Replacing your home’s incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, also referred to as CFLs, is a quick and inexpensive way to make a positive change. Here’s a primer to help you make the best CFL choices for your home.
CFLs are available in many different sizes and shapes including candles, globes and outdoor reflectors. The majority of CFLs are designed to look identical to the incandescent light bulb version.
You’ll need to check the lumen rating to find the right CFLs to replace your current incandescent bulbs. Consult the Light Output Equivalency chart (left) to determine what wattage CFL you need. CFLs have a “warm up” time, meaning they do not achieve 100-percent brightness as soon as they are switched on; however, the technology is improving and several manufacturers now offer “instant-on” options. Using a CFL with a dimmer switch or three-way socket can shorten its life. Certain CFLs are designed to work with dimmers and three-way sockets; however, these options can be harder to find, so you may want to try to purchase them online.
CFLs produce varying shades of white light. The majority of CFLs offer soft or warm white light, which is comparable to an incandescent bulb. Also available are CFLs that emit a more bluish-white light. These products are usually identified with the terms “bright white,” “natural” or “daylight.”
While CFLs are more expensive than incandescent bulbs, most homeowners will see a return on their investment through lowered energy costs and fewer bulb replacements. When purchasing CFLs, make sure that they’re ENERGY STAR-qualified, which means they have been tested to meet stringent performance criteria. You can determine this by looking for the ENERGY STAR logo on the packaging.
Most CFLs will last up to 10 times longer than an average incandescent bulb; however, the life of a CFL can be shortened if it’s exposed to high humidity, extreme temperatures or excessive switching on and off. CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and should be disposed of properly, ideally recycled. The ENERGY STAR Web site, www.energystar.gov, offers a free fact sheet covering proper disposal options and what to do if a bulb breaks.
Compiled using information from ENERGY STAR, a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy; graphics courtesy of ENERGY STAR
Standard CFL Shapes
For more information about CFLs, including how to choose and where to use, visit www.energystar.gov, and click on “Products,” then “Lighting,” then “CFLs.”