Changing the Lightbulb in System Preferences

| Jeff Gamet's Blog


I was comparing settings on a new unibody MacBook Pro and matte display MacBook Pro recently, and something caught my eye. Apple made a subtle change in System Preferences that just might be part of a much bigger statement.

Here's the difference: The Energy Saver icon in System Preferences on the previous model MacBook Pro is an incandescent light bulb. On the new glossy display model, it's a compact florescent light. Both Macs are running Mac OS X 10.5.6.

Energy Saver then (left), and now (right)

Sure, the Preference Pane icon change could simply be cosmetic, but it could also be a subtle message about the company's stance on environmental issues -- and it appears only on Apple's glossy display laptops.

Compact florescent lights are seen by many as an environmentally better alternative to traditional incandescent bulbs because they use less electricity to produce the same amount of light. Maybe Apple is using the symbol as a little reminder that it is working to make its products "greener" and more environmentally friendly.

Apple has also been claiming "green" bragging rights over the components used in its laptops such as unibody construction for less production waste, fewer potentially hazardous chemicals, and smaller product packaging.

Those are all features worth touting, and maybe that little compact florescent icon is another part of Apple's self promotion scheme. Or maybe it's just a cool icon.


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That’s weird as mine uses an LED light bulb icon. I mean, compact fluorescent bulbs are soooo yesterday what with the mercury and all.

Jeff Gamet

Ha! That’s absolutely fantastic, and I was wondering if anyone would bring up the mercury issues with CF bulbs. Looks like that’s a big “yes.” grin



egad, wish I knew where I could find a yellow compact flourescent.  The white ones blind both me and my fiance.


I was going to say “That’s one less thing for Greenpeace to complain about,” but according to the above statements, it probably gives them one more thing instead.

Lee Dronick

Mine is still showing an incandescent bulb, I am using 10.5.6 on the latest model iMac.

Gopher, check craft supply stores for glass dye. A long time ago, when I was still ship’s navigator, I bought some red glass dye to apply on instrument lamps. It won’t give it a vivid color, but it may be enough for you.


I’m using a 2-year-old white MacBook and I see the CFL icon in my system prefs.  Guess it might have to do with recently installing Leopard as part of the Mac Box Set.


Both my 1 year old 15” MBP and my brand new 24” iMac show the old bulb.


Several things are not communicated about the environmental impact of compact fluorescent bulbs:

1.) Manufacturing costs are extremely high, due to the integrated ballast electronics, highly toxic chemicals including mercury, and unique shape

2.) While their are cited energy savings when in use the trade-off for the energy savings is actually null after figuring in the high manufacturing cost.

3.) The disposal cost is somewhere near $1300 a pound for the glass ridden with residual toxic chemical, further negating any energy saving benefits.

Summary, compact fluorescents are expensive to manufacture and dispose of and are highly-toxic.

Furthermore, idiots in leadership in the UK are trying to ban the safe, cheap incandescent bulbs, only on the basis of the household energy savings, ridiculous. They’re completely ignoring the “big-picture”—that there’s more to a product than where it’s put to use.


The new lightbulbs don’t have mercury.


LAD… that is not the whole story, and you probably know it. The amount of mercury emitted from powerplants having to drive 3-4 times the energy offsets the contents of the bulbs. All bulbs are not created equally either… some use less than 2 mg, while the cheaper Chinese imports use about 5mg. That’s still a couple hundred times less than a single thermometer.

But this is a tad off topic. We’re talking about an icon for goodness sake…


I’m using a 1.5 year old MacBook Pro (the first model Apple used LED backlighting on a glossy display) running OS 10.4.11 and I see an incandescent bulb icon.


What’s toxic in finished LED’s or LED manufacturing, that will end up polluting homes and landfills?


Whoa!  You guys should know that the mercury in modern CFLs is either gone or much reduced from previous versions, and more importantly, the heat generated by the use of the bulb BONDS THE MERCURY TO THE GLASS AND IT CANNOT BE RELEASED INTO THE ENVIRONMENT NOW OR IN THE FUTURE—-IT IS BONDED AND IT CANNOT GET UNBOUND. Did anyone here take chemistry?

Lee Dronick

“Did anyone here take chemistry?”

Well there is a lot of misinformation about the mercury in CFLs, thanks for helping clean that up. Speaking of cleaning up; My cousin recently sent out some family spam about the new law in here in California killing off incandescent bulbs. According to him if a CFL breaks you have to evacuate the house and have HAZMAT come in to clean it up. I sent him a tinfoil hat, well actually it was a paper pressman’s hat that I coated with mercury so that it looks like metal.


Bonded to the glass?  How good?  If you took chemistry, you’d learn that water is a UNIVERSAL solvent.  That’s right, it means no matter how strong a bond you create to the glass, eventually water will erode the the substances attached to the glass.  There are mercury free fluorescent technologies:…99J

Just a matter of consumers need to demand them of manufacturers.

Lee Dronick

Some tree hugger posted this on the safety of CFLs

Lee Dronick

Okay we got off on a tangent about the safety of CFL’s, but getting back on the subject. Why do some of us show different icons for Energy Saver?


The first does not take into account that any toxin when it accumulates in the food chain can become worse after being dumped than just simple accidents in the home.  Mercury has been found significant amounts in fish in our rivers and streams.  That basically says that mercury should not be dumped anywhere near our waste dumps.  Because anything that allows water to flow it can potentially leak those substances in the open.

To answer your second question, probably because Apple is trying to appease to Greenpeace, and recent installers changed the icon.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Q. How many Mac users does it take to change a light bulb?

A. Count the number of comments above and add 6.

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