CFL Myths Exposed

Reader Contribution by Lindsey Bugbee
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The Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI), a nonprofit organization that conducts research on electricity usage, recently addressed several concerns related to replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). The EPRI assures consumers that manufacturers have rectified many of the issues related to using CFLs, including usage in three-way fixtures, non-compatibility in dimmers, the high price of CFLs and CFL use in fans and candelabras. Additionally, CFL users should understand the lifespan of the bulb and causes of flicker.

Here’s what else the EPRI had to say about CFLs:

  • As manufacturers phase out incandescent bulbs in accordance with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, consumers can be assured that CFLs will act as a formidable replacement for the bulbs of the past. Manufacturers have developed three-way CFLs suited for standard three-way sockets; just like incandescent bulbs, the three-way CFLs are available in different wattage/light output combinations:

*A 12/23/29 W CFL is equivalent to a 50/100/150 W incandescent bulb.

*A 14/19/32 W CFL is equivalent to a 40/75/150 W incandescent bulb.

  • Similarly, new designs ensure that CFLs will fit in fans and candelabras. Frosted glass bulbs are available along with “flame” lamps, curled lamp tips and traditional incandescent shapes.
  • If you are concerned about using a CFL in your dimmer, buy CFL bulbs that specify “true dimmability” on the box. These bulbs are likely to be compatible with both rotary and programmable dimmers. Of course, one should always conduct a home test before buying large quantities of CFLs for dimmers.
  • If you are concerned about purchasing CFLs due to the high cost, check the price again; manufacturers are selling CFLs for less and less as consumer demand rises. The spreading use of CFLs has also ensured that several facilities offer safe disposal of the bulbs. While a typical CFL contains less mercury than a can of tuna, you should dispose of your bulbs properly. You can do this through your local waste management provider, retailers that provide free disposal of CFLs or check online resources like
  • Some people are deterred from buying CFLs because they have heard that CFLs cause flicker. The only flicker experience with a CFL bulb is line voltage flicker, but this sort of flicker is more noticeable in incandescent bulbs. Another myth exists that CFL lifespan is not as long as advertised; however, lifespan depends on the user. You must properly install the CFL for optimal use — to avoid cracking the glass, hold onto the plastic part of the bulb as you screw it into the can. Also remember that most CFLs are not designed to last as long in recessed cans. The lifespan of your bulb essentially depends on usage and how often you turn the bulb on and off. Look on the box: generally the manufacturer provides the recommended number of times you can turn the CFL on and off in a day to get the lifespan that you expect.

In the long run, switching to CFLs will save you time and money without making you sacrifice luminary style. Enjoy high-quality light while saving the earth: kick the incandescent habit!

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