Light Bulb Safety Tips
Light bulbs are a common household item, but most homeowners don’t necessarily have light bulb safety top of mind. Read on to learn more about how to dispose of broken bulbs in Denver, properly recycling old bulbs, and the risks of storing them improperly.
How to Dispose of Light Bulbs
Broken light bulbs happen. It’s important to know how to dispose of a broken bulb safely. How you dispose of a broken bulb depends on the kind of light bulb it is:
LED Light Bulb Safety & Disposal
Light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs do not contain mercury but small amounts of heavy metals, which can be toxic with long-term or repeated exposure. Experts recommend using gloves and a mask when you clean up a broken LED bulb, though you can throw it away in your regular trash. Simply wrap broken shards in paper or plastic to avoid the bulb tearing through your trash bag and potentially harming someone as they take out the garbage. The City and County of Denver also offer hazardous waste pickup for a fee.
Remember to recycle burned-out LED bulbs whenever possible. Check for a nearby retailer or recycling center that accepts these bulbs, which are the new standard type for general use.
CFL and Other Fluorescent Light Bulb Safety & Disposal
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) were the green alternative to standard, inefficient incandescent bulbs for many years. They saved a lot of electricity, but if they broke, they would fill your room with an unsafe level of mercury.
If one breaks in your home or garage, avoid touching the glass with your bare hands. Instead, follow the proper procedure for disposing of CFL light bulbs:
Always use gloves and protective eyewear like goggles or safety glasses. Block off the area to prevent others from walking through and ensure that it’s well-ventilated.
Use stiff paper or cardboard (something you can throw away) to scoop broken shards and powder into a bag for disposal. Any large pieces can be picked up with a gloved hand.
Loosely wrap a loop of duct tape or other thick tape around one hand, sticky side out. Carefully use it to pick up the tiniest shards and residue.
Wipe hard surfaces in the area with damp paper towels or wet wipes.
Place all cleanup materials (including the disposable vacuum bag) in your waste bag.
Double-bag your waste bag, sealing the inner and outer layers with tape. Place the bags in a cardboard box labeled “hazardous waste, broken CFL bulb.” You can schedule a pickup with the City and County of Denver or take them to a participating hardware store.
Wash your hands and arms with soap and water and throw away any clothing contaminated with light bulb shards or dust. Clothing worn during cleanup can be washed.
Certain retailers and recycling centers will take intact, burned-out CFLs for specialized recycling. Call ahead. Refrain from placing CFLs in your curbside recycling bin.
Halogen Light Bulb Safety & Disposal
Halogen bulbs rarely break due to their thicker glass. When they do, however, the shards can be carefully picked up and thrown away in your regular trash, double-bagged for safety.
Burnt-out halogen bulbs can be recycled, but they’re a specialty recycling item, and it may be difficult to find a facility that accepts them. No recycling centers in or around Denver accept halogen light bulbs for recycling.
Halogen and Incandescent Light Bulb Safety & Disposal
Broken incandescent and halogen bulbs are considered non-hazardous. Simply place them in your household trash, with broken glass wrapped in an extra layer of plastic or paper to prevent injury. They cannot be recycled.
Are Light Bulbs Recyclable?
Most light bulbs can and should be recycled. LED, fluorescent, and halogen light bulbs can be recycled, while incandescent bulbs cannot.
Generally, most local recycling centers will accept bulbs (especially those containing mercury) for proper disposal and recycling. You should take the bulbs directly to the recycling center instead of leaving them curbside, where they can get smashed. Certain retailers that sell light bulbs (such as hardware stores) may also take them for recycling. If you have eligible bulbs that need discarding, don’t throw them away – recycle them!
Find the Denver-area locations that accept your bulbs for recycling based on type.
How to Change a Light Bulb Safely
Changing a light bulb isn’t complicated, but it can be dangerous if you’re not careful. Here are some safety tips to consider the next time you need to change a light in your home:
Turn off the power to the light. The easiest way to do this is to flip the appropriate breaker in your home’s electric panel. It’s possible to change the bulb while only the light switch is off, but the bulb and socket can still throw sparks if the power isn’t cut off completely.
Give the light time to cool. Incandescent lights produce heat, so let them cool off before changing them. Even CFLs and other fluorescent bulbs heat up with use. You can skip this step if you only have LED bulbs at home, because they don’t get very warm.
Use the proper equipment to reach the light you want to change. Remember, tables, couches, and other pieces of furniture weren’t designed to be stood on. Always use a ladder or safe step stool.
Use caution when removing the old bulb. If it takes a lot of pressure to unscrew the old bulb, it’s worth wearing some heavier cloth gloves to keep your hand safe if the bulb breaks under the pressure. If you’re unscrewing a bulb above your head, wear safety glasses in case of falling glass.
How to remove a broken light bulb: If the bulb is broken while still in the socket, take extra caution while removing it. Wear thick leather or cloth work gloves and safety glasses to protect yourself from broken glass. Keep others out of the area to avoid the risk of falling glass, and use a tool to remove the broken bulb, such as pliers or a broken bulb extractor.
Double-check the power rating on your light before installing the new bulb. Before replacement, be sure the new bulb matches the power rating of the lighting fixture. This information is usually listed on the side of the fixture. If you install a bulb with a higher rating than the fixture is designed for, it can be a fire hazard. The additional heat has the potential to cause the wires or lighting fixture to melt. Stay safe and install a bulb less than or equal to the power rating on the fixture.
Light Bulb Safety Tips: How to Store Light Bulbs
Unused bulbs should always be stored in their original packaging until they’re ready for use. This helps ensure the longevity of filament bulbs since the packaging reduces the likelihood of a broken filament and prevents breakage before they can be used.
The best way to store light bulbs without their original packaging (e.g., in a garage or storage closet) is safely away from water sources, extreme heat, cold temperatures, or any hazardous materials like gasoline or paint thinner.
Always store bulbs upright if possible. This will reduce any potential damage caused by impact or dropping them while in storage.
Can You Store Light Bulbs in the Garage?
Unless you live in a very temperate climate, it’s best to store light bulbs in a climate-controlled area in your home. The best place to store light bulbs is cool, dry, and away from direct sunlight or moisture. This will help ensure the optimal lifespan of the bulb and its parts.
Dealing with Light Sensitivity: How to Choose the Right Light Bulb
LED lights are known for giving off less heat than incandescent bulbs, which makes them more energy efficient (and cost-effective!). However, some individuals with LED light sensitivity may experience headaches, migraines, dizziness, nausea, and other symptoms. This is due to the higher blue-light content found in many LEDs.
The Best Light Bulbs for Migraines
For a migraine-friendly alternative, consider warmer-colored lights such as yellow/orange hues rather than bright white/blue tones (which may trigger migraines more easily than softer tones). Warm-toned LEDs are both migraine-safe and environmentally friendly, or you can opt for older bulbs. If you need a well-lit room, look for bulbs labeled “soft white.” They provide brighter light in a color range that’s gentler on the eyes and brain.