What you may not know about CFLs

Compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs have been promoted for years as a way for consumers to “go green” in their homes. CFLs use less energy than regular incandescent bulbs, burn longer, and burn cooler — or so the hype says.

cflsIf you’re one of those diligent folks who thought CFLs were an obvious, easy way to do something for the environment, then you already know what I know. You probably decided to try a few CFLs in your home — or maybe replaced most of the bulbs in your home in one fell swoop. Yes, you thought, they are more expensive and require special disposal because they contain mercury, but they’re worth it!

Now the dirty little CFL secrets are out, even though we are still being encouraged to use them.

Like me, you’ve probably come across some that were just plain duds; they never produced a single lumen of light, despite your efforts to make sure they were firmly, properly seated in the socket, all the appropriate “on” switches were on, and all plugs were plugged in. (Hope you didn’t throw those out in the regular trash. That’s a no no.)

We’ve all come across the CFLs that gleamed for only a few hours before dying a very premature death. So much for the “extended life, 10,000 hours” claims. I count those in with the ones that never burned at all.

And how many of them did you literally burn though before reading the labels carefully enough to realize they aren’t supposed to be used with dimmer switches, 3-way switches, or enclosed fixtures?

Some of us are no longer blessed with the world’s sharpest eyes and want bright lighting for certain after-dark tasks — reading, for example. A 150-watt bulb or two in the nearest lamp is the only way to go, and three or four of them in the room is a plus. How many 150-watt CFLs have you seen? And if there were such a thing,  it probably wouldn’t fit in any lamp you own.

I have one little lamp on a living room shelf that is on 24/7, something I picked up from my parents. No matter how forgetful I am, or when I might come in, there’s a soft light waiting for me. I have found only one CFL that fits in the lamp’s enclosed hurricane-style socket and it emits the most gawdawful greenish light I’ve ever seen.  Plus, it’s a 3-way switch. If ever there were an obvious place for a CFL …

To date I’ve had only one real “success” with CFLs, and even it has shortcomings. I leave my outside lights burning 24/7 (the alternative is forgetting to turn them on and having the outside of the house totally dark at night, which makes me nervous). I burned through a lot of different bulbs until I finally tried some specially designed outdoor CFLs. The little fluorescent tubes are enclosed in a sort of plastic casing. Still, they fit my fixtures and have burned non-stop for maybe a year so far. Esthetically they aren’t what I would prefer in clear glass lantern-style outdoor fixtures, but aside from that I’m quite happy with them.

Earth Hour is tonight, and those outdoor CFLs may get turned off for the first time in their lives.

On the other hand, why mess with success?

3 thoughts on “What you may not know about CFLs

  1. Interesting. They were pre-installed when I moved into my current apartment, so I haven’t bothered to mess with them. I did know about the special disposal, though.
    My hat’s off to your management team. If those bulbs are getting the job done, I wouldn’t touch ’em either.

... and that's my two cents