Compact Fluorescents

Your Best Lighting Investment
Beginner

Inside this Article

CF with small globe
This CF bulb’s translucent plastic cover gives it a more traditional look.
Spiral CFL bulb
The common spiral tube wraps a long tube in a small package
CF packaging
Bulb packaging and anatomy.
CF with small globe
Spiral CFL bulb
CF packaging

Ninety-five percent of the energy used to illuminate an incandescent lightbulb is wasted as heat, and only 5 percent of the energy consumed actually produces the light you’re after. Using these antiquated lighting devices is about as “old-school” as you can get compared to today’s technology. If you’re still using them, you are paying the price in more ways than one.

Compact fluorescent (CF) lighting is the best and most reliable way to make light with electricity. CFs are now abundantly available in most markets. The most common place to find them is in the electrical department of your local hardware store, and some grocery stores even have a decent selection.

Choosing CFs

CFs come in an amazing assortment of sizes, styles, and types. First, decide where you are replacing an old incandescent. Find the size that will fit, and make sure that if it will be enclosed, the CF is rated for that sort of service.

A CF screws in a regular socket, just like an ordinary incandescent (medium-base is the standard size). There are also 2- and 4-pin replacement bulbs for some CF fixtures. The most common type of CF is the “twister” or spiral shape. The newer mini-twists are about the same size as incandescents, and fit most applications. Some CFs have diffusers on the fluorescent tubes to make them look like incandescents. Three-way bulbs are available, as well as dimmable CFs that work with dimmer switches. You can also find CFs with the smaller candelabra-sized base.

Decide how much light you will need. Light equals lumens. A 25-watt CF can replace a 100-watt incandescent, based on lumen output. Both have approximately 1,600 lumens. Take a look at the watts-to-lumen output ratio on the CF packaging. Some CFs take a moment to achieve the full lumen brightness, especially if it is cold.

Some manufacturers have recently introduced a wider range of color in their product lines. By color, I mean color rendition and color temperature measured in degrees kelvin. A standard soft-white-style incandescent is typically in the range of 2,750 to 3,200 degrees K. CFs can range from 2,000 to 5,000 degrees kelvin. You choose the quality of light that you like best.

It is important to have a positive experience with saving energy, so I recommend selecting a reputable brand of CF. The Energy Star rating on a CF ensures that the manufacturer has submitted their product to the high standards of rigorous quality testing. Any product that bears this seal of approval will have met U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy specifications. Try different brands, styles, and models to receive the performance you want.

You can find CFs priced at US$4 or less now, and some retailers have promotions in the fall and spring. The Energy Star Web site has a dealer locator and even a rebate finder (see Access).

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