the packaging on compact fluorescent lightbulbs can be difficult to decipher
Photo: Antonis Achilleos
Trying to decipher the labels on a CFL package can make you think twice about using the eco-friendly bulbs, no matter the energy savings. Here's how to translate the tech talk so that you can shop smart and get the right bulb for every light in your house.

1. Convert the wattage. It takes fewer watts, a measure of power consumption, to get the same amount of light from a CFL as it does from an incandescent.

2. Choose the right bulb. Using a CFL designed for a table lamp, for instance, in a recessed light fixture can cause the bulb to overheat and fail. Always check to see which type of fixture the CFL is rated for before you buy.

3. Read the warranty. Even if a CFL is advertised to last 10,000 hours, you typically have two years from the date of purchase to return a spent bulb to get your money back. So save your receipts.

4. Consider the color. The lower the number of kelvins the more rosy-hued the light. For instance, a rating of 2,700K will yield a "warm" reddish light, and 6,000K will put out a "cold" bluish light.

5. Select the brightness. The higher the number of lumens the brighter the light. Typical lumen output of a bulb used in a table lamp is 900, which is equivalent to a 15-watt CFL or a 60-watt incandescent.

6. Check the dimensions. Bulbs that are taller than 4 inches, the standard size for incandescents, may poke out of your shade or exceed the height of the shade's harp.
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