bulbs (not tortoises) is under some sort of glass/plastic cover so that would mediate any chance UV exposure to people. As I'm not seeking to use the bulb for UV, if any issue arises I could easily get a panel of high-light greenhouse panel that cuts out the UV for greenhouses. Green house workers don't tan so much for all the hours they spend there.

I'll let you all know how it works out, with detail such at the excellent post by 'StudentoftheReptile' and recommendations for reporting results.

We look forward to hearing the results. I myself am personally concerned about using any bulb not specifically designed for reptiles on my tortoises, but do as you see fit. As you mentioned yourself, you are not interested in UVA/UVB output, which is what most tortoise keepers ARE interested in when dealing with flourescent bulbs of any kind.

You may want to consider using the plant bulbs sold for aquariums. They work just as well for non-aquatic plants, and are safe for animals. I have decent success growing plants in terrariums in the past.

My interest in bright illumination is to grow actual food plants right in the enclosure. Activity patterns of some wild tortoises suggest they can do well in full sun on not so hot days. It seems temperature dictates their being out and about more than light. Do in-situ tortoises go blind?

Any idea on what a tortoise does in the wild under the sun that prevents their going blind? I've seen tortoises out and about in full sun on a cool day at zoos, like Galaops. Do they sit with their eyes closed? They don't seem to be going blind?

You are going on the mistaken assumption that any artificial light source can replicate the full spectrum, intensity, and universal distribution of natural sunlight at prime basking periods. There's not a bulb you can buy that comes close. Nothing will replace natural sunlight, which is why most people here suggest keeping your tortoise outside if at all possible. Even the suggested Mercury Vapor Bulbs and T-8/T-10 tube flourescent bulbs designed specifically for reptiles have their disadvantages. We as the collective herp industry do the best we can, and continue to refine our husbandry methods to have/keep healthier and happier animals. A lot of it is trial and error.

I have sat in the shade of a tree, and watched a group of galops for several four hour episodes tracking their behavior for a psychology course in college. They did not go blind. A few just sat in full sun for the whole duration of the four hours.

An idea how this could be, compared to the NON-UV bulbs of any type?

Again, that was OUTSIDE in NATURAL SUNLIGHT. Comparing that experience to a non-UV bulb not designed for reptiles is like comparing apples to oranges. They are not the same. The issues people have is with a man-made light source with a focused beam of light coming out the end, something tortoise DO NOT encounter in the wild.

If we are talking about something, like a purchase decision, it provides no useful information.

Not sure exactly what you meant by this, but I think I disagree. This thread and others like it does provide useful information, because it seeks to shed light on what seems to be a controversial issue among tortoise keepers.

I apologist for seeking information in the forum that you all have beat to death, but that a few answered with cogent rational thinking is very valuable to me, thank you.

No worries. That is what the thread (and ultimately the entire forum) is for.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Alice.S said:

Thanks for the link.

Nothing personal, but I have seen the "only full spectrum light bulb" claim many times before from many brands. I'm not saying BlueMax is a horrible bulb, and again, I look forward to your results with it.

But at the same token, you have to understand the perspective of many experienced tortoise keepers. We like to stick with what we know works and what we know is safe.
 

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Alice, I don't understand your leap from potentially eye damaging man-made light bulbs, to tortoises out in natural daylight the way they have been for millions of years... What does me thing have to do with the other. Are you saying that because our giant burning ball of gasses that sends photons through our atmosphere does not damage their eyes, that no man made bulb possibly could either?

No one that I know of has used the type of bulbs you are referring to over reptiles, so no one I know knows what will happen. Maybe you will discover something that helps the rest of us. Either way, I don't see what that has to do with watching Galops from under a shade tree for four hours, which by the way makes me very jealous. I would LOVE to sit and watch galops under a shade tree for four hours at a time! :)
 

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The CFLs that caused (or do cause) blindness did so because they produced non-terrestrial wave length light, light that is also produced by the sun but is filtered out by Earth's atmosphere. Animals in their natural state self-select to be in available sun or shade to meet their need for heat/light. Animals in an artificial environment might have limited opportunities to leave the light, receiving more hours of more damaging light than their wild or better-housed counterparts.
 

Alice.S

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Hi,

Edna seems to be referring to UV that is shorter wavelength than that which hits the earth's surface, that is a clear concern, and frankly stated - tank you Edna.

The one thing and the other Tom - illuminating light, the light we see by as we go about our day (inside by artificial means, and outside by sunlight), based on seeing galops outside in full sun, indicates to me that they do OK with all that illuminating light (color quality in terms of CRI and K temp). That and that alone is what I am going for with indoor lighting.

The mercury vapor bulbs have horrible CRI as far as I could find evaluations, some have a good K temp. They are all more efficient at lumen/watt, so that is good.

I did not look through the forum for what MVB are favored or used, but google found in the forum mention of Nature Zone High Noon Mercury Vapor Bulbs. I did not find a source for the bulbs based on this name but from re-sellers. I did not find any technical data on them. I am no doubt not searching well - could you post a link to the tech data on this or whatever MVB that you-all suggest.

Alice S.
 

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I'm sorry if I missed a similar comment in the thread, but what I don't get is why these bulbs will blind a tortoise but the sun won't. Isn't the sun much brighter or does it simply have to do with UV rays?
 

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No bulb offers all the "full spectrum' as the sun. No bulb will match that perfect natural balance of UVA, UVB, UVC, infrared, visible, etc etc...none of them.

Another thing you have to understand is that the sun is SOOOOO big, its light is universally shown across the landscape, depending on its angle (and except at night, obviously). It is not focused into a tight beam like our mercury vapor bulbs, heat bulbs, or compact florescents.

Now, yes, it's a bigger light source than any MVB or CFL bulb, but also, a lot of it is diffused by cloud cover and the various layers of the atmosphere. If we were getting 100% unfiltered sunlight, yeah, we'd not only be blind, but probably burned to a crisp like a vampire.

So that's why the tortoises don't get blinded by the sun.
----

We don't have all that in captivity, now do we? We just stick a lamp over the cage, point it straight down, and say, "There, it's just like the sun, right?" Wrong. Unless you can replicate miles of various atmospheric cover to filter out that bright artificial light, you're not close to simulating natural sunlight. It doesn't matter if it does say "full spectrum" on the label. It's not the same.

And that's why people are having issues with some of these bulbs.
 

Alice.S

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Hi Tortus,

I've search PubMed (both human and animals doctor's reports are here), not one mention of an animal/human becoming blind due to CFL's. From a non-peer reviewed website there is a report that some manufactures' bulbs (sold under proprietary names) had poor quality coating on the interior of the tube (the white stuff) and the potential source for eye damage may have been caused by light waves created in the tube, qualities of light that do not reach the earth's surface from the sun. Perhaps you could think of it as similar to a welding. That arc or electricity is burning metal, much like what goes on inside the CFL or straight tube for that matter. Welders wear safety glasses, the white stuff in the tube is the safety for the CFL. If that white stuff is not appropriate then eye damage could result, much like if a welders safety glasses were not made correctly the welder could get eye damage.

Any bulb designed to emit light by burning metal has this potential. Some factors that make it unlikely is that most CFL's are made with glass that contains impurities that also happen to cut out most UV rays, as well as any kind of glass/plastic/fabric shade or diffusing panel. Special quality glass is used for lights intended to emit some of the UV spectrum on purpose. Then those bulbs are not shaded or diffused because there is intent for the UV spectrum to be emitted.

So the white stuff could be the wrong formula, applied incorrectly, or damaged in the further process of making CFL into their spiral shape. Straight tube lights can be subject to the first two problems. However straight tubes have been manufactured for a good long time, so these quality control issues are reduced by practice of industry.

There are other issues with CFL's that would indicate that they are all poor quality based on the nature of the ballast. The CFL ballast is a throwaway part of the light, whereas for straight tubes' fixtures the ballast is intended to be used for many years. The CFL ballast is made as cheaply as possible, and so electromagnetic energy (radiation) is emitted as well. There are some statistical evidence based studies published in real medical journals suggesting some portion of the human population are effected by this type of radiation. Odds are some individual tortoises may be effected as well.

I've elected to use T5 straight tubes for many reasons. Right now there does not seem to be a US distributor for UV emitting T5 tubes. Some breeders of desert lizards and tortoises use nutritional supplementation to offset the lack of UV light, and quite successfully. Many herps were bred in all indoor set-ups long before all these lights were packaged for the reptile keeper, including tortoises and desert dwelling lizards. It's perhaps easier to use lights than nutritional support, but that would depend on the nature of your husbandry techniques.

Alice S.
 

StudentoftheReptile

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Alice.S said:
Hi Tortus,

I've search PubMed (both human and animals doctor's reports are here), not one mention of an animal/human becoming blind due to CFL's.

Specifically, what animal species were tested? LOL...there's a LOT of species compiled into two entire phylums!

So the white stuff could be the wrong formula, applied incorrectly, or damaged in the further process of making CFL into their spiral shape. Straight tube lights can be subject to the first two problems. However straight tubes have been manufactured for a good long time, so these quality control issues are reduced by practice of industry.

Ditto. A clear example of how an old school product is tried and true over a "new" and more convenient one. I wish more people would realize this. I and many others don't suggest tube bulbs just because they look nice. They WORK, most of the bugs have been worked out and fewer issues to worry about, compared to this CFL matter.

I've elected to use T5 straight tubes for many reasons. Right now there does not seem to be a US distributor for UV emitting T5 tubes. Some breeders of desert lizards and tortoises use nutritional supplementation to offset the lack of UV light, and quite successfully. Many herps were bred in all indoor set-ups long before all these lights were packaged for the reptile keeper, including tortoises and desert dwelling lizards. It's perhaps easier to use lights than nutritional support, but that would depend on the nature of your husbandry techniques.

Again, ditto. And a lot of keepers seem to be very afraid of taking their tortoises outside. It had been said many times, in a healthy set-up, you can probably take your tortoise outside once a week for 30 minutes or so, and it will get all the UV and vitamin d3 it needs.
 
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