Five Percent: Conserve Energy

Climate Change Is Important: Energy Conservation is the First Step

November 25, 2007

Home Depot is Dim (Why Can’t They Market CFLs Brightly)

Category: Companies,Household,Little Things,Save Electricity – Tom Harrison – 7:08 pm

I went to Home Depot today for dimmable CFLs, a water heater blanket, a low-flow shower head, leaf bags and a few other things. After walking around aimlessly, I found the water heater blankets (out of stock), the CFL display (which was LAME!) and shower heads, all but one of which was the opposite of low-flow (several low flow models were out of stock). Oh, and no more leaf bags. Grumble.

The fact that most of the energy saving items I attempted to purchase were out of stock says two things:

  1. People are buying energy saving items: this is a good thing
  2. Home Depot is failing to understand this change in the economy: this is not a good thing, either for them or for the environment

I did find a valve that slows or stops water flow from the shower head; I mounted it inline on the shower spout in about 3 minutes. I bought one of the Delta 1.5 GPM shower heads; more on this after a few showers. It certainly will use less water than the model I replaced.

The CFL display was simply lame. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I heard my family complain about CFLs. These are the same complaints as you usually hear: they are not as bright, and the light is not as pleasant. Both complaints are true unless you buy the right bulb, and I blame Home Depot, since they do a lousy job merchandising this important commodity.

Home Depot was out of stock of dimmable CFLs (several different models — all not available). They use the word “daylight” word to describe the light of 6000K bulbs; these are very good for reading, but cast a very blue and harsh light. Perhaps they should just call them “reading” lights, which they are fine for (daylight sounds like a good thing, but it’s not for most uses). The display was equally divided between these daylight bulbs, red-boxed cool white bulbs (5000K, very blue and also not pleasant), and the green-boxed 2700K bulbs most people should buy. All of these bulbs are “green” in the environmental sense; I would bet most people associate “green” alternatives as one for which there is some trade-off; in this case they are the best option. Let me make it simple:

Buy CFLs marked “warm white” or 2700K for normal household lighting

I was able to observe my Mom’s complaint about the CFL being less bright, sort of. One thing I had not noticed before was that it seems like CFLs may take a few minutes to warm up. Are they not as bright, or the same color during this time? My Mom has two lights; one equipped with a CFL rated for 100W and another incandescent 100W bulb. She complained that the CFL was dimmer; when I first turned it on and compared to the incandescent light, it did seem less bright. A while later, however, it seemed just as bright. Presumably, claims of lumens produced are verified, so I have to assume that there may be a short warm-up time required for CFLs.

My final bash of Home Depot is that they had a very limited supply of CFLs. Almost all were spiral; few were flood or spotlights, there were no outdoor lights, candelabra size, or dimmable lights. Almost all form-factors of lights have been done in CFL — why can’t one of the largest retailers of home supplies get this simple and obvious thing right?

We have a long way to go, especially if Home Depot is leading the way.


  1. I went to Lowe’s last night with nearly the exact same shopping list as Tom and had essentially the same experience! I found the shower heads, NONE of which were labeled as low flow. I asked one of the employees, and they did not have any idea what I was talking about. I found one that actually had the flow rate (2.5gpm at 80psi), so I thought maybe that was low flow. I just read though that Federal Regulations require all new shower heads to be 2.5gpm or less, so 2.5gpm is not low flow after all! (Although 2.5gpm is probably much better than any shower head > 15 years old.)

    Then I searched for an insulating blanket for the water heater, which I could not find. They did not have anything like it.

    I looked for CFLs, which I found, but there were very few options and I couldn’t find what I was looking for, which was a non-harsh 15-20 Watt (equivalent to 60-75 Watt incandescent bulb) in either a single or 2-pack. I ended up with a 3-pack of “daylight” bulbs, which may at least fix my Seasonal Affective Disorder, but will probably look awful.

    I would tell people to avoid the large hardware stores when it comes to finding energy efficient products. There are many websites out there that specialize in selling eco-friendly products, and they can be shipped directly to your house so you also don’t waste gas!

    Good luck. I wish the world was vastly different than it unfortunately is…

    Comment by Lauren Ray — November 28, 2007 @ 11:30 am

  2. Lauren — I agree with your thought about good websites selling eco-friendly products. We have tried the Delta 1.5GPM shower head and reviews from the family are mixed, at best. “Stinging needles” isn’t exactly my ideal way to wake up :-(

    So it occurs to me that for the price of a few fancy Starbucks coffees I could actually try out all the other shower heads out there, and find out which ones are actually good or not. It’s really hard to say — if you look on Amazon, the people buying the $4 ultra-spartan low-flow shower heads are all happy; the people buying the fancy ones for $40 or more have very mixed reviews. But then I suppose the people buying the cheap ones have a reasonable expectation of what they are getting; they want spartan, and that’s what they get, whereas the people paying a lot might get a better shower than the Spartans, but be unhappy because it’s not as nice as their regular shower. User ratings are hard to understand unless there are a lot of them.

    There’s also another problem: some of the eco-sites such as GreenLights do a great job of explaining the benefits, and putting up a nice consumer storefront, but their inventory is limited and their prices are somewhat higher than a site like

    Like so much else in the world, there’s just no well-established infrastructure for dealing with this whole new set of consumer challenges out there. Unfortunately, I know that even the well-established web business models for widely used consumer goods is a hard one to make a lot of money on, these days. Perhaps “green” is a good niche, but you just have to know that as soon as the money starts rolling in, the big merchandisers like Wal*Mart will do just enough to satisfy the middle of the market.

    Change is hard indeed. Thanks for your comment. I share your pain.


    Comment by Tom Harrison — November 29, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  3. I personally have decided never to shop at Home Depot again, the staff are unfriendly and not knowledgable and I always regret buying my products from there

    Comment by Shower screen UK — January 14, 2008 @ 11:38 am

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