Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)
Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) have revolutionized energy-efficient lighting. CFLs are simply miniature versions of full-sized fluorescent lamps. A coiled design allows them to be used in place of standard incandescent light bulbs. CFLs screw into standard sockets, and give off light that's color-balanced to look like common incandescent bulbs.
Click on any of the links above to learn more about Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs).
Benefits of CFLs
- Efficient: CFLs use one-fourth as much power and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs of the same brightness. A 20-watt CFL has about the same light output as a 75-watt incandescent.
- Less Expensive: Although CFLs are initially more expensive to purchase than comparable incandescent bulbs, you save money in the long run because CFLs use 1/4th the electricity and last up to 13 times as long as incandescent bulbs. A single 20-watt CFL used in place of a 75 watt incandescent will save about 550 kWh over its 10,000-hour lifetime. At 14 cents per kWh, that equates to over $75 in savings over the CFLs 10,000 hour lifetime.
- Reduces Air and Water Pollution: Replacing a single incandescent bulb with a CFL will keep a half-ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere over the life of the bulb. If everyone in the U.S. used energy-efficient lighting, we could retire 90 average size power plants. Saving electricity reduces CO2 emissions, sulfur oxide and high-level nuclear waste.
- High-Quality Light: Newer CFLs give a warm, inviting light instead of the washed-out "cool white" light of older fluorescents. CFLs use rare earth phosphors for excellent color and warmth. And the new generation of electronically ballasted CFLs don't flicker or hum.
- Versatile: CFLs can be applied nearly anywhere that incandescent lights are used. Energy-efficient CFLs can be used in recessed fixtures, table lamps, track lighting, ceiling fixtures and porch lights. 3-way CFLs are also available for lamps with 3-way settings. However, standard CFLs are not dimmable. Although dimmable CFLs are available, at this time they're still rather expensive and seldom found on retail shelves.
Choosing the Right CFL
Matching the right CFL to the right kind of fixture helps ensure that it will perform properly and last a long time. The following information is courtesy of the US EPA ENERGY STAR web site.
- CFLs perform best in open fixtures that allow airflow, such as table and floor lamps, wall sconces, pendants, and outdoor fixtures.
- For recessed fixtures, it is better to use a reflector CFL than a spiral CFL since the design of the reflector evenly distributes the light down to your task area.
- If a light fixture is connected to a dimmer or three-way switch, you'll need to use a special ENERGY STAR qualified CFL designed to work in these applications. Make sure to look for CFLs that specify use with dimmers or three-way fixtures.
- Choose a qualified CFL that offers a shade of white light that works best for you. For example, while most CFLs provide warm or soft white light for your home, you could choose a cooler color for task lighting.
- To choose the ENERGY STAR qualified CFL with the right amount of light, find a qualified CFL that is labeled as equivalent to the incandescent bulb you are replacing. Light bulb manufacturers include this information right on the product packaging to make it easy for consumers to choose the equivalent bulb. Common terms include "Soft White 60" or "60 Watt Replacement."
You should also check the lumen rating to find the right CFL. The higher the lumen rating, the greater the light output. Consult the following chart to determine what CFL wattage is best to replace your incandescent light bulb:
How CFLs Work
Energy-saving lights save energy by making light without the heat using a completely different process called fluorescence.
In an incandescent bulb, electric current runs through a wire filament and heats the filament until it starts to glow. In a CFL bulb, an electric current is driven through a tube containing argon, a colorless gaseous element, and a small amount of mercury vapor. This generates invisible ultraviolet light that activates a fluorescent coating (called phosphor) on the inside of the tube, which then emits visible light.
CFLs typically need slightly more energy when they are first turned on, but once the electricity starts moving, they use about 75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. A CFL's ballast helps "kick start" the CFL and then regulates the current once the electricity starts flowing.
The Home Depot at 3200 NE Capital Circle is now taking used CFLs for proper recycling and disposal. This free program is part of their national CFL recycling program.
You can also take CFLs to the Leon County Landfill, Leon County Hazardous Waste collection event. The Green Living Center at 1020 N. Monroe St. (222.4521), also accepts used CFLs for proper disposal. For more information on CFLs including disposal and cleanup, visit the ENERGY STAR CFL web page.
CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing - an average of 5 milligrams - about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. By comparison, older thermometers contain about 500 milligrams of mercury. It would take 100 CFLs to equal that amount.
Mercury currently is an essential component of CFLs and is what allows the bulb to be an efficient light source. No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use. Many manufacturers have taken significant steps to reduce mercury used in their fluorescent lighting products. In fact, the average amount of mercury in a CFL is anticipated to drop by the end of 2007 thanks to technology advances and a commitment from members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.