Home>Discussions>ELECTRICAL & LIGHTING>CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?
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Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

I've had mixed results. Some do last a long time, others seem to burn out within a day or two; some have a good spectrum, others have a greenish cast. I should have paid more attention to the brand when I bought it. All have the slight delay when turning on, but I haven't noticed the hum others mention.
I too have concerns about disposal and breakage, AFAIK they go in the regular trash around here.

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

We have several in the house. We even replaced a few of our recessed cans with the sealed fixture retrofit kit described in This Old House Magazine about two years ago. These are dimmable bulbs made by TCP, 22 watts, 2700K color temperature. I like the light better than standard incandescent floodlights. They are technically dimmable but I've found dimming dramatically decreases the useful lifetime of the bulbs to about 2000 hours. Also, dimming too low causes flickering, but that can be mitigated with dimmers that can be adjusted to not go below a certain point. The kits cost $25 with a bulb, but replacements (with the TCX socket) are only $5 or so online.

Another fixture has a Philips dimmable CFL floodlight which works very well. Only cost $11 (not bad considering incandescent floods cost $5-10).

We have fixed CFLs in the most used fixtures in other parts of the house (bathroom, bedrooms, hallway).

We're doing a kitchen renovation soon and hope to upgrade all the recessed lights to CREE LR6 LED can lights: http://www.creelighting.com/products.htm. High initial cost but if they live up to their promise, better dimming, and cost savings that will more than pay for themselves. And they work with standard cans and dimmers so our electrician shouldn't flip out.

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

I was happy to use them because I want to lower my electric bill, however many have not lasted nearly as long as advertised. I put them in my kitchen recessed lighting and some of them lasted less than two years when the packaging claims they should last at least six years. (How do I know? I just moved into my house 3 years ago and replaced the bulbs after about one year.) It's a real kick in the teeth. I spent all that extra money hoping to save on my electric bill and in the end it ended up costing me alot more. From now on I am writing the date I begin using them at the base of the bulb in a spot that can't be seen readily in permanent marker and save the receipts and packaging in a box. I have already returned two to Home Depot and got my money back. The ones in my outdoor post lights also haven't lasted too long. My husband tried to put them in my the light fixture above my garage doors and after getting out the ladder and climing up there, they did fit.

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

3 way bulbs are hard to find. Dimmer compatible bulbs can be hard to find in the styles that I'm looking for, plus they can be much more expensive. Disposal problems - they contain mercury, so they can't be just thrown away. A store in my area recycles them for free, but I don't shop there often. Though I have installed many in high usage areas, I still have many incandescent bulbs where dimmers are in use.

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

I have mixed feelings about CFL's. The idea of using less electricity and a lower light bill is a huge plus. However, the amount of light they put out is poor, so I find myself turning on every lamp in the room to compensate. Also, one cracked as I was twisting it into a lamp socket. Then I was faced with the dilema of how to dispose of it. It seems mercury is undesirable once exposed. The local landfill won't even take it without prior notification. Total hassle.

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

I replaced all my bulbs with CFl's to see, if there would be a BIG difference in my electric bill and there wasn't. The BIG energy users are your major appliances. We unpluged our freezer today and we're going to see, if there is a difference in our electric bill this summer. My wife didn't like the CFL for a reading light, it didn't put out the light she needed, so a regular bulb was put back in. :cool:

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

We have replaced a few in the house as a trial. (Although I'm not sure why we still consider them a trial when soon we won't have a choice!:mad:) I think we are going to have to buy-up in watts to get the same light. It just doesn't seem as bright. And how are we supposed to dispose of these properly? I can't imagine what kind of polution all that mercury will create.:eek:

We purchased a bulb to use outside in a floodlight . Typically, the incandescent bulb only lasts 4 or 5 weeks. It hangs on the northwest corner of the house so it is exposed to north and south winds as well as extreme temps. The bulb is still working but it takes a long time for it to light up. That is completely unacceptable in our motion sensitive security fixtures. We live outside the city so when someone causes the light to come on it is usually something we need to pay attention to. By the time the light comes on, the offending party has done whatever they came to do and left, in the dark. We may have to stock up on a case of the 100watters before they are banished.

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?
Administrator wrote:

How are the new compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs working out for you? There are dozens of different types to choose from at local retailers, but do those funky spirals have any shortcomings when it comes using them at home? The editors at This Old House want to know if you've had any problems, and how you've overcome them. Tell us where you use CFLs and what brands you like, or don't like, and why. Your CFL bulb tips—and trials—could be featured in the September issue of the magazine.

So far, these bulbs have proven very "economical" for me...living in an Old House, almost 100 years old, with original wiring, there are some electrical issues. We were constantly replacing bulbs that had blown out for no apparent reason, etc. Since beginning to replace regular bulbs with the new CFL bulbs, in November 2007, not a single one has blown or burnt out!
The major drawbacks are the lower level of light from them, and the fact that if you have shades that have to fit around a bulb, so sorry!! Minor points actually, as I have been very satisfied with the CFLs...

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

Interesting .... while reading through many of the posts here I can agree on some of the inconvenient shortcomings in CFL's.

Things like the spiral types are taller than common bulbs .... needing to purchase special CFL's for use with dimmers ... hit and miss using them outdoors in very cold temperatures .... etc..

When they first came onto the market I admit to blindly jumping on the bandwagon expecting wonderful and great things from CFL's. Once things didn't always live up to my expectations I started reading .... creditable sources .... what's what with CFL's.

However .... what's more interesting are comments about the hazards with the mercury also the longevity and efficiency of the CFL's.

The mercury content seems to have raised quite a stir with folks.
Meanwhile the standard fluorescent tubes commonly found everywhere from commercial buildings to people's homes contain mercury and have been used for decades with little frenzy. These are and were disposed of with little regard and some folks can remember how cool it was to see them exploded when throwing them into the dumpster.

CFLs are safe to use in your home ..... no mercury is released when the bulbs are in use and they pose no danger when handled properly.

An extremely small amount of mercury .... an average of about 3 - 5 milligrams .... is sealed within the glass tubing ...... roughly the amount it would take to cover the tip of a ball-point pen.

By comparison :

  • fluorescent lamp ... 5 milligrams
  • Watch battery ... 25 milligrams
  • Dental amalgams ( fillings) ... 500 milligrams
  • Home thermometer ... 500 milligrams – 2 grams
  • Float switches in sump pumps ... 2 grams
  • Tilt thermostat .... 3 grams
  • Electrical tilt switches and relays ... 3.5 grams

So, people that have the manual style of thermostat in their homes to control the heating/cooling contains 600 times more mercury than a CFL ... or watch batteries that have 5 times the amount ..... with little regard for concern.
Research indicates that there is no health risk to you or your family should the bulb break as there is such a small amount of mercury in CFLs. The greatest risk is getting cut from the glass shards. However ... there are some published safety procedures that can be followed ... like opening a window and wearing gloves while cleaning up the broken bulb.... no need to call in a hazardous waste team.

As for efficiency and longevity .... CFl's have a warm up time delay. Once they reach their warm up the light output reaches peak emitting and that's when the CFL is becomes energy efficient. They will be efficient in using them for areas where they will be on for extended periods of time .... longer than the 3-5 minute warm up. In areas where they are short cycled only for a few minutes .... like a quick trip to the bathroom .... they won't benefit.

Short cycling the CFL's also reduces the life of the unit.

For example ... almost 4 years ago I purchased a 3 pack of CFL's . Two of those were installed in a bathroom and the third was installed in a light fixture on a timer which stays on for extended periods each and every day.
The 2 in the bathroom have both been replaced while the third one is still operating to this day.
The reason the 2 in the bathroom had been replaced is they are short cycled frequently whereas the third isn't.

Just some thoughts. :)

Re: CFL Bulbs: Love 'Em, Hate 'Em, or Both?

I'm guessing that our experience with CFL's is like that of a lot of people - some very good, some not so good. On balance, however, the energy savings is so significant that I can't understand why anyone would continue to use incandescents.

The good has been that the life expectancy has been as advertised, and the savings have been as well. We've switched out just about every bulb we could for CFLs, and we knocked about a third off of our electric bill.

We've also been able to find a fair number of decorative options, such as globes for above the vanities and a good dimmable for our hanging lamp above the kitchen table.

The not so good are in dimmables generally, particularly for speciality fixtures like ceiling fans. We have a vaulted ceiling in our family room that has four light sconces on it, and is dimmable, and finding dimmables bright enough for a room that size but small enough to fit those sconces has been a real challenge. We face a similar circumstance in our dining room with our dimmable chandelier.

I know, however, that the market is evolving and more CFL options are appearing almost daily. I've regularly used a couple of Web sites for some of the speciality bulbs, but more and more the big retailers, Wal-Mart and Home Depot, especially, are adding to their CFL stock.


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