Introduction: What to Salvage From Energy Saver Light Bulb

Picture of What to Salvage From Energy Saver Light Bulb

Stop throwing away those blown bulbs!

Salvage the electronic goodies inside!

You will be surprised how much electronic components are hiding in there.......

Step 1: Safety

You are working with glass, so proper safety gloves and eye ware must be worn!

1) Safety Glasses;
2) Safety Gloves;
3) Mouth and nose mask.

Firstly let me just say that some websites claim that their experts decided that these bulbs have dangerous amounts of mercury in them and the same amount of websites claim the opposite.......

So, that is the reason for the facial know.....just in case....

....wash your hands and exposed areas after you do this!

....Also.....I know I am not wearing gloves in the instructable, but like my dad used to say: "Do as I say and not as I do!"

Please excuse any spelling and grammar mistakes, as English is not my first language.


Step 2: Tools and Equipment

Picture of Tools and Equipment

You will need the following tools and equipment:

1) Blown energy saver bulb;
2) Large flathead screwdriver;
3) Small side cutter.

Step 3: Open Up the Bulb

Picture of Open Up the Bulb

Photo 1 shows the "breathing holes" of this particular bulb.

My large flathead screwdriver fits in there nicely.

Insert the tip of the screwdriver as shown in photo 2.

Take care while holding the glass so that you don't break the glass that WILL cut you and also the possibility of merury inside the tubes....

With only the tip inserted, slowly turn you screwdriver as you would if you where unscrewing a screw.

The lip will open up and the plastic piece will break open as shown in photo 3. Repeat with the other holes.

Photo 4 and 5 reveals the hidden electronic components inside!!!

It is a lot.....did not expect to find this much in there.

Step 4: Cut the Wires

Picture of Cut the Wires

Photo 1 shows 2 wires that you must cut with you side cutter.

Cut them to get the result as shown in photo 2.

Photo 3 shows the 4 wires you must cut to get to the result as shown in photo 4 and 5.

Enjoy you free electronic components and give them new life by using them in other projects!

I hope you enjoyed this instructable and that I could help someone here.


coptician (author)2015-02-06

Wow. Opening one of them up really lets one see the amount of material and manufacturing that goes into one. Kinda makes me wonder if an old school hunk of glass with a piece of tungsten isn't overall more energy efficient.

LesB (author)coptician2015-02-08

The old school bulbs commonly go by their archaic 19th century name, "light bulbs", which is a misnomer. The light they produce is a minor by-product. The main form of energy they emit is heat. Lots of heat. They are correctly called "heat bulbs".

These components stuffed into the base of the CFL use hardly any energy at all.

mgalyean (author)LesB2015-03-01

It is also important to keep in mind that during the winter months when you are running a heater or furnace, old style bulbs indoors don't cost any more to run because that "waste heat" isn't wasted at all. It keeps your furnace from coming on as often. This is often left out of analyses inflating the negative impact of old style bulbs by a fairly large amount. I intentionally run old style bulbs indoors in the winter because there is no heat wasted at that time and the warmer light offsets the gray winter overcast skies. They also add the heat to the room and area you are actually occupying as that is where you have the lights turned on.

rundmcarlson (author)mgalyean2015-03-25

That "waste heat" is in fact wasteful because it is far more inefficient to create than the heater that is specifically designed to heat your home. The heat from your bulbs will also likely be negligible in the grand scheme of things because the heat transfer is also inefficient. At most the area a few inches around the bulb will be much hotter, with the surrounding area feeling little effect of the heat contained within the lampshade. While your ideas are neat, I think if you ran some actual heat transfer analysis and compared the total heat output of the bulb to that of the furnace, your implications would simply fall apart due to the relative efficiency and heat transfer of each.

mgalyean (author)rundmcarlson2015-03-25

I think you need to take a physics course. All "wasted" energy from an electrical device ends up as heat. If the heat isn't going into the room because of "poor heat transfer" as you state then the bulb would never stop heating up until it melted into a blob. If the heat from the bulbs were to be "negligible" as you state then they would be much more efficient and we wouldn't be having this conversation. There is no wiggle room on this. It is physics. You don't seem to realize that "inefficiency" and "waste heat" are one and the same in this case. Stick your finger on a 100W incandescent and tell me the heat transfer is "inefficient". Hold your hand over the bulb and feel the heat rising. Try the same with an LED. In fact, if all your curtains are shut, even the visible light from the bulb eventually ends up as heat inside the house as the photons bounce around imparting energy until all the energy becomes heat. This isn't a matter of opinion or different strokes. It just is.

rundmcarlson (author)mgalyean2015-03-25

Not all wasted electrical energy is heat. There is lots of wasted energy that doesn't transmit as heat at all. The poor heat transfer comes into play when heating the area you are in and not the immediate vicinity around the bulb. Air is a good insulator and without movement that heat will stay in the corner for a long time. Overall energy in the room is conserved but if it is all in one corner, then to you it will still not feel hot. As you say, go near the light and see how hot the air is there, but not 2 feet from it. Heat transfer from your hand to a bulb is irrelevant because there is an entirely different process of conduction going on and thermal conductivity of your hand is much higher than air.

Yes the bub gives off heat, but so does your heater. Your heater does not give off light. Your heater also does not have to stress a material to convert energy to light which then needs to be converted back into heat, all of which has loss. The heater also efficiently carries the heat around the house. The light bulb is creating very localized heat that takes a long time to disperse whereas the heater is heating the whole room. Try running your light bulbs with no heater at all and see how it works. It will probably be warm right next to the light and maybe even hot to the touch (depending on the ambient temp) but move a few feet away and you will be cold.

I have taken a physics course. I have taken multiple. I have a degree in engineering so thermodynamics and heat transfer are quite familiar to me. That said, in a perfect magical theory vacuum, yes your light would eventually heat the whole room to a boil if left on long enough. In the real world however, with imperfect insulation, imperfect energy conversion, and lossy light emittance, the bulbs are certainly not worth using when they cost 5 times the energy to run as newer bulbs. That energy is better spent running a more efficient heat generation source, like an in-home heater.

Basically, the bulb and the heater are pulling from the same energy well. One is specifically designed to efficiently generate and disperse heat, while the other isn't.

mgalyean (author)rundmcarlson2015-03-25

The bulb does not convert electricity to light then back into heat. The filament works just like a heater element and emits heat directly, and additionally light. I think you may be a troll.

systemwiz (author)mgalyean2016-08-29

"Heat transfer from your hand to a bulb is irrelevant because there is an entirely different process of conduction going on and thermal conductivity of your hand is much higher" wouldn't this be radiant heat and opposed to conductive? high school drop out with passion for learning here.

mgalyean (author)rundmcarlson2015-03-25

You wrote: "Not all wasted electrical energy is heat. There is lots of wasted energy that doesn't transmit as heat at all."

So what form does this non-heat wasted energy take? And where is it?

You may be somewhat educated but you really don't know what you are talking about. The filament in an incandescent is really about the same as the heater element in an electric heater but much smaller and with enough current flowing through the material for it to emit higher wavelengths of light that is visible rather than just low wavelengths as heat. Both are resistance heating elements. I never said it would boil the room, I said it would add heat to the room; heat that the furnace doesn't have to provide. And that the heat was the "waste", or "inefficiency" of the bulb. So what other forms of waste energy are emitting from the bulb? How do you measure them?

I'm muting this so I don't receive any more notifications because I know science is on my side. I'll leave you to figure it out on your own and I trust that any following this dialog between us can do their own research and determine who of us is correct. You might consider that you may be over-thinking this. Just maybe.

systemwiz (author)mgalyean2016-08-29

^ you are correct. "Youth is wasted on the young" Shaw. and this my friends is why it takes more than watching big bang show, or whining to make you smart.

mgalyean (author)rundmcarlson2015-03-25

Oh yeah, tell the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers who heat chicken coops, dog houses, pump houses with mere incandescent light bulbs that they don't give off heat.

GrumpyOldGoat (author)LesB2015-02-10

"Light Bulbs" A common misnomer simply because of the cause and, apparent. effect.

When one enters a room, he, or she' flips a switch and the light comes on. At least that is the assumed result.

When I enter a room and flip a switch, I do so to turn off the dark.

When I leave, I turn the dark back on.

Makes perfect sense to me.

LesB (author)GrumpyOldGoat2015-03-31

Anti-dark bulbs.

Butano (author)GrumpyOldGoat2015-02-13

I mounted a switch upside down once, and that was the way it worked.

kconner2 (author)LesB2015-02-10

but how much energy goes into making all the components? does the savings used by each bulb offset the cost of the transformer factory, the capacitor factory, the resistor factory, the circuit board factory, etc...? consider all hidden costs and externalities.

rundmcarlson (author)kconner22015-02-10

Those components are incredibly cheap to purchase as a consumer, so they likely don't take much electricity to manufacture. Companies take costs like that into account and build them into pricing models so if you can buy a cfl for near the same price as an incandescent (which you can) there isn't going to be an appreciable difference in electrical usage.

PCB production is mostly chemical reactions and uses little electricity. Transformers are literally just wounded bands of wire, and wrapping the thin wire does not take high powered motors, so not much energy there either. Resistors are very cheap and hardly take any energy per resistor to make. They can be made in very large batches and are just physical materials. Capacitors are just layers of dielectric. Honestly, you can make most of these things at home even if you wanted to and you don't necessarily even need machinery. When they make most of these, the machines that make them make several million per batch. Some companies even produce millions of resistors a day.

Thinking of usage though, 60W equivalents usually use about 13W, which is a 47W decrease. If you used your lights at home from 5pm to 12pm, 7hrs x 47W x 365days = 120085Wh or 120kWh. At a standard rate for electric of about $0.10/kWh, that comes to $12/year. If we generously assume the factory can get a 50% discount on electricity over the average consumer, and each bulb has to cost 120kWh more to create than an incandescent, it would cost the company $6 per light bulb to produce. Assuming a standard markup, the company would then have to charge $18 more for the lightbulb than a company producing incandescents would. All of this is even ignoring the fact that the incandescent bulbs dont last as long so more of them have to be made. It is also ignoring the fact that many cfls will last several years, which makes the energy difference even greater.

All in all, this was an obnoxiously long post of mine but I see no way that the combined electrical usage of manufacturing could be more per unit than the energy savings offered. No company is going to ignore the cost of electricity in production and profits calculations, so any cost they have gets transferred to consumers in order for the business to make money. If higher electrical costs of manufacturing exist, they are in built into the price of the lightbulb. Cfl's would have to be much more expensive for the manufacturing power to outweigh the energy savings over incandescent.

rickfazz (author)rundmcarlson2015-02-14

I would love to get even one year out of a cfl more like 3 months. Company's are in business to make money. In most cases nothing else matters.

static (author)rickfazz2015-03-23

I write the instalatuin date on my CFL and LED lamps. 3 years in the shortest life for a CFL, twice that for the longest. I doubt I'll live to see one of the LED lamps five up. All are name brand products. You need to consider the quality of the lamps you purchase, and if there something else happening on the circuit impact the lamps

rundmcarlson (author)rickfazz2015-02-14

You should look into another product. I installed my CFL bulbs when I moved into my apartment in Jan of 2014 and I haven't changed one since. The lights are on the entire time I am home and are only shut off when I sleep or go to work. My 40 hour work week, plus 6 hours a night times 7 nights a week is 82 hours. Then 24 hours times 7 days is 168, minus 82 is 86 hours a week. My brother also lives with me and he doesn't work so whenever he wakes up and gets moving the light would be on in addition to that. Those 86 hours times 52 weeks is 4,472 hours. The bulb's advertised life expectancy is 10,000 hours. I should be able to get another year out of them if I am lucky, and if not they have lasted me a year and a month already. The bulbs I have are Utilitech 13W 825 Lumen CFL bulbs at 2700K soft warm white. You should try them out because they seem to be rated at much longer lifespans than whatever you have.

mgalyean (author)rundmcarlson2015-03-01

Companies that get subsidies from governments make all kinds of irrational decisions when it comes to production costs.

Quaamik (author)LesB2015-02-10

I think coptician is reffering to the energy used to produce all of the componants as well as what the lightbulb itself consumes. It takes energy to mine the materials, refine them, produce electronic componants, and assemble them all together.

Beware so called "green" technology that merely shifts the energy footprint further up the supply chain.

Personally, I don't know if the total energy needed for a CFL (production and useage over life) is greater than an od fashioned light bulb. I'd love to see an actual accounting though.

mgalyean (author)Quaamik2015-03-01

And don't forget the externalities of proper disposal of mercury containing CFLs. That is a cost also. What annoys me about many CFLs is that while in principle they last much longer, the low quality components in the base are typically what fail, not the bulb itself. When the price point warm-white LEDs comes down that will be a great solution.

Zaius (author)Quaamik2015-02-11

I found a 2009 paper comparing tungsten to CFL from mining to disposal. A tungsten bulb needed 40 joules to be created and CFLs took 94 joules. Both numbers convert to well under 1 watt-hour of power.

cyberpigue (author)Quaamik2015-02-10


letterformn (author)LesB2015-02-15

Yeah and in the winter when you are heating your house with electricity, like we do in the NW, non of it is wasted. And when the bulb burns out, you don't have excess material laying around. Not to mention the time it takes to deal with it. And 99.99% of people will just throw them in the trash, making more electrical (PCB) waste.

cbaines1 (author)LesB2015-02-10

He's talking about the embedded energy which goes into making them, not their energy consumption after manufacture.

Sparkyrob (author)coptician2015-02-10

Think about it this way: to be less efficient overall the CFL manufacturers would have to use 4 times the power that the CFL will consume through it's entire life span to produce. Think about it this way: a 60 watt IC equivelent to 14W CFL, with an assumed 5 year life span (3 hours per day) you save 229950KWH... There is no way that manufacturing would cost that much power.

Miscmen (author)Sparkyrob2015-02-10

I found they NEVER last five years!

RayJN (author)Miscmen2015-02-10

The 3 hour usage is the industry's way of hiding the real life expectancy by putting a big 5 years on the package and a small note that it is based on 3hrs/day

static (author)RayJN2015-03-23

That's been the case for incandescent lamp life promises for decades. x amount of life under certain usage

RayJN (author)Miscmen2015-02-10

Here is a bulb has been on 114 years.

I believe the more recent light bulbs were designed to burn out sooner
using much thinner filaments. Also turning them on and off greatly
decreases their life, and the delicate filaments take only a little bump
to break them.

static (author)RayJN2015-03-23

However it hasn't lasted 114 years in typical service, so it it makes a poor

benchmark. No doubt they are doing everything they can promote it's life. Never turning itoff/on. I would be surprised if the circuit now has surge protection.

mgalyean (author)RayJN2015-03-01

A lot of what determines how long an incandescent works is how much vibration the filament is subjected to when hot as well as the material and sturdiness of the filament. The ones that have the filament in a supporting tube of glass ("impact resistant") will last quite a bit longer.

static (author)Miscmen2015-03-23

I have had many CFL last more than 5 years in not very optimal use. I write the date in the base at installation since the first ones I used seem not to last as expected. Some have went at three years. LED lamps are now afforable so I'm usimng them nowe. I expect them to last the stated 13 years if not more. They'll out live me I suspect. I don't see myself making 72

ksexton1 (author)Miscmen2015-02-10

How long they last depends on 2 things, the use you put them to, and how cheap of cfls you buy. The rock bottom priced ones are junk in any use, and quit in a short time. Placing in a small enclosed fixture, like a globe lamp in a hall, cuts life of most.

Actually, now that the short lived ones in my house have all burned out early, I don't think I've replaced one in the past year, and a quick count in my head, at least 20 cfls in use. Some of them have probably been in place for well over 5 years.

Incandescents don't last nearly as long. Where I used to work, a store in a mall, at the entrance, there were 10 recessed floodlight type bulbs, shining down that felt like heat lamps, they only lasted around 6 months, so we had to order them by the case more than once a year. I was able to contact the lighting supplier, and get authorized CFL replacements, that cost more per bulb, but ran cooler, used less power, and I think 2 went bad in the first year out of the 10. This is with being powered 24/7, in a non optimal place, since the recessed fixture holds heat, and must vibrate some when the store gate is raised and lowered.

gthompson20 (author)Sparkyrob2015-02-10

Sparky, I think you need to fit new batteries to your calculator, I make it 252kWh, based on your usage figures. 3*365*5*46/1000

Sparkyrob (author)gthompson202015-02-11

Yeah, I meant to leave out the K... 252000WH

horphmyre (author)coptician2015-02-10

I had no idea what was inside the new bulbs and I found this rather interesting, but I was thinking the exact same thing as I read this Instructable. I was also wondering about the condition of the materials themselves. If the bulb no longer works, isn't it possible that's because those same components are at fault?

ElectroFrank (author)horphmyre2015-02-10

CFLs fail for the same reason as the old fluorescent tubes, because they use the exact same technology in the tube, which "burns out".

But the electronic components have a much longer life, and it is utterly stupid that they are normally thrown away with the tube !

On the basis of common sense, I say the manufacturers should make CFLs with replaceable tubes.

starphire (author)ElectroFrank2015-02-10

MOST of the electronic components would normally have a very long expected life, that much is true. However, certain components - especially electrolytic capacitors (the "can" shaped ones) and semiconductors have quite limited lifetimes above a certain temperature, and the lifetime is further cut by half (!) for every additional 10 degree rise in temperature. To make matters worse, CFL bulbs are mostly made as cheaply as possible and counterfeit or substandard electronic component substitution is a real problem - especially for the cheapest generic consumer goods.

When these components (which generate some heat in use) are packed tightly together into the base of a lightbulb and installed in a heat-trapping light fixture, the result is often a bulb that stops working long before its rated lifetime. But not for the reason you guessed: it's usually the electronics that fail before the bulb, either from the heat, poor quality parts, damage from line voltage surges, or some combination.

And in fact the technology is not exactly the same either. Fluorescent tubes have a hot cathode (filament) at each end which is more fragile and burns out eventually. CFLs have a single "cold" cathode at each end of the tube to make them very small and simple to manufacture, and these should last at least as long as the electronics in the base.

johncacopardo (author)starphire2015-02-11

Probably the same reason congress fails. Their useful life is cut in half by every 10 degree rise in hot air.

ytg137 (author)ElectroFrank2015-02-10

The older CFLs had a permanent base with a replaceable light portion.

chrwei (author)coptician2015-02-10

LEDs should do much better on this kind of comparison, especially since their glass parts are not complex shapes, and don't have a special gas in them.

Sparkyrob (author)chrwei2015-02-10

and, some of the newer LED lamps have no glass at all.

studentgeek (author)2016-07-18

What are the usable components and what projects would/do you use them on? Inquiring minds wantto know.

GrumpyOldGoat (author)2015-03-31

The natural state is dark.

Anything else is unnatural.

deswiger (author)GrumpyOldGoat2016-03-25

You mean like the Sun and Stars?????

(Yes, a year ago, I know)

GrumpyOldGoat (author)deswiger2016-03-26

When you enter a dark room, do you turn ON the lights?

Or do you turn OFF the dark?

The question is timeless.

And, as yet, unanswered.

deswiger (author)GrumpyOldGoat2016-03-28

"... and then there was light." Answered!

I suppose you are one of those "can God make something so big He can't move?" types?


GrumpyOldGoat (author)deswiger2016-03-28

And before there was light, DARK existed through out the void.

You seem to be impressed with your own level of intelligence.
Am I supposed to be impressed as well?

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