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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)

The thought of these bulbs make me think of dimly lit rooms and not being able to tell if I’m wearing navy blue or black, but today there are MANY color variations that surpass our original  100watt bulb in displaying true colors. It take a bit of education and trial/error before you find that perfect bulb but here is  information on their cost savings and benefits from EcoBroker.com .

Technology Snapshot & Benefits:
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are designed to use up to 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs while offering the same amount of light.  They work by passing an electrical current through a mixture of argon and mercury which then emits ultraviolet light.  This UV light excites a fluorescent coating that then emits the visible light we are able to see. Because of this technology, CFL bulbs require fewer watts of energy than incandescent bulbs to operate at the same luminosity.  For example, a 40-watt incandescent bulb emits the same amount of light as an 11-14 watt CFL.  The lifespan of a CFL varies depending on how frequently it is turned on/off and how much air flow is around the bulb, but on average, they last 6,000-15,000 hours (about ten times as long as incandescent bulbs). 

CFLs come in a variety of shapes and styles.  The most popular style is the spiral CFL, but if you are looking to replace bulbs that will be visible or simply don’t like the look of the spiral bulb, there are A-shape and globe options available as well.  CFLs also come in 3-way and dimmable forms.    

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if every home in America were to replace just one incandescent bulb with an Energy Star rated CFL, we would be able to collectively save $700 million in energy costs while preventing 9 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every year.  That’s the equivalent of 800,000 cars!

While CFLs are currently the most affordable energy-efficient lighting option, LED lighting is quickly becoming more efficient and inexpensive and may soon replace CFLs as the leading form of low-energy lighting. 

Estimated Cost Savings:
While CFLs are slightly more to purchase than incandescent bulbs ($2-15 as opposed to $0.25-$5), they can save as much as $30 over the life of the bulb in reduced energy costs.  The average payback period is six months.   

Because CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury (about 4 mg per bulb), it is important to take precautions when handling them.  When installing, be sure and hold the base not the glass to screw them in to prevent breaking.  If a bulb does break, follow the EPA’s guidelines for proper clean-up to avoid negative effects.  When a CFL bulb burns out, it must be recycled at a designated recycling center.  For a list of recycling locations near you, click here.

Note that no mercury is emitted unless the bulb breaks.  Regular use will not result in exposure to mercury. 

Most photocells, motion sensors, electronic timers, and some sockets are incompatible with CFLs.  Be sure and check manufacturing and packaging labels before purchasing. 

Installation (Getting it Done):
Replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFLs is one of the easiest ways to save energy.  CFLs are available at most home improvement stores and general retailers and can easily be installed without the help of a professional.  Remember to hold the bulb by the base and not the glass when installing. 

Videos On This Topic:

How to Save Energy by Changing to CFL Bulbs (1:40) – The Home Depot – Lighting represents a large portion of the average home�s energy bills, but by replacing your lightbulbs with CFL bulbs, you can easily save energy and money.  Find out more about how CFLs compare to regular bulbs in this video.

This Bulb (1:45) – National Geographic Green Home – In this short video featuring Kyra Sedgwick, Natalie Portman, and Chloe Sevigny, find out about how changing your lightbulbs can have such a drastic impact on your home, your energy bills, and the environment.

Incandescent v. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (1:14) – GoGreen Tube – Replacing an incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent one is an easy way to save energy and money.  In this short video, learn more about the pros and cons of each type of bulb and find out how big of a difference CFLs can make in your home.

How to Save Energy with Dimmers and Motion Detectors (1:40) – The Home Depot – Installing dimmers on your most commonly used light switches can help reduce the energy usage by up to 20% and save around $70/year.  Find out more in this short video.

More Information On This Topic:

Energy Star – Lightbulbs – CFLs

Energy Star – Frequently Asked Questions on CFLs

Energy Star’s How To Choose a Light Guide

U.S. Department of Energy – Tips on Using CFLs

Lighting Research Center CFL Consumer Guide

EPA – Mercury-Containing Light Bulb Recycling

EPA – Clean-up and Disposal Guide


Nia Knowles

Realtor, Community Advocate, Mother, Leader, Innovative Thinker, Idea Generator,

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