Why Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs?


Fluorescent lamps (light bulbs) work by passing electricity through mercury vapor, which in turn produces ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light is then absorbed by a phosphor coating inside the lamp, causing it to glow, or fluoresce. While the heat generated by fluorescent lamps is much less than its incandescent counterpart, energy is still lost in generating the ultraviolet light and converting this light into visible light. In addition, and should the lamp break, exposure to mercury can occur, though the levels involved are not considered hazardous. Linear fluorescent lamps are typically five to six times the cost of incandescent lamps[citation needed], but have life spans around 10,000 and 20,000 hours. Lifetime varies from 1,200 hours to 20,000 hours for compact fluorescent lamps.


If every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with a CFL, we'd save enough energy to light 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.

Generate 70 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
In addition to other quality requirements, must turn on instantly, produce no sound, and fall within a warm color range or be otherwise labeled as providing cooler color tones.


Efficient: CFLs are four times more efficient and last up to 10 times longer than incandescents. A 22 watt CFL has about the same light output as a 100 watt incandescent. CFLs use 50 - 80% less energy than incandescents.

Less Expensive: Although initially more expensive, you save money in the long run because CFLs use 1/3 the electricity and last up to 10 times as long as incandescents. A single 18 watt CFL used in place of a 75 watt incandescent will save about 570 kWh over its lifetime. At 8 cents per kWh, that equates to a $45 savings.

Reduces Air and Water Pollution: Replacing a single incandescent bulb with a CFL will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. If everyone in the U.S. used energy-efficient lighting, we could retire 90 average size power plants. Saving electricity reduces CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide and high-level nuclear waste.

High-Quality Light: Newer CFLs give a warm, inviting light instead of the "cool white" light of older fluorescents. They use rare earth phosphors for excellent color and warmth. New electronically ballasted CFLs don't flicker or hum.

Versatile: CFLs can be applied nearly anywhere that incandescent lights are used. Energy-efficient CFLs can be used in recessed fixtures, table lamps, track lighting, ceiling fixtures and porchlights. 3-way CFLs are also now available for lamps with 3-way settings. Dimmable CFLs are also available for lights using a dimmer switch.

Myths about CFLs:

Myth #1 - CFLs take a long time to light.
It is true that CFLs can take from 1 to 5 minutes to come to fullillumination upon turning them on. ENERGY STAR® qualifed CFLs muststart within one second and reach 80% illumination within 3 minutes.Remember, these are minimum requirements and many CFLs are much fasterthan this.


Myth #2 - CFLs aren't as bright as incandescent bulbs.
CFLs produce more light per watt of energy consumed than incandescent bulbs. That's why they are described as energy efficient. Check out the comparison to incandescent wattage in our store.


Myth #3 - CFLs emit a cold, bluish light.
The typical incandescent bulb casts a yellowish light and is perceivedas "warm." Old-fashioned, linear fluorescent tubes cast more of abluish light which are seen as "cold" or "harsh." Todays CFLs emit light that is "warm" or "soft," similar to that of incandescents.


Myth #4 - They don't make CFLs in the type of bulb that I need.
The bulb selection seems to get better daily. We carry many shapes and sizes of CFLs for applications such as chandeliers, bulbs above bathroom mirrors, in wall sconces, table lamps and some outdoor uses. Some of our CFLs can be installed in circuits with dimmers and three-way sockets.


Myth #5 - CFLs cost too much.
CFLs cost much less to own and operate than incandescent bulbs. They use 3 to 4 times less electricity, and they last 6 to 10 times longer. Result: fewer bulb changes.


Myth #6 - They flicker.
New CFLs do not flicker. You’ll find that lightfrom CFLs is so similar to regular light bulbs that most people won’teven notice that you’ve changed to CFLs until you point it out to them.




Cost and aesthetic concerns lead the list of consumer complaints directed against CFLs. Most styles of CFLs retail between $4.00 - $15.00. The cost factor diminishes greatly when you consider the number of different CFL discounts and giveaways available through local utilities, mass market chain stores and other retail and public outlets. Some local giveaways strictly limit the number of bulbs per customer given away. Still, it is relatively easy to discover additional opportunities in your area for bulk purchases at the cost of one dollar per bulb.


With a thirty odd year history, CFL manufacturers recognize that the type of light produced by a bulb matters as much to the average consumer as much as type of light matters to impressionistic painters. Consumers with an aesthetic aversion to CFLs either do not like the look of the bulb or they do not like the light the bulb produces.


Fortunately, lighting and bulb technology has improved over the past decade, thereby increasing consumer choice.

The variety of lighting fixture and bulb shading options available to hide the bulb from eye view continues to increase. With a little ingenuity, any consumer can purchase or create the perfect light shade for their home.


CFL manufacturers also realized that type of light matters. Newer generation CFLs come in cool light, soft light and day light versions, making it easier for consumers to choose different types of lights for different rooms in the house.


The final downside of CFLs is their use of a small amount of mercury in each bulb. The amount is small enough to be a nuisance factor to anyone needing to clean up from one broken bulb.


The problem turns from a nuisance to a hazardous condition, considered in the aggregate. Millions of broken or improperly disposed CFLs constitutes a hazardous condition in any area. It is important for manufacturers and consumers to organize a safe recycling system.


On/Off cycling: CFLs are sensitive to frequent on/off cycling. Their rated lifetimes of 10,000 hours are reduced in applications where the light is switched on and off very often. Closets and other places where lights are needed for brief illumination should use incandescent or LED bulbs.

Dimmers: Dimmable CFLs are available for lights using a dimmer switch, but check the package; not all CFLs can be used on dimmer switches. Using a regular CFL with a dimmer can shorten the bulb life span.

Timers: Most CFLs can be used with a timer, however some timers have parts which are incompatible with CFLs; to check your timer, consult the timer package or manufacturer. Using an incompatible timer can shorten the life of a CFL bulb.

Outdoors: CFLs can be used outdoors, but should be covered or shaded from the elements. Low temperatures may reduce light levels - check the package label to see if the bulb is suited for outdoor use.

Retail lighting: CFLs are not spot lights. Retail store display lighting usually requires narrow focus beams for stronger spot lighting. CFLs are better for area lighting.

Mercury content: CFLs contain small amounts of mercury which is a toxic metal. This metal may be released if the bulb is broken, or during disposal. New 'Alto' CFL bulbs are now available with low-mercury content. These low-mercury CFLs are available at our online store. For more information about mercury and CFLs, see below.