CFL Light Bulbs

So I was asked a question recently about light bulbs. Compact Fluorescent Lights in particular. It was kind of a general wondering about whether or not they’re worth it and what the real difference between a regular light bulb and a CFL light bulb is.

Well the short answer (that I’m famous for) is yes, they’re worth it. The long answer (that I’m also famous for) is why they’re worth it. Here’s why.

When CFL’s first came out, they were available in one color temperature. Ugly. I’ve heard many people complain about how white they were and how they hated the fluorescent like appearance they had. Well that’s changed. They are now available in a variety of color temperatures all the way from your standard incandescent yellow to your bright white ‘daylight’ style. So no matter what you prefer, there’s a CFL that will fit your needs.

I don’t feel like changing every bulb in my house, especially since none are burned out. Where is a change to CFL the most important?

That’s an easy question I was also asked and my answer is anywhere that your lights are always on. What do I mean? Well here are some examples. I know we’re all supposed to shut the lights off when we leave a room, or when we leave the house, but let’s face it, it’s nice to leave some lights on at night and when were not home to at least give the appearance that we are. So I would say to start there. Your outside light that you leave on all night definitely deserves a CFL. You’ll save huge amounts of money on your electric bill and you won’t notice any difference at all between a CFL and your old incandescent. Your kitchen light or living room lamp that you leave on when you go out should also be changed to a CFL bulb. Think about it. You probably leave these lights on all night, and anytime you’re not home, so save some money and make the world a greener place.

It’s simple to start. There’s no need to run out and replace every light bulb in your house (unless you want to which would be great). But you can still make a difference one step at a time. Besides what I mentioned above, replace the other bulbs in your home with the ‘as they burn out’ approach. Which I don’t think needs any explaining.

Is there a downside to CFL’s? Here’s another question that needs a short and a long answer. The short answer is no. The long answer is that there are some issues with them. Number one, they contain mercury, so when it comes time to dispose of them, do so responsibly. Stop by your local home improvement store, or contact your town to find out where to bring these bulbs so that the lead and other materials they contain can be recycled properly. Number two, they take a little time to reach full brightness in cold weather. This is really only an issue if you’re using CFL’s in outside light fixtures during the colder months. Even then though, the time to full brightness is so short that most people won’t even notice. On a very cold night, they still only seem to take 30 seconds to a minute to light fully. I barely consider that a negative at all and the only place that I’ve had any complaints about them are in sensor lights that come up when they detect motion. If you’re walking down your driveway and you have one of these lights, you might make it to the front door before the light is at full brightness, not a big deal for most, but worth mentioning. Number three, you can’t use most of them with a dimmer. If you have dimmer switched installed in your home, that’s great and you’re probably already saving energy using them. However, it does make the switch to CFL’s a little more difficult since you’ll have to purchase CFL’s listed as ‘dimmable’, but that’s hardly a big deal.

Make the switch. Changing your light bulbs to compact fluorescent can save hundreds of dollars a year in energy savings. Prices have dropped sharply on CFL bulbs in the last year and I would expect them to keep falling as demand and interest increases, making it even more affordable to save money on your energy bill. At this point, there’s no reason not to.

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