What is so different about Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs?
If you’ve seen those curly new light bulbs, then you have seen a CFL, a compact fluorescent bulb. It’s a money-saving invention that uses only a quarter of the energy regular light bulbs do. They also last ten times longer and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. CFLs can produce a variety of colors from warm to cool.
Since the 1990s, CFL bulbs have been a choice for light bulb buyers. These CFL bulbs fit in the same sockets as the bulbs you’re used to. They have circular coils and look very different, and that’s because they are. These bulbs are Energy Start rated and it’s estimated that if you change out just one light bulb from regular to a CFL, you can save over $60. Multiply that by every light bulb in your house and you have racked up quite a bit of savings.
Compact fluorescent bulbs have to make it through a very rigorous set of tests by the Department of Energy in order to earn the rating of Energy Star. If the bulb you’re buying doesn’t say on the packaging that it is Energy Star rated, it’s a lesser quality bulb. It won’t last as long, so don’t buy it. All Energy Star bulbs are required to carry a two-year warranty or better. Keep your receipts for any CFL bulb purchases because you can return a faulty bulb and the manufacturer will refund your money or replace the bulb.
You will pay a bit more for CFLs but the savings is in the fact that you don’t have to replace them as often. If you don’t have the cash to hand out right now to refit all your light sockets in the house, do it a little at a time. Start with the rooms you use the most. It makes sense to switch out kitchen bulbs now and as you build up your savings, slowly replace them all.
CFLs look different and display light differently than a standard bulb. You may have to play around a bit with wattage with these new bulbs. It may say 40 watt, but not throw light in the same way you would expect from a standard 40 watt bulb.
Have a dimmer switch? You can use a CFL with it as well as with three way fixtures. There are CFLs that are rated for indoor use. If you want to light up a space outdoors, be sure to use only bulbs certified for outdoor use. And they definitely do make them for outdoors. In fact, replacing a porch light or other light you leave on a lot outside is a great way to save energy.
One thing about CFL bulbs that is a concern is that they contain mercury. Granted, it’s not a large amount, but any amount of mercury must be treated with care. If you have pets or children who might accidentally knock over a lamp, you might want to consider if you should use a CFL in that lamp. If it breaks, you don’t have to panic. But don’t pick it up with your bare hands either. Keep the kids and pets out of the area and pick up the glass with gloves and place them in a plastic bag. Wash the area with warm water using a paper towel and then throw the paper towel into the bag, too. Wash your hands and the hands of anyone who may have touched the breakage. You don’t need to call in the hazardous waste clean up folks or decontaminate your whole house. Just seal the bag. You can then bring it to a place like Home Depot, which offers CFL recycling. Don’t throw it out in your regular trash bin.
Don’t be too concerned about the possibility of breaking a CFL bulb. If you use them in overhead fixtures and in places that won’t be knocked or jostled, you’ll be fine. Be careful where you store them. If they fall out of a crowded cabinet onto the floor and break or are accidentally crushed in an overstuffed drawer, find another place to store them.
CFLs will perform properly without humming or buzzing if you handle them the right way. Never install them by the glass. Hold the bottom and screw that in. And manufacturers suggest that if you have a lamp you turn on and off all the time, it’s best to forego using a CFL bulb. The reason is that these bulbs perform best when left on for at least 15 minutes at a time.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs are easy ways to save money without too much effort. You’ll get more life out of each bulb and lower your electric bill at the same time. It makes good sense.