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I started thinking that compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) had really hit the mainstream when I was in a hardware store last spring and saw a CFL bug light. Wow, I thought. They're making CFLs that do everything now!
Compact fluorescents are great because they save a lot of energy and money, fast. But the early versions of this bulb all looked pretty much the same. (See photo at right.) That's the image most of us still have in our heads of what compact fluorescent light bulbs look like. In fact, I think I've heard people call these light bulbs 'the swirly ones' about as often as I've heard them called CFLs or compact fluorescents.
The problem is that a lot of people think the swirled shape of the light bulb at right is ugly. Personally, I think it's nice — kind of modern looking. But even those of us who like the way they look may have given up on CFLs for certain types of light fixtures where the standard CFL doesn't work, such as for lights with dimmer switches, or recessed lights.
Not so fast! As compact fluorescents have become more popular, different sizes and shapes are now easy to find. Chances are that they're stocked in your local hardware store, but if not, it's easy to find them online. You can find special bulbs that work with dimmer switches, bulbs for outdoor lighting, small bulbs for desk lamps, colored CFLs, and — perhaps most importantly — bulbs where the swirly part is hidden inside a globe that work well for all sorts of decorative lights.
For More Information
Want to learn more about what makes CFLs so great? Check out these sources for related pages and articles: EnergyStar, the U.S. Deparment of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), National Public Radio and The New York Times.
Here are a couple of sources for buying specialty CFLs online: Buylighting.com, Topbulb.com, and Eartheasy.com.
And if you have concerns about the mercury in CFLs, here's a related post.
Do you know of other helpful resources for learning more about energy efficient lighting? You can post them in the comments section below.
Megan E. Phelps is a freelance writer based in Kansas. She enjoys reading and writing about all things related to sustainable living including homesteading skills, green building and renewable energy. You can find her on Google+.