Choosing the Right Compact Florescent (CFL) Bulbs

Unfortunately, choosing the right CFL is more complex than choosing the right incandescent bulb.  With a CFL you can choose the color spectrum of light.  CFLs are more affected by things like vibration, moisture  and heat.

Photo Cells and Times

Some fixtures that operate with photo cells or timers are not compatible with CFLs.  Check with the manufacture.

Dimmers

There are CFLs that are made to work with dimmers.  Check the package.

Recessed Lights

CFL should not be used in fully contained recessed fixtures as the heat build up will shorten their life.  In our area most recessed lights in homes are not insulated, even though they should be, and thus can take a CFL.

Ceiling Fans

CFL’s do not like vibration.  It shortens their life.  GE, who sells a ceiling fan bulb, also recommends not using CFLs in ceiling fans.

Light Range

CFLs have a range of light quality available.  Choosing the right light for the application you want is important.  It is also important to make sure that you do not accidentally mix different light ranges in the same area.

Energy Star

All CFLs are more efficient than incandescent bulbs, but not all are rated as Energy Star.  Energy Star specifies, among other things, longevity and lighting information placed on the package.  It is a good idea to always buy Energy Star bulbs.

Mercury

Though traditional bulbs do not have mercury in them, they are responsible for more than 4 times the amount of mercury into the environment because electricity is the largest source of environmental mercury.  So even though you need to be aware of the mercury actually in the CFL, you should also know that their use is a great way of reducing the amount of mercury released into the environment.

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 4 milligrams (mg). By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 mgs of mercury – an amount equal to the mercury in 125 CFLs. Mercury is an essential part of CFLs; it allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact (not broken) or in use.

Most makers of light bulbs have reduced mercury in their fluorescent lighting products. Thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, the average mercury content in CFLs has dropped at least 20% or more in the past several years. Some manufacturers have even made further reductions, dropping mercury content to 1 mg per light bulb.

Because of their Mercury content CFLs should be recycled and NOT put into the trash.  Both Lowes and Home Depot will take them.