Using Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs


    A simple step that can be taken to reduce energy costs in businesses and homes is to switch your incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light bulbs. (cfl’s) Making the decision to change is still not as easy as it should be, so here are a few thoughts on the subject.

We can probably all remember the time several years ago when the cfl’s first arrived. Our first two came as a free promotion from the electric company. They were an odd, large spiral shape that did not conform at all to traditional ideas of light bulbs. Those first two bulbs sat unused for months while I tried to find a place to use them. They were too long to fit into a traditional ceiling light. They could not go on a lamp which required the shade to clamp on to the bulb. They were so odd looking that we did not want them in a place where we could see the actual bulb. When I did finally find a lamp in the living room where they would work, it was decided the quality of light made the room look like a department store. They found their way back into their cases and on to the laundry room shelf where they sat unused for a year or more until I thought to put them in the barn where the objectionable light would not be an issue. A year or two later when the cfl’s started to become widely available in stores, many of the same problems existed. Plus, they were prohibitively expensive, even considering their claims of long life and lower energy use.

My, how times have changed in the world of cfl’s! Now there are bulbs in all shapes and sizes, many duplicating the shape of the traditional incandescent light bulb. They light quality of the bulb has also changed for the better, closely duplicating the warmer light we are used seeing from incandescent bulbs. I even found a yellow cfl bug light for the front porch. Best of all, the price has come way down. Last week, I found a display of cfl’s in all sizes marked on sale at 40% off their normal retail. This lower price, combined with the choice of wattage, shapes, sizes, longer life, and energy savings, made purchasing several an easy decision.

Because of the small mercury content in these bulbs, there is a need to recycle, rather than tossing them in the trash. This issue is less of a problem than many think because of the long life of the bulbs. The first ones I installed a few years ago are still going strong. There are also precautions to use in cleaning up a broken cfl. I will detail what I can find out on the mercury question in another article, but will just say now that incandescent bulbs have their own environmental issues, in the manufacturing process and in the higher energy use. The energy used to power our homes is mostly provided by coal burning power plants which emit mercury into the air. The best solution eventually may be the new bright LED bulbs. Right now, their cost is prohibitively expensive for most uses, but that may change as the technology gets better and the economies of scale reduce prices.

If you have been resisting the switch from incandescent to CFL bulbs, now may be the time for another look. There are even some models that can be used in a fixture attached to a dimmer switch. The improved light quality, bulb size and shape, and price make these energy saving bulbs much more desirable. The mercury issue is complicated. I compromise and do not use the cfl’s in fixtures or lamps where they might be easily broken. However, I do use them in overhead lighting, and outdoor porch fixtures.

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Will Sig
1 Anna

Hey Will, got my whole house running on them, except where my lamp shade rests on the bulb itself. Encouraging post, thanks. btw results are out for IDing me, and I gave you some links from my blog. Anna 🙂


2 Jason Petty recently got this press release concerning mercury content in CFL’s. We thought this could be of interest to your readers.


Use even less mercury with MaxLite’s™ low mercury compact fluorescent lamps. Reinforcing its goal of producing the lowest mercury CFLs, MaxLite™ was one of the first in the industry to participate in the National Electrical Manufacturer’s Association’s (NEMA) initiative, “Voluntary Commitment on Mercury in CFLs.” Participants in the program pledge to limit the mercury content of their self-ballasted CFLs (residential use only) with less than 25 watts to 5 mg. and those with 25-40 watts to 6 mg. per bulb. MaxLite™ CFLs utilize only 1.2 to 2.5mg of mercury per lamp; half the amount present on the tip of a ball point pen, as compared to typical CFLS containing 4 mg. of mercury.

Always ahead of the curve, MaxLite™ has created a unique procedure to control the amount of liquid mercury in its compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). In its burner production, MaxLite™ accuracy is achieved by the utilization of a sealed tool akin to a medical injection tube. This permits defined quantities of liquid mercury to enter it each time the fluid is drawn. Then the identical amount of liquid mercury is infused into the burner. One amalgam dice is placed into the mercury control of the amalgam lamps. The amount of mercury is also fixed as the amalgam dice’s weight is controlled by amalgam manufacturers.

The low mercury quantity is the least amount MaxLiteâ„¢ deems feasible for a compact fluorescent lamp to maintain a long and productive life.


3 Will

Thanks Jason. Is there really mercury on the tip of a ball pint pen?


4 Medical Oddities

I use the energy star compact fluorescent light bulbs throughout my entire house they actually do save you quite a bit of money in just 1 year of using them. 🙂

Medical Odditiess last blog post..Liberty Medical Supplies


5 R Whissen

Over the past 12 months I have replaced 15 incandescents with CFLs. Over the weekend I replaced 11 85 watt incandescent floods with 23 watt CFLs. The only incandescents now in my house are in fixtures that are used only very infrequently and fir extremely short durations.

I am for the most part happy with the changes, although I am a little disappointed that the floods take up to 2 minutes to come to full brightness. Nevertheless, the quality of light is superior to what I had with the incandescents, and I am sticking with the changes.


6 Will

I have a few places where the light comes on only for a few seconds once in a log while. I also have not changes those out. The only one I have that takes a couple of minutes to come to full intensity is a yellow porch light. But that is OK as it comes on at dark and stays on until morning.

Eventually we will all go through this replacement dance with LED bulbs, but they are still too expensive for general use.


7 Green B

At this point it’s almost ridiculous not to make use of CFL’s. They’re one of the best things to happen to the energy crisis, and like the poster above me says, the EASIEST green building change you can make.


8 Superior Lighting

Very interesting. As a company, we at Superior Lighting are always looking for new ways to become more eco friendly. We offer energy efficient light bulbs and lighting solutions and work with vendors on sound packaging methods.  What else can we do?


9 Jamie

Energy efficient light bulbs are the easiest first step consumers and businesses can take towards reducing their energy consumption. Products have gotten light years better in the past few years and, in my eyes, indisputably better for 99% of applications. Both CFL and LED light bulbs run much cooler than incandescent bulbs, use energy much more efficiently, and do offer saving on your electricity bill. I am a vendor of energy efficient bulbs, so perhaps I am a bit biased, but I don’t know why everyone doesn’t switch today.


10 Will

Hey Jamie – I am a huge fan of the LED bulbs except for their price! Once the price comes down, I think incandescent and fluorescent bulbs will go the way of CRT TV’s. How long do you think it will be before LED bulbs become affordable?


11 Jay Walker

Before I started my own business I didn’t think something like finding light bulbs would be important.


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