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Will You Make the Switch to Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs?

2/8/2011 9:40:37 AM

Tags: incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent light bulbs, CFLs, Cree, USA Today, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

In anticipation of next year’s federal phaseout of incandescent light bulbs, some consumers are hoarding the less-efficient bulbs, according to USA Today. “While CFLs use at least 75 percent less energy, some consumers complain the lighting is dimmer, doesn't look as warm and doesn't come on right away. Some also worry about the disposal requirements because of the bulbs' tiny mercury content,” Jayne O'Donnell and Wendy Koch report.

While the evidence of consumer hoarding at this point is anecdotal rather than statistical, there’s simply no reason to fear the phase-out. Today’s compact fluorescents are improving rapidly—and switching to the super-efficient bulbs is one of the easiest ways to pare your energy use. “Perhaps the quickest, most profitable way to reduce electricity use worldwide — thus cutting carbon emissions — is simply to change light bulbs,” Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown writes. “Replacing old-fashioned, inefficient incandescent bulbs that are still widely used today with new CFLs can reduce the electricity used for lighting by three fourths. Over its lifetime, each standard (13-watt) CFL will reduce electricity bills by roughly $30. And though a CFL may cost twice as much as an incandescent, it lasts 10 times as long. Each one reduces energy use compared with an incandescent by the equivalent of 200 pounds of coal over its lifetime.”

Mother Earth News readers weighed in on CFLs in a lively discussion a little more than a year ago. Given the rapidly improving technology and the emergence of LED lights (still too expensive for most, but promising nonetheless), it might be time to take up that conversation again. What do you think? Are you ready to make the switch?

cree LED bulb Cree's LED-based A-lamp meets Energy Star performance requirements.  

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4/1/2011 7:34:48 PM
Continued: My non-scientific opinion is that CFLs are a good replacement for indoor room lighting where moisture isn't an issue and immediate full brightness isn't needed. I don't like them for outdoor lighting due to their sensitivity to temperature (guess I'll have to wait for cheaper LEDs). Always adhere to the recommendations on the bulb - those labels are there for a reason. Be mindful that the curly-cue bulbs tend to catch more dust, and where that's an issue consider the enclosed envelope types that resemble conventional incandescents. BTW, incandescents aren't going to be completely phased out. You'll still be able to get appliance bulbs for your refrigerators and stoves, and bulbs for specialized applications.

4/1/2011 7:25:28 PM
When a generic incandescents burns out, I replace it with a CFL. One overlooked benefit of CFLs is that they put out less heat than incandescents, which means less excess heat put into the home in the summer. I also tried them out to evaluate their performance, since the utility where I work promotes them. My non-scientific observation is that some brands last longer than others, and the higher wattage seems to burn out quicker. Color has improved, along with faster times to full brightness. However, they're sensitive to cold temperatures and moisture. The shoulders on the standard "curly-cue" CFLs also hamper their use in some fixtures - this gave us fits until we figured out what was happening. We've had sparse reports of spectacular failures, and some "that's a feature, not a bug" type literature found its way to our skeptical eyes. However, I haven't heard a report of such a failure in at least three or more years.

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