Home & Garden

CFLs can work safely in your home

With an eye toward colder temperatures and energy efficiency, a colleague asked me recently about energy audits.

I pointed her to www.pahomeenergy.com, which provides the names of firms that provide energy audits (you pay, of course), as well as lots of information about conservation.

Even if you don’t live in Pennsylvania, the information is useful. Still, make certain that the information is applicable to your state.

Every time you write about compact fluorescent lights, you don’t mention the mercury-disposal problem. Why not?

Because when I’ve written about these lights in recent months, I’ve been asking your opinions about them.

It is obvious to me that the few people who ask me about the mercury problem already know everything about it. A few years back, 2006 in fact, here’s what I wrote about CFLs and mercury (the information has been updated for 2010):

CFLs contain very small amounts of mercury sealed within the glass tubing — an average of 4 or 5 milligrams, roughly equivalent to the amount of ink on the tip of a ballpoint pen.

Mercury is what enables the CFL to be an efficient light source; there is no substitute for it, but manufacturers have been trying to reduce the amount used.

CFLs are safe to use in the home, according to the Department of Energy. No mercury is released when the bulbs are in use, the department says, and they pose no danger if used properly.

Don’t throw CFLs away with the household trash if better disposal options exist.

Visit www.epa.gov/ epawaste/hazard/wastetypes/universal/lamps/index.htm for extensive information on what to do.

Check Earth911.org, which locates disposal options by zip code, call the U.S. Environmental Recycling Hot Line at 877-327-8491, or contact your local waste-management agency for community guidelines.

Additional information is available at Lamprecycle.org. Some home center chains and other retailers take back used CFLs.

If the bulbs break, go to this site, www.epa.gov/ mercury/spills/index.htm, to find out what to do.

In our dining room, there is something that I think is called rough plaster — it looks as though there are small nonpareils under the plaster.

What is the best way to cover over this and make it smooth? We thought about using wallpaper liner, then covering it in paint.

This is a messy, painstaking job, and I wonder whether it wouldn’t be worth it to just pull out the old surface and then drywall.

Let’s look at covering over the “stucco-ish” wall. It could be stucco or swirled spackle, which I’ve seen people do to hide cracks in plaster ceilings. I would try to use spackling compound that tends not to shrink very much as it dries.

Now, liner paper is a heavyweight paper with a smooth surface. It is applied over Masonite to hide shallow grooves, although you may have to use drywall compound. It can be applied over textured walls before you apply regular wallpaper or paint (always prime first, and sand between coats for better adhesion and to get rid of lumps and bumps). Liner is available in several weights.

If you want to try wallpaper liner in both places, it might be less labor-intensive than filling in swirls with spackle.