Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs - What Are They?

CFL's or energy saving light bulbs are a type of fluorescent light fixture very similar to old school long flurosecent tube bulbs. In recent years they have been made smaller and much more compact by spiraled glass tubing, enabling them to fit into standard light fixtures normally reserved only for incandescent bulbs. Compact fluroescent bulbs boast an astounding energy savings that amazed the general public when they were first introduced, and also have the advantage of lasting up to 10 times longer than standard light bulbs.

Compact fluroescent light bulbs resonate a different light spectrum than incandescent bulbs. The light is often much softer, with the very first CFL's being even more so. However, recent improvements in the phosphor formula within the bulb have advanced light emissions to a much better level. Many modern CFL's are comparable in lighting effect to incandescent lamps.

CFL Energy Saving Light Bulbs & Overall Efficiency

Compared to other energy efficient household products, the use of CFL's in place of regular light bulbs is a total no-brainer. A compact fluroescent light bulb uses 75% less electricity than an incandescent bulb, and gives up to 75% less heat too. Because they operate without burning through a tungsten filament, CFL's last up to 10 times longer than standard bulbs, translating into an electricity savings of about $25-$30 PER BULB over each bulb's lifetime. As if that weren't enough, less heat means less greenhouse gases which means that CFL's are leaps and bounds better for the environment as a whole. Replacing existing light bulbs with new compact fluroescent fixtures is the single most common green building technique that homeowners across the US have participated in.

Energy Saving Tips - Energy Saving Light Bulbs If every home in the US replaced just ONE light bulb with an Energy Star qualified CFL bulb, it would amount to over $600 million dollars in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse emissions equivalent to taking more than 800,000 cars off the road!

Since household lighting accounts for approximately 7% of all electrical usage in a home, CFL's stand to save substantial money and energy in the form of reduced utilities. Compact fluroescent bulb handout programs began in many areas of the US and still continue today. As more and more consumers become aware of the savings available, the bulbs are made in a wider variety of styles and hues to fit any modern lighting fixture.

Energy Star Qualified Compact Fluroescent Light Bulbs and Lamps

The US EPA's Energy Star program will qualify any CFL bulb meeting or exceeding it's expectations. Categories these bulbs are judged upon include startup time (time it takes the bulb to reach full intensity), life expectancy, CFL light emissions and color, and consistancy over the lifetime of the bulb. Light output is measured in Lumens (luminous flux), which is the perceived power of the light adjusted for the sensitivity of the human eye.

Because new CFL bulbs use significantly less wattage than ordinary bulbs, the traditional standards for determining how much of a light bulb you need (ex. 60 Watts, 100 Watts, etc...) require new definition. Below is the Energy Star recommended equivalency chart for determining wattage for qualified compact fluroescent light bulbs:

Standard Incandescent
Bulb (Watts)
Minimum Light Output
(Lumens)
Energy Star Qualified
CFL Bulb (Watts)
40 450 9 - 13
60 800 13 - 15
75 1100 18 - 25
100 1600 23 - 30
150 2600 30 - 52


Available CFL Bulb Shades, Colors, and Lighting Levels by CCT

Most kitchens and bathrooms desire clean white light, but some rooms may require a softer and more cool quality of lighting color. This is where a bulb's CCT (correlated color temperature) comes in. Measured in Kelvin (K), the CCT is an indicator of what type of light will be produced by a specific Energy Star rated light bulb. The lower the CCT, the warmer and more reddish-yellowish or orange the light will be (approximately 2700 to 3000K). As the CCT measurement gets higher, the bulb emits a more bluish or white light (3500 to 5000K). Highest CCT levels are closest to natural light or daylight (6500K). Check the CCT number on the bulb to choose the right light for each specific room or light fixture in your home.

Different Physical Types of CFL's for Different Fixtures

Another common complaint amongst people reluctant to switch to energy efficient light bulbs is the look of the bulbs themselves. In the past this might've been a valid complaint, but today not all compact fluroescent light bulbs have the spiraled look to them.

CFL's now come in a wide variety of covered glass styles resembling traditional incandescent light bulbs. For recessed fixtures, reflector CFL's exist that are superior to spiraled ones simply because they generate a more evenly distributed light. Not all CFL's work with dimmer and 3-way switches, so be sure to check the packaging for special Energy Star qualified bulbs that are rated for 3-way or dimmer fixtures.


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