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CFL vs Incandescent

Woman holdling light bulbsThe future looks dim for incandescent light bulbs, the world-changing invention introduced by Thomas Edison in 1879. Part of the blame goes to CFL bulbs, also known as compact fluorescent light bulbs. Consumers have turned to CFL bulbs to save money and energy. Supporters say that the new CFLs last longer and can provide users with substantial savings on their electric bills over the lifetime of the bulbs.

Phasing Out Incandescent Bulbs in the U.S.

Soon it may be hard to even buy an incandescent bulb, at least in the United States. An energy bill passed by Congress in December 2007 and signed into law by the president set energy standards that can’t be met by traditional incandescent bulbs.

The new rules have begun phasing in this year (2012) and will take full effect in 2014. So it is time that consumers get used to CFLs. And it’s likely that consumers will have more options by 2014 for replacing traditional incandescent bulbs, including advanced incandescent bulbs and cost-effective LED bulbs.

The United States is not alone in taking bold moves to save electricity. In 2007, Australia became the first nation in the world to announce a ban on traditional incandescent bulbs, which took effect in 2010.

CFL Vs. Incandescent: What’s the Difference?

If you haven’t made the switch to CFLs, you may think that all bulbs are the same. In fact, CFL and incandescent bulbs are quite different.

How do Incandescent Bulbs Work?

Incandescent bulbs work by conducting an electric current along a filament made of a long, thin piece of tungsten metal. The filament must be heated to temperatures of about 2,300 degrees Celsius to glow and emit a white-hot light. But the process transforms only 5 percent to 10 percent of the electricity used into visible light. The rest is transformed into heat, which can eventually increase the temperature of a room.

How do CFL Bulbs Work?

CFL bulbs, on the other hand, are made of glass tubes filled with gas and a small amount of mercury. The amount is so small that an old-fashioned glass thermometer holds 100 times as much mercury as one CLF bulb. Light is emitted when mercury molecules in a CFL bulb become excited by electricity running between two electrodes at its base. The mercury emits an invisible ultraviolet light that becomes visible when it hits the white coating inside the CFL bulb.

The Benefits (and Drawbacks) of CFL Bulbs

Person holding CFL and Incandescent bulbsThere are definite advantages to using CFL bulbs. But for now, the bulbs aren’t popular with many consumers. In fact, although CFLs are widely available at retailers such as Home Depot and Wal-Mart, sales of the bulbs account for only 5 percent of the light bulb market.

Manufacturers of CFL bulbs promise changes in the near future that should make the bulbs more attractive to buyers. And supporters say that the benefits of CLF bulbs now on the market far outweigh their disadvantages.

Advantages of CFL Bulbs

Let’s take a closer look at why people choose CFL bulbs.

Lightbulb with hundred dollar billCost Savings. Energy Star encourages consumers to think long-term. According to the Energy Star Website, an Energy Star qualified-CFL bulb will pay for itself in six months and save about $30 in electricity over its lifetime.

Energy savings. A CFL bulb uses about 75 percent less energy than a traditional light bulb. Nationwide, a 60 percent to 70 percent decrease in light energy usage would save as much energy annually as the total amount of energy used by all the homes in Texas.

CFL bulb with grassHere’s another statistic: The United States could eliminate greenhouse gas emissions equal to 800,000 cars if each household in the country replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb, according to Energy Star. Energy Star is a program of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designed to help consumers save money and protect the environment by using energy-efficient products and practices.

Longevity. CFL bulbs last about 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. It’s not unusual for a CFL bulb to last for five years, and even as long as nine years.

In addition, manufacturers that produce Energy Star-qualified bulbs are required to offer at least a two-year limited warranty. So if your CFL bulb burns out, you may be entitled to a refund or replacement.

Color. Earlier fluorescent bulbs were criticized for their harsh, unnatural and unflattering light tones. Manufacturers offer better options and greater variety today. In fact, a test performed by Popular Mechanics in 2007 found that the CLF bulbs scored higher for overall quality of light than the incandescent control bulbs.

Disadvantages of CFL Bulbs

Now, let’s look at some of the drawbacks of CFL bulbs.

CFL bulb in pile of light bulbsUpfront Cost. A standard incandescent bulb costs about 50 cents. A single CFL bulb can cost $3 or more. Now imagine replacing ever bulb in your house with a CFL, and you can understand why some consumers are unwilling or unable to make the switch. But remember, buying a CFL bulb is an investment, as it will save you money over an incandescent bulb over the long run.

Delay time. Most manufacturers say that it takes a CFL bulb several seconds to reach full brightness after it is switched on. In addition, turning a CFL light bulb on and off repeatedly can shorter its life. It’s best to flip the switch only if you plan for the bulb to remain on for at least 15 minutes.
Mercury concerns. One reason that some people are leery of CFL bulbs is that each one contains about 5 milligrams of mercury, a toxic substance.

But mercury also is emitted into the air by coal-fired power plants that generate electricity. In fact, one 75-watt incandescent bulb will contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the air over its lifetime through the extra use of electricity than would be released by breaking a single CFL bulb.

Clean up and disposal concerns. A CFL bulb contains about enough mercury to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. That may not seem like much, but it is enough for you to take the following precautions if you break a bulb.

Precautions to Take if You Break a CFL Bulb

After you’ve picked up the pieces of the bulb, wipe the area with a wet paper towel and place all clean-up materials in an outside trash can. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water when you are done. Then check with your local municipality to find out if broken CFLs can be picked up with your other garbage or if they must be taken to a specified recycling center.

The good news is that CFL bulbs are relatively difficult to break. Still, you may want to put down a drop cloth when you change one.

The mercury in a CFL bulb also means that you should not toss burned-out bulbs in the trash. Many municipalities offer recycling services, as do retailers such as Home Depot, Wal-Mart and IKEA, although not necessarily at all locations.

In the future, you may be able to return CFLs to the place you purchased them and receive a deposit back, much like cans and bottles.

Use limitations. You can’t just screw any CFL bulb into the device you want to use it in and be guaranteed that it will work. Lights with dimmer switches require the use of dimmable CFLs.

Three-way lights require three-way CFL bulbs. So check the bulb’s package to make sure you are buying one that meets your needs.

Choosing the Right CFL

Types of CFL lightbulbsCFL bulbs are relatively expensive so it’s best to read packages carefully, or be willing to make returns. Energy Star is working to persuade manufacturers to agree to standard labeling practices that could reduce confusion. In the meantime, here is some information to help you make the right choices when buying incandescent bulbs.

Wattage. Energy Star provides the following conversion chart for people looking to replace an incandescent bulb with an Energy Star-qualified CFL bulb.

  • 40-watt incandescent = 450 lumens (minimum light output) = 9 to 13 watt CFL
  • 60-watt incandescent = 800 lumens (minimum light output) = 13 to 15 watt CFL
  • 75-watt incandescent = 1,100 lumens (minimum light output) = 18 to 25 watt CFL
  • 100-watt incandescent = 1,600 lumens (minimum light output) = 23 to 30 watt CFL
  • 150-watt incandescent = 2,600 lumens (minimum light output) = 30 to 52 watt CFL

Energy Star-qualified bulbs carry the blue Energy Star label.

Light Colors. Advances in technology give consumers more variety in light colors with CFLs than the sickly, antiseptic fluorescent tones that first gave fluorescents a bad reputation.

Today’s CFLs are available in a variety of mood-setting white light. To find the bulb that’s right for your needs, you’ll need to determine its Kelvin (K) temperature range. Lower Kelvin numbers mean that the light will be yellowish in tone. Bulbs with higher Kelvin numbers will produce whiter or bluer light.

Warm white and soft white lights are within the 2,700 to 3,000 K range. For a brighter white light, look for bulbs marked as 3,500 to 4,100 K. CFL bulbs in cool, white or bright white are good for kitchens or work spaces that need to be well-lit. Blue light that is most like daylight will come from bulbs marked 5,000 to 6,500 K.

Shapes and Styles. Most people are familiar with fluorescent tube and spiral bulbs, but CFLs come in many more shapes. There are covered globes, candles, indoor reflectors, outdoor reflectors, and covered A-shaped bulbs that look like traditional incandescent bulbs. Dimmable and three-way CFLs also are available.

Check out the Energy Star CFL bulb comparison chart, and download the how to choose a CFL PDF file. The document includes information about different types of bulbs and the fixtures in which they work best.

Be Environmentally Conscious And Save More Money With Home Automation

Regardless of the type of light bulb you choose, it is still a waste of energy to have lights on when they are not needed. A cool way to deal with this issue is to implement home automation. Imagine if you could turn your lights on and off from your cell phone, no matter how far you are from your home! Our sister site, ASecureLife.com, has a rundown of this technology on their Best Home Automation article.

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About Michelle Schenker
Michelle is passionate about living a healthy life. She shops farmers markets, cooks organic, and eats vegetarian. Juicing and smoothies are a part of everyday life in her home. So are recycling, composting, and gardening. I guess you could say Michelle has a green thumb. Even when a plant doesn't make it under her care, she is still dedicated to making the earth a greener place for future generations.
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  • David Hammond

    Broken fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) can release sufficient mercury vapor to cause poisoning. The Maine Department of Environment Protection conducted experimental trials to measure how much mercury was released when fluorescent bulb or CFLs were broken inside moderate sized rooms. They found that the mercury concentration could reach as high as 50,000 ng/m3 and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single CFL. The Maine guideline for ambient air mercury is 300 ng/m3. There is at least one case report in medical journals in which a 23-month-old baby developed acrodynia after being exposed to mercury from broken fluorescent light bulbs.

    Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Maine Compact Fluorescent Lamp Breakage Study Report. February, 2008. http://www.maine.gov/dep/homeowner/cflreport.html

    Tunnessen, W. W., McMahon, K. J., & Baser, M. (1987). Acrodynia: exposure to mercury from fluorescent light bulbs. Pediatrics, 79(5), 786-789.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder if anyone has stopped to think about how perfecting the light bulb has created more waste? We switched all our bulbs to CFL bulbs and will soon be switching to LED bulbs. I guess I’ll probably donate the other bulbs because they’re still perfectly usable, they’re just not the perfect bulb. It’s strange to think that we were perfectly fine with incandescent bulbs for decades, but have made two major changes in the course of a few years. Which brings me back to my point. Is it really green to keep trying to be greener?

    Regardless, going green is obviously a great thing, and being able to use even less energy is wonderful. Yet, I just don’t think people sit back and think about how striving for perfection is impacting the planet. It seems to be a constant barrage – “No, get rid of that. This is much greener!” Of course, the companies producing these products don’t care. Many of them are only making greener products because that’s what the country wants – not because they actually care about the environment. I wonder how long LED bulbs will be the “best” way to light your home before something new comes along.

  • Anonymous

    You may have heard a lot of talk about the change in light bulbs. This article actually sheds quite a bit of light as to what is actually going on. It seems that the US Government has implemented much stricter energy requirements for a number of household appliances and other products. The old incandescent light bulb, being quite inefficient, is not able to meet these stricter energy efficiency guidelines.

    The USA is not the first country to implement these new energy standards. Actually, there have already been quite a few to issue similar guidelines. All of these other countries were also concerned about ways to save or conserve energy and saw the old light bulbs as an easy target.

    The basic problem is that the light bulb invented by Thomas Edison uses a tremendous amount of heat to generate light. The tungsten filament must be heated to around 2300 degrees Celsius in order to generate light. Then, during this heating process, a good 90 percent of that heat energy is simply lost. The government saw this as being terribly inefficient and set about making a change.

  • Anonymous

    I have worked in home improvement for a number of years and one of the areas I specialized in was home efficiency. Homes built anytime before the turn of this century are likely to have some significant design flaws that lead to an inefficient house which both contributes to high heating and cooling costs for the homeowners as well as the degrading of our overall environment. A big movement is happening as we speak to get homeowners to invest in their homes and make them more energy-efficient. There are many rebates from the government as well as local energy providers that incentivize people to make these investments. One of the more common requirements from energy companies to qualify for a rebate is to install compact fluorescent bulbs throughout the home. There are other ways to qualify as well, and I’ll go through a few of them here.

    The first and one of the least costly, investments you can make in your home is to properly insulate the attic. It is estimated that over seventy percent of American houses are under insulated in the attic, the walls, or both. Attic insulation is particularly important because all of the heat in your home wants to rise up and out through whatever crack or crevice it can find. Your ceiling is full of holes, from the attic hatch itself, to all of the light fixtures and smoke detectors; each opening is a place where heat can leak through and rise out of the home. For this reason it is important to have “air sealing” done prior to insulation where those openings are sealed and caulked from the attic. After that is completed, blowing in a loose fill insulation will create a barrier for the heat to prevent it from radiating into the attic and instead staying in the living space of the home. It is estimated that a homeowner can save upwards of twenty percent off their total heating and cooling costs if the home is insulated properly.

    Another way you can make your home more efficient is to replace your windows. Most American homes have windows that are either leaky or just not insulated enough to keep the cold out and the heat in (or vice versa in warmer climates). It is a costly investment, but replacing your windows with a high-quality vinyl product with an insulated frame, gas filled glass packs, and UV coated glass will save you on heating and cooling quite a bit. The higher end windows should be installed by a professional so that the casing of the window can be foamed and insulated as well.

    Lastly, you can also invest in a high-efficiency furnace. I have personally seen people cut their heating bills in half by installing a new furnace. Again, this is a costly endeavor, but it really does make a huge impact on a homeowner’s bottom line and it also has an impact on saving the planet.

  • Anonymous

    I thought this was a great article about the benefits and differences of using compact fluorescent bulbs versus the traditional incandescent bulbs most people are familiar with. I have been using the “ice cream swirl” bulbs in my house for several years now, and to me it is positively a no-brainer decision for other people as well. They may cost more in the short term, but they last longer and burn less electricity, ultimately making them much more cost-effective over time. I think this is a great example of how one particular industry has gone out of their way to help consumers go green without having to completely change their lives to do so. I propose that these compact fluorescent bulbs will become the norm much sooner than later in the United States and eventually the world.

    First of all, these new bulbs are very easily attained. This is a big deal when it comes to making a technological improvement in a consumer based market. It seems since the inception of the compact fluorescent bulb, it has been rather easily found and purchased. You can find them at most hardware stores and any big-box retailer such as Wal-Mart or Target. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there are color options and intensity options as well, very similar to how the incandescent light bulbs are categorized so that they can fit any number of needs. Simply put, they are featured right alongside incandescent bulbs as an alternative, rather than some “concept” or specialty department.

    Secondly, the new compact fluorescent bulbs are relatively affordable. As I mentioned earlier, they do cost a bit more than the incandescent bulbs, but it is not so much more that they price people out of the market. Yes, there will always be people who are uncaring about the “green” movement and are simply focused on getting the cheapest light bulbs they can, but for people on the fence about a light bulb decision, it is getting easier and easier to fall in the direction of being more Earth-friendly. The manufacturing of the new bulbs versus the old ones dictates they will always be a little more expensive, but not so much that it is prohibitive.

    Lastly, when the compact fluorescent bulbs were designed, they were done so with quick and easy integration in mind. It sounds simple and obvious, but giving the new bulbs the same base connector and essentially the same size and shape as typical bulbs made it far easier for consumers to jump on board with the new product. There are likely configurations for making a fluorescent bulb that are easier and more efficient to manufacture, but by adhering to what the consumers would demand they made the product instantly useable and relevant in the marketplace.

    Again, I have to say I think using these bulbs is a no-brainer, they are just too easy to obtain and install to think otherwise.

  • an environmentally conscious drifter

    I have CFL bulbs throughout my house. They do not last as long as advertised. I read the “fine print” and they last for nine years only, ONLY if you ONLY use them for anywhere from 3 to 9 hours a day.

    AM I missing something?

  • Chuckles

    When I first heard about CFL’s I was excited and enthused about saving money and helping the environment — who doesn’t want these two ends. I went out and purchased a few packages of each and started to replace them in my home. That’s when I realized that the physical size of many CFL’s is an issue. I’ve had cases where a CFL won’t fit in a lamp or a ceiling fixture — Yes, a lamp or ceiling fixture. These are common applications for light bulbs. If the CFL won’t physically fit, it is worthless,right.

    The manufacturers need to “fix” this issue. Unfortunately our near-sided Congress has already outlawed the manufacture of incandescent bulbs so we are between a rock and a hard place.

    And as long as I’m on it, these bulbs do NOT last longer than incandcents. I had to replace two of the first 6 CFL’s I installed within the first year. Thanks again Congress.

    • fordknutt

      Chuckles is correct, I have had to replace CFL’s w/short lifespans in my home also. Doesn’t matter if they are installed in ceiling can lights, desk lamp, garage light fixture, etc. The CFL’s that are used on a daily basis will be lucky to last 6 months.

    • Marie

      I have to say that the lifespan of these bulbs is getting better. BUT still doesn’t seem to match the advertised number of hours. The best solution I have found is this website called Energyearth.com that offers lifetime guarantees on LEDs and some CFLs. I have NO idea how they can afford to offer this, but I have already had them replace one bulb – amazing!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials about how GE is making changes to their bulbs so that they are more user-friendly. I love that they are trying to make the lighting from CFL bulbs better. One of my biggest qualms has always been the poor lighting these bulbs give off. I’m glad GE is making this option better for others, but for me, it’s too late.

    While it may be extremely expensive to do, we plan to switch all the bulbs in our home to LED. With bulbs costing between $10-20 a piece, it will be something that we do over time, but we feel it’s well worth the cost. Not only do LED bulbs last a lot longer, but they use a fraction of the energy that CFL bulbs use, which means they will pay for themselves over time.

    Hopefully, we’ll see a decrease in LED bulbs prices the same way we saw a decrease in CFL bulbs. Otherwise, it’s going to cost several hundred dollars to switch out all of our bulbs. That’s quite an investment. In fact, it’s an investment that I would be taking with me when we move out of our rental. I wonder if my landlord will mind having no bulbs when we move?

  • Anonymous

    I had no idea that traditional incandescent bulbs were so bad for the environment. My eyes are opened now to the situation! I liked how the article addressed the mercury issue and made me realize how safe it was, because that was the one issue that surprised me about CFLs. (My first thought was, How could they be better when they contain mercury? But it is true, as the article mentioned, that burning extra coal to generate electricity puts far more mercury into the environment.) I would like to read a little more about the other options, LED and advanced incandescent, too.

    I have definitely seen those spiral lights at the hardware store, but I never really knew what they were for exactly. I sort of assumed that they were more for office spaces than homes, especially because they cost more. I like that CFLs are available in different brightnesses, and it was interesting reading about how the brightness is controlled by the temperature. Now that I see how much of a difference changing to CFLs can make, I definitely want to play around with the mood lighting all over my house while replacing my incandescents with CFLs.

  • Anonymous

    Just in case you have not heard, very soon it will be impossible to buy a traditional incandescent light bulb in the USA. Actually, this is a switch which has been made by several other countries already, all in the name of energy efficiency. The US Government issued new tougher energy standard which the traditional light bulb just simply cannot meet.

    This means that the new standard light bulb will become the CFL. These types of bulbs have several major advantages. The first is cost savings. The Energy Star group estimates that this light bulb will pay for itself in about 6 months and save around 30 dollars in electricity over the course of its lifespan.

    These bulbs will also last a lot longer than the traditional incandescent. Estimates suggest this can be as much as 10 times longer, with some hanging around for up to 9 years.

    There is also a significant energy savings with these light bulbs. They use 75 percent less energy than the traditional bulb. If every home switched over, this would mean a huge annual energy savings.

  • Anonymous

    This piece of writing is exceptionally useful and I liked it a lot. I will be coming back to this blog in the future. I found lots of appealing information here.

  • Anonymous

    Hi all,

    There is much more to this story that what the above article proposes. For a very thorough analysis on this subject please read the article Energy Wasting Lamps by Dr. Klaus Stanjek.

    • Anonymous

      The Stanjik article is from 1991. Technology has changed a lot in 20 years. Back then, the internet didn’t even exist.

      • Anonymous

        The internet existed in the 1960s. It’s the web that didn’t exist in 1991. Actually, that’s false too. The web was invented in 1990.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve tried really hard to like CFL bulbs. We switched all the bulbs in our home, but I’ve not been happy with the results. I’m not sure if we’re saving any money on our electricity bill either, but I know that I don’t like the lighting that these bulbs put off. It’s been something that I’ve been willing to live with though in order to be a bit greener. In fact, it’s one of the simplest things someone can do to start living greener, though it may be a bit expensive.

    I do like that these bulbs take much longer to burn out. I also like that there are better styles to choose from than when the bulbs first became popular. I do have a problem with the hazards involved with these bulbs and the disposal methods. After all, it’s much nicer to just be able to toss a burned out bulb than try to find a center that will take them.

    Personally, I love the idea of LED bulbs, but wow are they expensive. The good news is they do save a lot more energy than CFL bulbs and give off more light. There’s also no warm-up time and they last even longer than CFL bulbs.

  • Anonymous

    I am a pretty frugal person, but I would not say that I am a cheap person. I just do not like to waste my money on things that I don’t think I need. Normally, my frugal nature would not have anything at all to do with my light bulbs. But when I moved, my friends got a kick out of one of the things I did to save myself some money.

    I was living in an apartment that included utilities in the rent. I bought the CFL bulbs because I wanted to do what I could to go green. At the time, I didn’t have a yard to do compost or gardening, so I was pretty devoted to at least going the CFL route. Then I bought a house.

    Yes, I really did from room to room getting my CFL bulbs. They are expensive bulbs, but that was not the only reason I took them. The house I moved into did not have one CFL bulb in it. I thought that was pretty sad to begin with, but then I didn’t know how long the house had sat empty either. And in this market, it could have been years. I am not ashamed that I took the time to do that. After all, waste not, want not!

  • Anonymous

    The CFL power requirement is 20% greater than incandescent.

  • Anonymous

    I remember slowly switching to CFL bulbs several years ago. It was costly at the time, but doing one room at a time made it more affordable. I’m not sure we’ve really saved any money and I don’t care for the way CFL bulbs look. I’m a reader and find that CFL lighting just isn’t as good as incandescent lighting. With that being said, we plan to switch the bulbs in our home once more.

    No, we’re not going back to incandescent bulbs. However, we are going to invest in LED bulbs. LED bulbs can be quite expensive, but there are many benefits. Not only are are there more options in the type of lighting, but LED bulbs cost a fraction to power that even CFL bulbs do. Best of all, they last for years and years and years.

    One can only hope that the price of LED lighting comes down the same way CFL bulbs did. Regardless, we plan to purchase one or two bulbs at a time until we’ve changed all the bulbs in our home. I suggest that those that are looking for a change from incandescent bulbs seriously consider LED bulbs instead of CFL. Yes, they’re more expensive, but well worth it.

  • Anonymous

    Most people have probably heard that the US is in the process of phasing out the old incandescent light bulb. A lot has already been written about these bulbs are old, inefficient and just do not work as well as they could.

    In contrast, the CFL bulb has a lot of advantages, such as higher efficiency and being able to easily meet the new tougher energy standards. Having said that, there are still some concerns which people should be aware of.

    First of all, these light bulbs will represent a significant cost increase (about six times that of a traditional light bulb). Of course, over the life of the bulb it will work out to be a much better investment.

    If one of these CFL bulbs breaks (they are difficult to break), be sure to carefully clean the area. Do not touch anything with unprotected hands, since there is a small amount of mercury inside. Place all of the contents in a trash can outside of the house just to be safe.

    Another concern is delay time. It can take such a bulb up to three seconds to reach its full illumination.

  • Anonymous

    I hate to admit it, but when they came out with the cfl bulbs, I was pretty leery about using them. I am all for doing good for the environment, but I did not like the light they gave off. I happen to be hypersensitive to light, so for me it was more than preference. But I knew I was going to have to switch over sooner or later, so I just found ways to work with the light.

    For one thing, they aren’t as bright as the other bulbs unless you leave them on for a while. But the cool thing about them is that they are so great with energy that you can leave them on for long periods of time without putting all your money into your electric bill. What I sometimes do is turn the light on while I am getting ready to do something in the other room. This gives the bulb a chance to build up the light. By the time I come back in, it is nice and bright and does not bother my eyes.

    In rooms that have a lot of white in them, any kind of bulb cab drive my eyes nuts. With these, I have found that if I use a colored lampshade, they are actually better on my eyes than they other lights. So now I am glad I made the switch.

  • Anonymous

    I started buying CFL bulbs a few years back. I do not mind paying the extra price if they are going to last longer and save me money in the long run. I also like the idea that they are good for the environment. In fact, if it weren’t for that, I may have never made the switch over to CFL bulbs. But now I keep hearing about the dangers of CFL and I feel like we can’t really win. Maybe we need to just go back to burning candles and getting in bed by the time the sun goes down. I feel like there is no good solution and there really is no going back. The world is what it is and we have to make do the best we can with what we have on hand.

    But, I have to say that I never thought I would see the day when breaking a light bulb would be cause for a major health concern. That does freak me out a bit. Clear out the area when you have pets or kids? On one hand I am sure I would do that anyhow to avoid them getting hurt with the broken glass, but wow the other precautions are a bit extreme. Maybe it is time to check out LED.

  • Anonymous

    I love this article because it’s shown me the light, literally! I am an environmental nut and I say so proudly. I believe we should protect the environment as much as we can.

    Environmentally, it sounds like the end of the incandescent light bulbs that Thomas Edison invented. He had a wonderful idea, but environmentally, it’s not the best option. However, back in that time, the environment was not always a consideration. CFL bulbs are the future, so let’s travel to the 21st century.

    Compact fluorescents bulbs are the environmentally safe alternative. They use less electricity and are economically better because people aren’t using as much electricity and their electric bills aren’t nearly as high as using incandescent bulbs. This is one simple way to prevent our surroundings from turning into a desolate wasteland.

    Soon, Americans won’t have a choice of which bulbs to purchase. An energy law was passed in December 2007 that makes it difficult to find incandescent bulbs. All of us will need to swap to CFL bulbs by 2014. Thank you for this article; I loved it! We’ve seen the light and the future looks bright with CFL bulbs.

    • an environmentally conscious drifter

      What a load off toss. I replaced all my household bulbs to CFL and in the last year my electricity bill has risen, not gone down. And the dimness of these so called wonder bulbs has not helped my sight. I now NEED reading glasses. I have now found a company still selling incandescent bulbs and intend to stock up hundreds of them to last the rest of my lifetime so that I can read again and feel the warmth they also supply. (Did you forget how warm they made you feel?). I wish everyone would realize this greenhouse emission thing is just propaganda to get more money out of us.

  • Anonymous

    The traditional light bulb, the old incandescent lights which many of us grew up with is being phased out in the USA. The reason for this is tougher new energy standards have been set which this bulb cannot meet. Therefore, the next round of lighting will likely be supplied by CFL bulbs.

    According to the author of this piece, CFL bulbs offer a pretty significant cost savings. Statistics used show that the CFL bulb will pay for itself in about six months and then save an additional 30 dollars in electricity over the course of its lifetime.

    The CFL bulb will last a lot longer as well. Some reports indicate that they can last up to 9 years, although the average life is closer to five years.

    All this talk about how the government has basically mandated this change make me wonder something else as well. Maybe people who are very attached to these old bulbs will begin hoarding them? Maybe some people will buy as much as they can, thinking that others will be willing to pay a premium as the ban goes into place?

  • SICK OF THE LIES

    These bulbs are not friendly to people or the environment! I’m sick of the lies!!! People should research things a bit farther before trusting what is printed. What is being pushed as a “green” light bulb – a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL). Is the ultimate form of sick irony, what many people don’t know is that fluorescent lights are actually bad for not only people and animals, but the earth itself. Not only are these bulbs filled with the second most toxic element on the planet – mercury (Hg) – but they have been proven to cause health problems in a substantial percentage of the population.

    These lights contain mercury, without which they won’t work, and mercury (also called quicksilver) is lethally toxic. Indeed, it is so dangerous, especially to the brains of children and the unborn, that it has been banned in many countries for use in a long list of devices including thermometers, vehicle and thermostat switches, and so on.

    They did this because the use of mercury was considered unsafe. After all, Mercury is even more toxic than arsenic and lead.

    Fluorescent bulbs are said to use less electricity and last much longer than conventional ones, but if a bulb is frequently switched on and off (it’s a light for goodness sake and I thought turning them off saved energy) then they wear out rapidly – in some circumstances faster than the bulbs they are replacing.

    What happens if one of the normal light bulbs (‘incandescent’) breaks into pieces, as they often do? We sweep up the bits and throw them in the bin, job done, no problem.

    What do we have to do when an ‘environmentally-friendly’, help-to-save-the world fluorescent bulb breaks? Here is some helpful advice from the UK Health Protection Agency:

    * Keep children and pets out of the contaminated area.

    * Prior to cleaning up the spill, put on an old set of clothes and shoes, and rubber gloves.

    * Never vacuum the affected area as this will contaminate the machine and result in the airborne release of vaporized mercury. A vacuum cleaner contaminated with mercury will have to be disposed of. Consult your local authority for information on where you can safely dispose of such equipment, or if you have any queries. A mop or broom should not be used as these will become contaminated and spread the spill.

    * Elemental mercury that has been spilled on a hard surface should be picked up using masking tape, or swept into a glass container with a sealable lid using stiff cardboard to push the beads together. Check a wide area beyond the spill, using a torch to identify as much of the mercury as possible.

    * The container, the cardboard and broken glass should be double-bagged for disposal. Then consult your local authority for information regarding disposal facilities, or if you have any queries. The room in which the spill occurred should be ventilated and the spill area should not be vacuumed for two weeks.

    * If the spill is on upholstery or carpet, the mercury should be collected in a sealable container (see step 4). Remember, never vacuum the affected area as this will contaminate the machine and result in the airborne release of vaporized mercury which can harm health. If the mercury cannot be retrieved, the area of contaminated upholstery or carpet may need to be removed and disposed of as hazardous waste. If this is the case, the contaminated material should be double-bagged. Consult your local authority for information on where you can safely dispose of the waste.

    * Do not use household cleaning products to clean the spill, particularly products that contain ammonia or chlorine such as bleach. These chemicals will react violently with mercury, releasing a toxic gas.

    * Elemental mercury that has been spilled down a sink should be removed by dismantling the U-bend (water trap) and collected in a sealable container and disposed as hazardous waste. Mercury left in the sink U-bend will vaporize on contact with warm water and should therefore be removed to avoid prolonged exposure.

    * Clothing that has come into contact with the mercury must not be dry-cleaned or washed in a washing machine and must be discarded, double-bagged, in the normal household refuse.

    * Carefully remove rubber gloves by grabbing them at the wrist and pulling them inside out as they come off. Place the gloves and any contaminated clothing, double-bagged, in the rubbish bin for disposal.

    The Health Protection Agency adds that we must ‘remember to keep the area well-ventilated to the outside (open windows and run any available fans) for at least twenty-four hours after your successful clean-up. Continue to keep pets and children out of the clean-up area.’

    It then talks about disposing of the bulbs at the hazardous household waste section of a waste recycling center.

    (Taken from The dangers of fluorescent light bulbs – by David Icke)

    I won’t even go into the different health issues…. if you want to know more read David’s article.

    Seems to me that LEDs are the ONLY way to go.

  • Anonymous

    There is certainly a lot of uproar over the upcoming ban and phase out of the traditional incandescent light bulb in the US. Many people and companies have weighed in on this issue, both pro and con. I was happy to see that this is one of the more balanced articles on the topics.

    The author was certainly not afraid to list some of the drawbacks to the CFL bulbs. I think the essence of the issue was captured when the article mentioned the increased costs involved. The fact that people are now going to need to replace every light bulb in their home and office with a bulb that costs 6 to 10 times as much.

    The author also mentions that the manufacturers of these CFL bulbs have issued certain guidelines. This includes the fact that it can take several seconds for the bulb to reach its full brightness once turned on. Also, if a light is repeatedly turned on and off, this could serve to shorten its lifespan. There are also breakage and clean up concerns due to the mercury.

  • greenie tempered by critiacal thinking

    There are too many places where CFL bulbs cannot or should not be used to support a total ban on incandescent bulbs. What about this list of thing not to do as shown on the San Francisco Fire Department’s web site.

    CFLs should NOT be used in track, recessed or inverted fixtures

    CFLs should NOT be used with a dimmer switch UNLESS clearly marked otherwise

    CFLs should NOT be used in place of a 3-way bulb, UNLESS clearly marked otherwise

    CFLs being used outdoors MUST be enclosed

    CFLs should NOT be used in emergency exit fixtures or lights

    Add to this a few observations of my own:

    I have already had to replace bulbs well before the promised 5 to 7 year life span.

    The mercury released into the atmosphere even with incandescent bulbs is an attempt at muddying the debate. It is the result of coal fired generating plants. Something that we will draw on even more with hybrids and electric cars.

    CFL manufacturing surely uses more energy than incandescent but I admit I have no data to support that. But it seems to me that a thin metal base fused with a glass bulb probably consumes less energy and uses fewer toxic materials than CFL bulbs with their mercury and ballasts that have to be treated as toxic waste during disposal.

  • Anonymous

    I think it is absolutely amazing that Australia has mandated that all electric light bulbs be converted from incandescent bulbs to the more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs by 2010. I had not heard that before and I am curious to look into how the transition went and how it is going for them down under since that happened two years ago.

    It is such a progressive measure to take as a country and it has to be a pretty expensive undertaking for their citizens no doubt. However, it is these kinds of broad sweeping changes that need to be made to actually gain some ground in the war against pollution and our ongoing wrecking of the earth.

    I hope the United States can jump on board with something like this in the very near future. I have already switched all the bulbs in my home to compact fluorescents and it ended up costing me a little bit more than buying regular bulbs, but not so much that I do not feel like it was a worthwhile effort. I am just glad to do my part.

    • an environmentally conscious drifter

      Soooo. Since YOU changed YOUR bulbs in your home to CFL you hope that the government will hurry up in mandating CFL’s. What is funny as an Electrical Engineer, I can tell you some of the cheaper CFL’s use more than YOU think they say. The Power Factor on some of the CFL’s is horrible. The government requires the amps of the ballast and bulb printed next to the tube watts. Example: I am looking at a cheap home depot CFL it says “14 watts .27 amps” .27amps times 120 volts is 32.4 watts with a CRI (color redention index) of 82CRI. a 40 watt incandescent has a CRI of 100, cost .35 cents, and not to mention will help take the load off of the heater in the winter. CFL’s are a brilliant way of the Government to disperse their stockpiles of Mercury Waste. So the US sell Mercury to China, China then builds the light bulb and makes us the consumer pay for the right to put something toxic our government owned into our homes to make us die before we can collect SocSEC. Ok the last part is reaching. FACT is what gives YOU the right to dictate what light bulb someone uses in their OWN home? You have a right to opinion that the beauty of the US. ALL the Energy saved thus far in the USA since CFL’s came out would fly the Presidents Air Force One to Las Vegas twice from DC thats it. By the way pollution in china blows right over the USA everyday of the year. Good Day and stop worrying what others do. Are you going to pay my bill after you force your neighbors into CFL’s? No they pay it. CFL’s, when everything is included cost to build and use wise is more in the long run. The only thing the Government did was force 145,000 out of work in the USA by most plants shutting down their incandescent bulbs.

  • Anonymous

    With all of this talk about CFL versus incandescent light bulbs, I have begun to wonder what the differences really are between the two bulbs, and whether or not it was really necessary to actually mandate such a striking change.

    The author accurately explains that the traditional incandescent light bulb is very inefficient. In fact, it actually only converts about 5 to 10 percent of the energy into light. The rest is lost in the form of heat. The idea is that this inefficiency is certainly not good for the planet. The metal in the bulb itself (tungsten) can reach temperatures of up to 2300 degrees Celsius.

    On the other hand, the CFL bulb operates much more efficiently. This is basically a series of glass tubes that contain a tiny bit of mercury. The mercury is excited by electricity that is produced by electrodes on the base. The mercury emits an ultraviolet light which is actually converted into white light when it hits the glass tubes.

    This is very interesting to me. I suppose that the efficiency is a good reason to phase out the old light bulb. The only thing that has me concerned a bit is the mercury.

  • Anonymous

    We switched all the bulbs in our home to CFL bulbs and while we feel better about how it’s helping the environment, I hate the fact that the bulbs don’t put off the same kind of light as the incandescent bulbs I’d grown used to. However, we’re looking into changing our bulbs one more time in order to take advantage of LED bulbs.

    LED bulbs are extremely expensive. With most high-quality bulbs costing $15-20 per bulb it can be hard for many to justify the expense. However, the energy savings is amazing. In fact, a good-quality LED bulb can save you $65 per year. That’s for each bulb! Not to mention that these bulbs last 100,000 hours. If left on continuously, that’s 11 years. If used only 50% of the time, that’s a 22-year lifespan for one bulb. Imagine the savings!

    I plan to spend even more time researching the different options in LED bulbs so that I purchase the best bulbs for my home. However, I will say that I can’t imagine CFL bulbs continuing to be the top option. I think LED bulbs will soon be the preferred bulbs in most homes. After all, even though they cost more per bulb, these bulbs will definitely save you money in the long run.

  • Anonymous

    Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a huge part of my son’s developing interest in science. He is a logical thinker and he loves to learn about the process of things and to do experiments. So one month we measured how much electricity we used with old light bulbs. Then, we changed out all the light bulbs and made sure that we kept the electric going for the same amount of time. We did this during a time when the weather was not all that extreme so we did not have to try to account for electricity involving the furnace or air conditioner. We were both impressed by the numbers.

    The only problem is that now my son wants to try to figure out how long it would take for a CFL bulb to use as much energy as the other bulbs. I can see why he would want to test that, but I don’t know if I can go through another month of light bulb science. At this point I am just grateful that i get to save money on my electric bill and that my son is more interested in science because of the CFL bulbs. Of course, the cool shape of them probably had something to do with it too.

  • Anonymous

    When the CFL bulbs first came out I was very resistant. They are more expensive then Edison’s version for sure, but I do understand that they save you money over time. More importantly, they reduce the amount of energy we waste and I am all for that.

    I actually had heard that there was some kind of issue with the disposal of them, but I didn’t know what it was. The mercury thing makes sense, but I wonder why they don’t let more people know about it. I bet if you asked 100 people around here they wouldn’t know about it. In fact I didn’t know until I read this article. Now I am just hoping I don’t break a bulb. Of course you realize this means you need to do something aside from throw it in the trash when it burns out too. At least that doesn’t happen as frequently as it does with the other bulbs though.

    Actually, I think the only I had burn out happened to be in a fixture that was bad. I mean it went through every light bulb I put in there in quick order.

  • Anonymous

    The article here really does a good job of laying out the advantages of buying compact fluorescent bulbs versus the traditional incandescent bulbs we have all gotten so used to. The one drawback that compact fluorescent bulbs still struggle with is that they are more expensive to buy in the short term than their old-fashioned counterparts. For this reason, there are still many households that continue to purchase the old incandescent bulbs to “save money” in the short term.

    This kind of thinking really drives me crazy though. If the price difference between one bulb and another is only a couple dollars and the more expensive bulb saves you literally dozens of dollars over the course of its lifetime, then choosing the other more inefficient bulb is just silly. Nevertheless, people do it all the time. They do it for the same reason they live with inefficient windows and doors, a leaky roof, or any other component of their home that they do not have to think about on a daily basis. Articles like this will hopefully help people see the light.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t anyone realize it takes 115 times more energy to produce one CFL than it does to produce one incandescent bulb.

    Then add on the energy required to get rid of that CFL bulb once it burns out.

    The carbon footprint is huge. CFL’s are only good for manufacturers to make $$$. This is like buying a Hybrid SUV… dumb dumb dumb.

  • Man’s best friend

    We are advised to take care of our pets on cold winter nights.

    A CFL hanging in a doghouse can’t do the job that an incandescent will to generate heat. And if Fido should break the CFL, PETA will want to be sure that Fido didn’t lick up the remains.

    Lots of people don’t like the effects of the CFL’s light. Anybody know what Fido thinks about this?

  • my name goes here

    I’ve been purchasing CFL bulbs for over 10 years and have never witnessed a CFL last longer than an incandescent. Actually, they rarely last longer than a few months.

    To the person who has been “studying the difference in school and they last at least 8 times longer than your average incandescent bulb” – It’s not true. These bulbs are super sensitive to temperature changes and moisture. That means they will fizzle out if you use them outside or in the bathroom.

    These bulbs may use 13 watts instead of 60 or 100 but I haven’t seen a decline in my power bill. And you’re supposed to dispose of them like they’re toxic waste. Doesn’t seem worth it. And now they’re becoming mandatory in Canada, no one has a choice in the matter. That is unless you stockpiled a bunch of incandescent bulbs.

    And the light they give off doesn’t seem right. At the same time that they appear brighter, it feels like less light is given off. I think it’s because they give off a blue tinted light opposed to incandescent lights giving off a more yellowish light.

    I’m under the impression that CFL bulbs are very sensitive to power surges and that may be the reason they don’t last very long. Unless the 8 to 10 year lifespan is an average where a lot of bulbs die prematurely or last beyond the 8 to 10 year estimation.

    • Mr Skeptical

      I agree. We have been hoodwinked into believing CFL’s are cheaper to run than incandescent.

      I date the bayonet when I replace a CFL and most last about a year not 8-10.

      They also cost 10x an incandescent. Do the math. Who’s winning?

      I now have an agreement with a local shop that if the CFL does not last the 8-10 years I will be back with my receipt for a FREE exchange. Now I’m happy as I know I will never have to buy another CFL.

  • Anonymous

    The old, traditional incandescent light bulb that we all know and love is beginning to lose its shine. The bulb invented by Thomas Edison is being kicked to the curb. This is the premise of the article, although the author stated it a bit more tactfully than I just did. Actually, the main point is that these traditional bulbs are much less efficient than newer types which have recently been invented and come on the market. Beginning in the year 2012, these older bulbs are being phased out in the USA. In fact, several other countries have already started this process. Australia, for example, became the first country in the world to ban the incandescent light bulb. This took effect in 2010.

    The article also points out the fact that the main reason these bulbs will soon disappear from store shelves in the USA is due to laws which set much stricter energy standards. These standards just simply cannot be met by the traditional light bulbs.

    The main heir apparent, at least for the time being, is the CFL bulb. The CFL bulb is much more efficient and capable of meeting the newer standards.

  • Anonymous

    We could argue all day about whether CFLs are better than traditional incandescent light bulbs but the truth is that the very best eco-friendly lighting option is natural light. The cost in installing a skylight would be less over time than all of these light options mentioned in this article. Sure you will need electric lighting at night but you are only awake about 5 hours in the dark each day and even fewer in the summer months. So, think about how natural lighting might help to improve your lighting bills, quality of life, vitamin D intake and enjoyment of nature in your home.

  • Anonymous

    Consumers have not embraced CFLs. That’s why the incandescents are being banned. To force people to purchase the CFLs. And it has nothing to do with saving energy (more energy-efficient light bulbs are not going to make any serious impact in energy usage) or being green, it’s about money. The large lighting companies (Philips, Osram, Sylvania, and GE) all lobbied to have the light standards raised so as to outlaw the incandescents because the incandescents are so cheap and have a very slim profit margin. The lighting industry of course lobbied in this manner under the guise of being “green.” If the incandescents were the one with the fat profit margin, there would be no new lighting legislation.

    The the CFLs and LEDs are a lot more costly and have a much larger profit margin. But people don’t like them. The lighting quality of CFLs is terrible, they take too long to light up, you have to dispose of them in a special manner (which most people probably won’t do), and they cost too much (and to get any CFL of quality that has nicer light and lights up instantly, they are really costly). It is also very questionable whether or not they last anywhere near as long as advertised.

    Which shouldn’t be surprising, as the goal of the companies is to make more money, not less. If they make a more expensive product that lasts super-long, they’ll make less money in the end (I find it hilarious these claims about the LEDs that supposedly will last 22 years, seriously, who are they trying to fool?). The idea is to make a product that maybe lasts a little longer, but that people will still have to buy frequently, and that costs a lot more, so as to really bring in the profits.

    These new bulbs are not progress, they’re a step backwards in technology. Just because the incandescent has been around for over 100 years doesn’t mean the replacements are superior (they aren’t). The internal combustion engine has also been around for over 100 years, but we still use it because there aren’t any viable replacements. The jet engine is close to 100 years old, but again is still widely used because there are not viable replacements. That the incandescent “wastes” 95% of its energy as heat, so what? Both CFLs and LEDs waste the majority of their energy as heat, just not as much as the incandescent. And there are uses for the heat of the incandescent (makes heating a home in the winter easier and melts the snows and ice off of traffic lights if used in them for example). The lighting industry talks out of both ends on this issue of heat. They’ll claim that the use of CFLs and LEDs will make it easier for the air conditioner in the summer to cool the home. But if you suggest the inverse, that the incandescents would then make it easier to heat the home in the winter, they do not acknowledge this.

    As for the bulbs saving people money supposedly, many people may not want to save money down-the-line, they’d just prefer to save it up-front and buy the cheaper bulbs. Who wants to buy a bulb that has to be disposed of in a special manner, that takes a long time to light up, that has harsh light quality, that is costly, and that is very costly to get a more quality bulb (which still will not match the light quality of an incandescent)??

    Those who are against these new standards are not against progress, they’re against governmental micromanaging of people’s lives. Some have criticized the critics of the standards as being the equivalent of people who are against things like food safety regulations or automotive regulations, but that’s not true. There’s a limit to how much the government should regulate, as that regulatory zeal can get taken out of control. No one is going to die and the climate is not going to go haywire over the usage of incandescent light bulbs (IF ANYTHING, one would think it would be the opposite, that it would be the CFLs getting banned to be replaced by the incandescents). Some have also criticized the critics of the new standards as being “against progress.” But these new bulbs, as said, are not progress. Government CAN occassionally be used to “nudge” and industry to make progress that it otherwise might not, but the difference here is that the so-called “progress” has already been made, for years, just people don’t want to buy the bulbs.

    Many say that CFLs are just a transitional technology, to be replaced by the LEDs, that LEDs are the lighting of the future, but those are a boondoggle. They cost an arm and a leg and are extremely difficult to manufacture, and yet still cannot produce light equivalent to an incandescent, because LED light is directional, which creates problems in trying to engineer the light “bulbs” (they’re technically electronics). It really is insanity that we have a very cheap and simple bulb that offers superior-quality light, but we are doing all this crazy engineering to try and create lights that still do not match the incandescent in quality in the end. That’s why the light-industry wants the incandescent banned. Because otherwise there will remain a market for incandescents that could be taken up by other companies, that would likely grow very large if the incandescents are not baned.

    And yes it is a ban, contrary to what some have claimed. The high-efficiency incandescents are halogens and are not the same as regular incandescents, albeit very close, but even they get outlawed by 2020 as the standards get raised so high.

  • Anonymous

    incandescent suck they have big heat out put not to mention the price

  • Anonymous

    I have been studying the difference in school and they last at least 8 times longer than your averge incandescent bulb plus an incandescent has a larger heat output therefore wasting your money

  • Anonymous

    I am completely in love with my CFL bulbs. You want to know why? I just got my electric bill, that’s why. There are two people in my home, an air conditioner and two fans running constantly and there is always some sort of electronic device or two..or three going. I made the switch to all CFL bulbs and I saw the difference right away.

    I was expecting about a $300 electric bill because of everything going and my son being home from school for the summer so even more is going than usual, but when I got my bill it was less than $200. I was pretty impressed by that.

    I did not switch over just because I wanted to save money. I wanted to save energy. I am trying to get my house as green as I can as quickly as I can, but it is really a lengthy process. I think it helps everyone to make changes like that when they can see the immediate impact they are having. Reducing my bills is surely one of the best ways for me to see the impact the CFL bulbs have. I try to take it one step further to encourage my son. I use the money I saved to do something fun with him so he is more motivated to go green as well.

  • Anonymous

    I am doing a science report on this topic and it was very hard to find reliable sources such as this one. Thanks!! :)

  • SensicalNugget

    OK, here goes, my cousin lives in Nunavut, and she can’t use CFLs in the winter because it gets too cold. So, incandescent a win. Middle finger to the person who wrote this.

  • Anonymous

    This information has really improved my research/persuasive essay

  • Anonymous

    There will be a new type of light bulb gracing the shelves of our favorite stores very soon. Perhaps you have already noticed those funky looking new bulbs? They are called CFL light bulbs. The old traditional incandescent light bulb (you know, the one invented years ago by Thomas Edison) is on the way out.

    The old trusty light bulb has been determined to be very energy inefficient. The federal government has implemented new energy standards and the old light bulb, try as she might, is simply not capable of complying with the new regulations. So, it will soon be replaced.

    I have heard many people who have all kinds of reactions to this decision. These opinions range from feeling angry the government is now even mandating what types of light bulbs a person may (or may not) buy to those who are happy with the decision. The bottom line is that these changes are here. The new bulb will actually work a lot better and last a long time (like up to 6 years for a single bulb). They are energy efficient and great investments.

  • Anonymous

    In my opinion, CFL is better than incandescent light bulbs.

  • Anonymous

    Even the “soft white” CFL’s produce a horrible light temperature.

    There is no incandescent equivalent color temperature available for CFL’s.

  • Anonymous

    Sure the bulbs use less energy however what is the real savings considering the excess power from a normal bulb is due to the production of heat. Since I am paying to heat my home anyway in the winter this really isn’t energy savings but just a change of where it comes from. Certainly I am saving money in the summer with CFL’s but then again the lights are on far less. It would seem if you factor this in the acctually energy savings are far lower than reported unless of course you live in a warm climate aor are using the bulbs outdoors.

    • Anonymous

      The heat created by an incandescent bulb has 2 drawbacks:

      a. The heat is probably not where you want it, for example near a ceiling.

      b. The cost of heat by electricity is 2 to 3 times that of other fuel sources.

      I have a home and a vacation home. Using cfls lowered our electric consumption 20% or more.

  • Anonymous

    I also agree that we should use CFl’s in place of incandescent bulbs to save electricity. However, to get the desired result the CFL’s to be used should be from a good brand. Using just a normal CFL is not going to give the desired result.

    In the past I was also using just normal CFl’s but they weren’t that much more efficient so I changed my lamp and went for Havells Lamps. Using Havells has really made my electricity bill go down. Thanks to Havells for making such quality products.

  • Lighthouse

    Efficient in making bright light using few components and earth minerals.Sustainable in being easily locally made as simple safe generic patent-expired products without needing long transport and without needing recycling. Long lasting up to 20 000 hours (as for mining industry), when major manufacturers don’t control the markets.

    Incandescents don’t burn coal and they don’t give out CO2 or other emissions.

    Power plants might and might not. But even if they do, those power plants would mostly be burning the same coal anyway in their base level night output covering the low demand when incandescents are mainly used.

    14 referenced reasons why banning incandescents makes no sense,

    including in saving energy for society, on Department of Energy grid data etc

  • Anonymous

    I love the idea of using these bulbs, but I’ve heard there is some issue with the disposal of them. And I also wonder what issue they are going to find with them sometime in the near future. We all know this is how it works. They come out with something and profess it to be the next best thing to sliced bread, then a few years later they are all about how this same thing is causing cancer or some other such health issue. But I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

    I’m all about going green AND saving money, so I made the switch to these bulbs long ago. This year it kind of backfired a bit in an amusing kind of way. My son brought home this energy kit that his entire 5th grade got. It’s part of the Indiana initiative to go green, which is all good. The problem is that he had to fill out this form about the changes we made. The kit included 6 bulbs, an energy efficient water spout for the faucet, the shower and some kind of air filet sensor. He had to fill out a form explaining what he had changed…only we didn’t change the bulbs because we already had them in. Yet, they didn’t give that as an option on the questionnaire. Ah well, so he didn’t get the little bracelet. We’re still green!

  • Anonymous

    Amazing!!! It’s so amazing to see what a single replacement of a CFL can do. It can help us remove green house effects to a great extent. I also agree with the first comment which claims that by using Havell CFL’s we can save a lot of electricity.

  • Anonymous

    CFL’s have got so many advantages over incandescent bulbs so its better to use CFL to save electricity and prove to be a responsible citizen. One of my friends got Havells CFLs for his office and claims that they are very energy saving.

  • Anonymous

    hi =)

  • Anonymous

    My son, who lives at home while attending our university decided to do me a favor and without telling me replaced the incandescent in my kitchen with a CFL. After dark, I went into the kitchen to get a glass of ice tea. I turned on the light and it wasn’t bright. I wondered what was wrong and saw the CFL which took it’s time to warm up to full brightness. I got a glass of tea, then looked over at the cat bowl which was about 5 feet away to see if my cat need a new can of food and there was a haze over the bowl. I had to walk right to the bowl to see that it actually had food.

    Then, every time I looked at the floor I was seeing purple halos and started to get a weird feeling. I didn’t think I would like the CFL’s because I thought the light they produced would be unnatural but it didn’t take more than a few minutes of experiencing the purple haze to know I hated them. I took it out and put my incandescent back in. Right now, I’m trying to figure out how many incandescents I’ll need to buy and keep in stock so I won’t run out if I live to be 100.

  • Anonymous

    Initially, we switched to incandescent bulbs as a way to save money and honestly, I can’t tell you that we’ve seen any difference in our electricity bill. However, it does feel great knowing that we’re doing something good for the environment. My only qualm with incandescent bulbs is that if they break, it can be extremely dangerous.

    I’ve had one or two shatter and it’s a much bigger mess than when a CFL bulb would break. Of course, the expense of the bulbs was much higher in the beginning, but that is something that is thankfully changing. I think it’s wonderful that the government plans to stop the sale of CFL bulbs. Imagine how much greener the country will be when everyone has to use incandescent bulbs? Okay, maybe I do have one more problem with incandescent bulbs. I love to read and one of the first things I noticed about these bulbs was that they don’t over the same warm glow that I’ve come to love with CFL bulbs. In fact, some of the bulbs can be downright harsh and make it hard to read for long periods of time. Still, it beats candlelight and only being able to read in the daylight.

  • Anonymous

    I jumped on the CFL bandwagon early and wished I had done more research first. Most of the bulbs I bought starting 7-8 years ago are dead and many that have been purchased since right up to a few months ago have also failed. Please note, these 7-8 year old bulbs only had 100-200 hours of use. I still have many incandescent bulbs that are older and still functioning.

    The majority (90%) of my light bulbs are on only a few minutes a day. This is really the biggest problem with CFL bulbs, how long they last when only used a few minutes at a time.

    Of the 100 or so actual light bulbs in my house only 4 or 5 are normally on for any extended period of time that met/exceed the 3+ hours of constant on time that these bulbs are only tested/reported with.

    I would love to see some testing with CFL bulbs that gets turned on for 1 minute only and see how long it lasts. This would be the best and most practical CFL test. As an environmentally concerned person I am not concerned about my electricity bill but the true environmental impact of which is the best bulb to use.

    CFL’s use considerably less energy to run and many new and better custom bulbs are available. But I am also fully aware of the increased production cost (in energy and heavy metals like mercury) in making a CFL bulb. There of course is also the increase cost and dangers in properly disposing these bulbs. All of factors must be used when determining which bulb to use for each specific application.

  • Anonymous

    Believe it or not we just had a CFL explode. We cleaned it up but learned afterwards that we shouldn’t have used a vacuum because it puts mercury in the air. We were all freaking out because of mercury poisoning and honestly can’t seem to find a conclusive opinion on how dangerous a blown up CFL is?

    • treehugger

      You should be fine, especially if the bulb was off when it exploded (the mercury binds to the glass when the light goes out). If the bulb was on, you still shouldn’t worry – CFL’s contain a very small amount of mercury that immediately falls to the floor. In the future, use gloves and sticky pads to clean up the floor, then take the bulb debry to Home Depot in a plastic bag for disposal.

  • an environmentally conscious drifter

    This helped me with my science project.Thanks. ;)-MJR

  • an environmentally conscious drifter

    Since I started using CFL 2 years ago, my energy bills dropped big time! Although my first experience with CFL was not so great (my first bulb mysteriously broke a few months after it was first installed). I replaced all my other incandescent bulbs with CFL and they turned out to be way more efficient and sustainable than the old ones. I really do recommend!

  • Anonymous

    I have to admit, I knew on some level that there were better light bulbs out there for the environment, but I did not know exactly which ones those were. Also, the ones that were labeled environmental in my local store were very expensive. I didn’t know if it was because they lasted longer and were cheaper in the long run, or if it was just because they were overpriced and taking advantage of people that care about the environment.

    When you try to look things up online when it comes to this, a lot of the information is confusing, and you’re still not sure if you should buy different bulbs or not.

    Your article simplifies things and makes my decision making process much easier. I am going to try the CFLs thanks to your article, because of the energy and money saving benefits that they offer. On some level though it is a little sad that Edison’s original bulb design is being phased out. In many ways, it is almost bittersweet. It’s like we are watching the world change dramatically, without a dramatic event that coincides with the change. Time is just marching on.

  • Anonymous

    I replaced all of my incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent about two years ago, and my electricity bills have gone down notably during that time. At first, it only seemed like a few dollars per month, but for the number of bulbs I replaced in my house, as time went on there was a notable difference, of about sixty dollars per year or more. Not bad for saving the earth by lowering electricity consumption! By the way, the article was correct to touch on the other advantages these bulbs. People seem to have the mistaken idea that they give off that horrible harsh light and cannot be used with dimmer switches and such, but the new generation of CFLs actually is much more versatile. There are even CFL bulbs that are more bright or less bright based on how many lumens they put out, so you can have your reading light or your perfectly dimmed dining room light. I even put some up in darker parts of my house that were listed as full spectrum CFL, and they are helping my plants grow perkier and greener even though the plants are not as close to a window.

  • Anonymous

    It seems incredible to hear it said buying a CFL bulb at $3.00 to $4.00 each will save money? Especially when I can buy an incandescent bulb for 25 cents each. I guess if you are a rich person one can afford $expensive light bulbs and forget US trying to make ends meet.

    This site, the Public Utility Commission and the Energy Star site also IGNORE completely the FACT CFLs do not do well being turned ‘on & off’ – this resulting in them burning out very quickly – from my experience within app. 6 (six) months. This takes away MONEY I do not have!

    This page has a passage that states as a result of the CFLs POOR performance says: “It’s best to flip the switch only if you plan for the bulb to remain on for at least 15 minutes”. This an incredible thing to say – UMMM, I’m in the dark and NEED light to see – but if I turn it on and then off, when I leave the room, I risk having the CFL bulb burn out.

    Who are these people? Where are they from? This is so ignorant!!

    Hey Folks – the only thing I want to add…Buy stock in light bulb companies.

    • Anonymous

      I bought 112 CFL bulbs in the last few months… You can get them for 60 cents each at Sam’s Club and you could also get them free when you pay your electric bill in person at a lot of power companies….

    • Anonymous

      My local utility company lists my power consumption for the previous 24 months. After replacing all the incandescent bulbs with CFL’s, my power consumption was cut in half. A savings of $500 in one year. I figure I spent about $75 on the bulbs and that is when they were more expensive. They are less then half the cost now, then 4 years ago. Furthermore, I might have spent $25 in the last four years on new bulbs and that was mainly to replace some older bulkier bulbs with smaller more compact ones.

      So over four years I spent $100 and saved about $2000. Seems to me you can’t afford not to use CFL’s.

  • Anonymous

    Great topic; I am for CFL’s. Just to clear something up, though, you might want to change the paragraph stating,

    “A CFL bulb uses about 75 percent less energy than a traditional light bulb. Nationwide, a 60 percent to 70 percent decrease in energy usage would save as much energy annually as the amount of energy used by all the homes in Texas.”

    This statistic can confuse people. I know you meant ’60-70% decrease in light* energy usage’ would save as much ‘*Total energy usage by Texas homes annually.’

    Worded how it is now though, it appears to me as if you’re saying Texas homes constitute 60-70 of all energy use in the U.S. If this is the case, we should worry less about incandescent bulbs and more about cutting power off from Texas!

    Overall, good post though! Thanks!

    • treehugger

      Thanks for pointing that out! I’ve edited the article to reflect the correct wording.

      Interestingly, while Texas doesn’t consume 60% of the nation’s energy, it does use about 60% more, per capita, than the nation. A 1999 EPA report shows that Texans consumed about 11.5 quadrillion BTU’s worth of fuel and electricity. This represents over 12 percent of the nation’s total energy consumption. Since Texans make up approximately 7% of the nation’s population, their per capita energy consumption is about 60 percent higher than the national energy intensity.

      What kind of energy do Texans use? The 1999 study (a bit outdated now, I know), shows natural gas at 48%, coal at 38%, and nuclear power at about 10%. In the remaining states, on average, 50% is attributed to coal, and 10% to nuclear energy.

      For those that are fretting about the date on the study, don’t. Between 1990 and 1999, Texas greenhouse gas emissions increased 11%. And the overall energy use in Texas is projected to increase by 36 percent over the next 20 years, a growth rate of 1.5 percent per year.

  • Anonymous

    Why do I dislike CFL?

    * Much too expensive. Show me a $0.60 CFL in Canada, not a chance. They’re $4.00.
    * Haven’t seen a dimmable one yet, but have been told they exist. Where?
    * Terrible to read by the light of a CFL, gives me sore eyes.
    * A couple of incandescent bulbs warm up a small room nicely. With CFL I have to turn up the heat.
    * CFL bulbs won’t fit in my track lights
    * Got to replace hardware $$$
    * They don’t work in very cold weather
    * In Canada people who use them for outside lighting, turn them on in late October and off in late March. Some savings!
    * They are useless in cold temperatures (-20 to -40 garages) unless left on.
    * They are made in China with electricity from coal fired generating plants. This expends more energy than does the manufacture of incandescent bulbs.

    • Anonymous

      More recently I tested a suspicion I’ve had for quit some time now – I replaced my lighting in my entire home and discovered that my electric bill increased, not decreased. Anyway, I tested my suspicion by using a load tester – I have yet to find a CFL bulb that actually saves energy. For an example I tested an Ecobulb Plus Daylight 100W Equivalent (supposed to use only 23 watts of power). Guess what, it actually uses 66 watts of power. I also tested a 75watt (20watt) soft white GreenLite bulb provided by Allient Energy audit. It actually uses 80 watts of power.

  • Karen

    The mercury in these is being downplayed. The levels measured in the Maine CFL study show that levels above the workplace limits for acute exposure are possible, even likely . Yes, acute exposure limits to not be surpassed EVER, for the workplace assuming adults, not for children. The workplace limit is 100,000 ng/m3 and the chronic exposure limit for a home are 300 ng/m3 (yes I realize that is a chronic limit).

    California is the only one who has a limit for an acute exposure in the home for children and pregnant women. It is 600 ng/m3 for one hour. The Maine CFL study had some levels in the 1000’s for days. They all seem to br comparing the size of the mercury to the head of a pen to show how small it is but this has NOTHING to do with the toxicity of something. The proponents of these things also mislead you with the following comparisons as well.

    Comparing it to a thermometers amount of mercury being 500-3000 mg so it can’t be that bad. But they’ve stopped making mercury thermometers and thermostats because they are too toxic and can hospitalize people if not cleaned up perfectly. Also mercury vapor is what is toxic (you could eat mercury and it is basically non-toxic as your digestive system cant absorb much actually 1/1000 absorption) and a thermometer would only evaporate about 50 ug of mercury vapor per hour, being diluted by air as it does, making levels of mercury in air quite low, under 1000 ng/m3, but still dangerous.

    A CFL puts many many times this into the air right away because it sprays mercury droplets into the air that evaporate instantly (evaporation rate based on surface area/temp). They also contaminate everything they touch. How can these even be legal without warnings plastered all over them. But some would say “well there are no warnings on tubes and those have been used for years safely”. Well, no they haven’t, people just didn’t know how toxic they actually were until the 2008 Maine CFL study was done. As well, tubes in people’s kitchens are usually covered and tubes are harder to break.

    CFL’s fit in lamps and low places that are easily knocked over or accidentally hit. 50 ug of mercury per liter of blood is enough to poison you. A child has 1 liter of blood. There are 5000 ug average in a bulb (but up to 20,000 ug (5-20 mg). These are dangerous and they can contaminate your floor,couch,bedding, clothing, etc. floors in the Maine CFL study emitted mercury for months after a spill. So I think people think that once its visibly clean its safe and it isn’t. Even hardwood floors emitted mercury mercury for weeks after a breakage, so if your child plays there they are being chronically exposed to mercury vapors. As well the mercury vapor recompensed on things in the room, the SCHER report states that children will also be exposed to intake of mercury through “hand to mouth” actions from contaminated dust in the room. I’m not an alarmist when it comes to chemicals, and am actually the one who rolls their eyes when people whine about them, but these things should either carry cleanup instructions, or a big warning that tells you if one breaks you can poison your kids.

  • Jordan

    I just built a 3800 sq. ft. home and decided to use all CFL’s and/or LED bulbs. After shopping all my local stores and the internet for several weeks I was more than appalled. To fit every fixture, a total of 127 not including outdoor lighting which is solar, the cost would have been $3,427.73!

    I could get the same number of incandescent bulbs for $285.75 by buying jumbo packs of GE bulbs at my local Sam’s club. For the price difference forget about the planet. The entire save the planet rhetoric with CFL’s is double talk because they have mercury in them, how good is that for the planet?

    I can take the $3,141.38 difference and invest it something that will earn me more than I will ever see in savings by using CFL’s/LED bulbs.

  • an environmentally conscious drifter

    We have switched several rooms to CFL. I am trying REALLY HARD to like them, but the light they emit is ugly, dim, depressing, grayish. It completely lacks warmth, and gives the house a kind of cold, spaceship-like quality. Also, I have seen zero money savings as far as the energy bill. I also don’t understand how CFL is supposed to be so great for the environment, when a broken bulb is such a hazard and requires elaborate maneuvers for proper disposal. Maybe there’s hope in LED.

  • Anonymous

    It seems like people are always buying into the latest fad only to buy into another one a few years down the road. I’m not saying that CFL bulbs are bad. They’re certainly an improvement to incandescent bulbs, but why did we bother when the technology was already there for us to use LED bulbs? For some, it’s about being green, but for many companies, it’s about staying afloat. After all, if you purchase light bulbs that last 10 years instead of 2, that makes it harder for the company to survive. So why not lure you back into the stores with something better and new?

    In all seriousness, we bought into the CFL craze and now we’re looking into switching our bulbs to LED. It feels wasteful to make the change so soon, but since we’re renters, we’ll keep the bulbs until we move and take our LED bulbs and leave the CFLs. Regardless, it seems strange to be investing in something that we thought was a better choice only to be reinvesting in more bulbs. Who knew something that you never really think about could cost so much money? Regardless, it will be nice to use LED bulbs, which seem to give off better light and are much more energy efficient.