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Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent


I'd like to use CFL bulbs in my recessed lighting (spotlights) but I current have dimmers. I understand that many of the CFL bulbs cannot be used with dimmers. Or you have to pay significantly more for CFLs that can be used with dimmers. Also, I have not found any "spotlight" bulbs that can be used with dimmers, although they probably exist and I'm sure are very expensive.

My question, would it be more energy efficient to replace my dimmers with regular switch and use CFL spotlight bulbs?

Thank you.

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

I spent the money and bought the CFL dimmable floodlights. After only a week one blew out and the others dimmed unevenly. So...I got my money back and bought halogen floods. They use less energy than traditional incandecent lights, the light is easy on the eyes AND they dim beautifully.

I also wonder how regular CFL floods would work on a dimmer if you just never dim them? I guess that would only work if the switch and dimmer are separate on the switch instead a knob?

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent


You'll get no flac from me as regards the hyberbole surrounding the currently touted and high-priced CFLs.

What I've never seen taken into account or mentioned when the advantages of CFL bulbs are touted ......is regional climatic differences. While they *may* result in some measurable energy savings in year-round warm climates.......

Here in NW Illinois we don't use much auxiliary lighting at all during the summer months; windows provide the vast majority of our lightning needs. During the winter months, the incandescent bulbs are used more..... but since 94% of the consumed energy is delivered as heat...... our furnace runs less as a result. Consequently, it's simply a trade-off of one type of input energy/BTUs vs another.

The spring and fall are the only "questionable" periods as regards the use of heat-generating incandescent bulbs. We "suffer" thru nicely.....thank you very much.....without using the central AC to remove *excess* heat.

And so the potential real savings from our using CFLs instead of incandescents would be.....????


Here is the text of a related article I saved to the HD. It's very "illuminating". ;)

The CFL mercury nightmare

Steven Milloy Financial Post

Saturday, April 28, 2007

How much money does it take to screw in a compact fluorescent light bulb? About US$4.28 for the bulb and labour -- unless you break the bulb. Then you, like Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, could be looking at a cost of about US$2,004.28, which doesn't include the costs of frayed nerves and risks to health.

Sound crazy? Perhaps no more than the stampede to ban the incandescent light bulb in favour of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

According to an April 12 article in The Ellsworth American, Bridges had the misfortune of breaking a CFL during installation in her daughter's bedroom: It dropped and shattered on the carpeted floor.

Aware that CFLs contain potentially hazardous substances, Bridges called her local Home Depot for advice. The store told her that the CFL contained mercury and that she should call the Poison Control hotline, which in turn directed her to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP sent a specialist to Bridges' house to test for mercury contamination. The specialist found mercury levels in the bedroom in excess of six times the state's "safe" level for mercury contamination of 300 billionths of a gram per cubic meter. The DEP specialist recommended that Bridges call an environmental cleanup firm, which reportedly gave her a "low-ball" estimate of US$2,000 to clean up the room. The room then was sealed off with plastic and Bridges began "gathering finances" to pay for the US$2,000 cleaning. Reportedly, her insurance company wouldn't cover the cleanup costs because mercury is a pollutant.

Given that the replacement of incandescent bulbs with CFLs in the average U.S. household is touted as saving as much as US$180 annually in energy costs -- and assuming that Bridges doesn't break any more CFLs -- it will take her more than 11 years to recoup the cleanup costs in the form of energy savings.

The potentially hazardous CFL is being pushed by companies such as Wal-Mart, which wants to sell 100 million CFLs at five times the cost of incandescent bulbs during 2007, and, surprisingly, environmentalists.

It's quite odd that environmentalists have embraced the CFL, which cannot now and will not in the foreseeable future be made without mercury. Given that there are about five billion light bulb sockets in North American households, we're looking at the possibility of creating billions of hazardous waste sites such as the Bridges' bedroom.

Usually, environmentalists want hazardous materials out of, not in, our homes. These are the same people who go berserk at the thought of mercury being emitted from power plants and the presence of mercury in seafood. Environmentalists have whipped up so much fear of mercury among the public that many local governments have even launched mercury thermometer exchange programs.

As the activist group Environmental Defense urges us to buy CFLs, it defines mercury on a separate part of its Web site as a "highly toxic heavy metal that can cause brain damage and learning disabilities in fetuses and children" and as "one of the most poisonous forms of pollution."

Greenpeace also recommends CFLs while simultaneously bemoaning contamination caused by a mercury-thermometer factory in India. But where are mercury-containing CFLs made? Not in the United States, under strict environmental regulation. CFLs are made in India and China, where environmental standards are virtually non-existent.

And let's not forget about the regulatory nightmare in the U.S. known as the Superfund law, the EPA regulatory program best known for requiring expensive but often needless cleanup of toxic waste sites, along with endless litigation over such cleanups.

We'll eventually be disposing of billions and billions of CFL mercury bombs. Much of the mercury from discarded and/or broken CFLs is bound to make its way into the environment and give rise to Superfund liability, which in the past has needlessly disrupted many lives, cost tens of billions of dollars and sent many businesses into bankruptcy.

As each CFL contains five milligrams of mercury, at the Maine "safety" standard of 300 nanograms per cubic meter, it would take 16,667 cubic meters of soil to "safely" contain all the mercury in a single CFL. While CFL vendors and environmentalists tout the energy cost savings of CFLs, they conveniently omit the personal and societal costs of CFL disposal.

Not only are CFLs much more expensive than incandescent bulbs and emit light that many regard as inferior to incandescent bulbs, they pose a nightmare if they break and require special disposal procedures. Yet governments (egged on by environmentalists and the Wal-Marts of the world) are imposing on us such higher costs, denial of lighting choice, disposal hassles and breakage risks in the name of saving a few dollars every year on the electric bill? - Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRWatch.com. He is a junk-science expert and advocate of free enterprise, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

I use the CFL's in a few places around the house. I am not ready to replace all the incandescents, though. I'll have to stock up before they disappear.

My most useful installation by far is the outside coach lights that are on in the evening. The regular bulbs would burn out about every 3 - 4 months, I put the CFL's in about 20 months ago. I had to replace one after about 6 months as it would stay a very dull yellow. I started thinking the hype may be overblown and was ready to have to replace them all, but apparently that was maybe one bad egg? The others and the replaced bulb are still going. In the cold weather, it takes them a while to warm up from the dull yellow light to the brighter white light, but since it is a security application it doesn't really impact anything.

As far as monthly savings, there are too many variables for me to see any difference in the electric bill traced back to the bulb replacement. You can bet I am not calling anyone if one breaks!!!

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

Most of my house has dimmers and we've switched mostly to cf bulbs. While the kids will occasionally use the dimming features and cause them to flicker. The ability to just switch over to full power is just fine. I have seen a great savings over the last 3 years. I have only had one break and that was because it was in a lamp, and within the reach of my 3 year old.

The greatest use of these bulbs has been in the chandelier over my work table. The heat from incandescent bulbs would keep me from staying at my table for long and kept many projects from being completed. Once the switch was made since we had a bad habit of taking the incandescent bulbs from it to use in other areas. I've been able to use my work table even on the hottest summer days when the heat sticks around well after dark.

Our biggest savings has been in the multi-light units throughout the house.

The first month, we recouped the price of our first batch of bulbs which went into the one room where we keep the lights burning all day. At 4 for $7 I was happy to see the savings.

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent
JRCBoston wrote:


I'd like to use CFL bulbs in my recessed lighting (spotlights) but I current have dimmers. I understand that many of the CFL bulbs cannot be used with dimmers. Or you have to pay significantly more for CFLs that can be used with dimmers. Also, I have not found any "spotlight" bulbs that can be used with dimmers, although they probably exist and I'm sure are very expensive.

My question, would it be more energy efficient to replace my dimmers with regular switch and use CFL spotlight bulbs?

Thank you.

GE makes two globed CFL spotlight replacements which can be dimmed, one equal in light to a 65 watt regular R30 (using 15 watts) and one equal to a 90 watt regular R40 they are 21710 – FLE15/2DVR30SWCD and 21718 – FLE26/2DVR40SWCD. Neither should be used with a diffuser or lense on a can light but may be trimmed.

neither is very expensive. if you call your GE regional sales office you can usually get them to send you a few for free (samples).

by the way all GE CFLs that are marked energy smart can be exchanged at the retailer where you purchased them (with proper proof of purchase) for free at your local retailer if they fail during the warranty period (2 years). i've found Lowes to be especially helpful and usually no questions asked (sometimes without a receipt).

most US energy on the grid costs 10x more mercury from the coal burning to the environment to burn an incandescent then exists in the CFL.

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

While compact florescents do "die", if you think that one has died prematurely, contact the manufacturer (800 phone #), they will honor the guarrantee for the bulb and send a replacement. I've been down that road...no questions asked except to verify the # of hours used daily.

Also, I work at an ACE Hardware & Homecenter and we still stock both types of lights, however this year in Oregon we have to "phase out" certain reflector type light and replace them with the halogen types. We too honor the cf gaurentee.:)

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

Oh yes the ongoing discussion about compact fluorescent lamps.

I’m all for considering the ways of conserving energy and decided to jump into CFL’s and probably like most folks with eyes closed about some of the shortcomings.
To be fair when I started to use these about 4 years ago they were still in the first generations which were less refined and exhibited the undesirable shortcomings like the size of the lamps , the slow warm up , and the high price.

Like anything they evolve and with continuing refinements they are becoming better and more affordable…. but they still have shortcomings.
It really becomes complicated in selecting the correct CFL for the application.

If you want to install them in a situation with a dimmer you need to buy one specified for that. To install one outside you need one that specified for that.
Then there is the size … tall or short. The colors soft or warm white , daylight , etc. . What looks good in a hallway light looks terrible in a kitchen or bathroom.

The price has come down but still more expensive than incandescent.

They are sensitive critters with all kinds of warnings like shouldn’t be in an enclosed light fixture (will shorten life). To be used outside make sure it’s a dry environment … outdoors? Recommended to be used in an enclosed light fixture outdoors … but this will shorten the life.
They are usually rated for outdoor temps down to –10 F … not much use around here when it gets far below that.

Regular CFL’s shouldn’t be used in an area of vibration like a ceiling fan … though GE has a recommended model for more money.

Frequently switching them on and off will shorten the life of the lamp … like in a bathroom ...... you will not reap the financial benefits (includes energy , cost & life of lamp). Compact fluorescent light bulbs work best if they are left on for over 15 minutes each time they are turned on. These types of lamps can take up to 3 minutes to warm-up ….. the lamp needs to warm-up in order to reach the point of most efficient operation.

And the list goes on.

It’s generally less complicated to use incandescent bulbs.

I agree with goldhiller … around here in the middle of winter the sun doesn’t come up until 8:30 cst and goes down around 4:30 … so we have to rely on turning on lights. When the temperatures dips down to 50 below like it has been lately I’ll take that supplemental heat incandescent bulbs generate … thank you very much.

It made me chuckle when asc2078 mentioned the warranty. I was thinking most people don’t save the packaging and the manufacturers would gamble on that. Like he also mentioned having to send the defective bulb back with the cost of shipping might be close to buying a new lamp outright. I checked the warranty return policy on the latest ones purchased … which are name brand … and it is still requiring to send the bulb with proof of purchase back to them. At least that is one way to hold the manufacturers responsible for the mercury disposal.

I’ll continue to use CFL’s though being more selective where and how.

But I’ll probably continue to use incandescent ones as well … even if it means using them for the winter months and changing over to CFL’s for summer.

Just my 5 cents worth.:)

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

Can I use a CFL in any position?
Yes, GE screwbase CFL bulbs can be used in any operating position unless there is text printed on the lamp or packaging that indicates a required operating position.

FYI ... From GE lighting

DB ... you might be correct in your thinking.

Though around here at 40 or 50 below it ain't going to matter if they are upside down , right side up , inside out ... they ain't going to work .... unless I wire in a small heater for them ... so much for the energy savings.:D

See that's the thing .... an incandescent will work at those temperatures .... no hassles .... and the government wants to eliminate them by 2012 .... hmmm. ;)

Re: Dimmer vs Compact Flourescent

We converted over this past summer and I've been very happy with them. I actually prefer the light quality over standard bulbs. We do have a couple of fan and dimmer situations where they don't work, but not big deal.

As to the environmental issues regarding mercury, don't standard fluorescent tubes contain as much if not more mercury in them? Haven't we been using and disposing them for decades w/o any problems? I remember working at a place in high school and we routinely just threw the old tubes in the dumpster - in fact, it was "fun" to break them when we did. I can't imagine many if any considering them an eco hazard.


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