By Sophie Quinton on Oct 28, 2010

The Phase-Out of Incandescent Light Bulbs: What You Need To Know

The incandescent bulb hasn’t changed much since Thomas Edison patented it in 1879. More than one hundred years later, the familiar bulbs still push electricity through a wire filament – and still waste a whole lot of energy.

In the U.S., incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014 under the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007. Nothing will be mandated until 2012, although in many areas, energy companies are offering incentives such as mail-in rebates to switch to CFLs. Photo: Wikimedia/JaneArt

Ninety percent of the energy pumped through an incandescent light bulb is wasted as heat; that’s why traditional bulbs are so hot to the touch. However, thanks to a piece of 2007 legislation, traditional incandescent bulbs will soon become a thing of the past.

The Bush-era law, called the Energy Independence and Security Act, set energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs that will come fully into effect in 2012. The law will require light bulbs to use 25-30 percent less power than incandescents use today.

It’s a mandate that will quickly slash residential and commercial energy use, lowering the nation’s carbon footprint and utility bills at the same time.

Predicted savings include $13 billion in energy costs and the prevention of 100 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, reported Noah Horowitz, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council’s energy program, in a blog post. Overall, the legislation will save as much electricity each year as that used by all the homes in the state of Texas.

In theory, the legislation sounds like a no-brainer. Australia, Brazil and the European Union have already enacted their own, parallel laws. Yet in the United States, some consumers and activists have interpreted the act as a ban on incandescent bulbs. Others believe that energy-efficient alternatives will necessarily cost more, deliver lower quality light and pose a health risk.

Texas Congressman Joe Barton recently proposed a repeal of the legislation, and editorials occasionally crop up in leading newspapers, from the Wall Street Journal to the Washington Times, protesting the “light bulb ban.”

True, energy efficiency standards will inevitably make most incandescent bulbs obsolete, and give a boost to their more energy-efficient competitors, compact florescent bulbs (CFLs) and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Yet “no one is requiring you to buy a CFL—not now, not ever,” Horowitz wrote. “The regulation is simply making manufacturers build you a better bulb.”

CFL and LED proponents point out that alternative lighting options are becoming cheaper, safer and more aesthetically pleasing every day, and that the legislation will force manufacturers to make them even better.

For consumers, the biggest deterrent to choosing CFLs and LEDs “is the initial cost,” says Brian Clark Howard, Web editor at The Daily Green and co-author of the book Green Lighting. Yet although CFLs and LEDs cost more initially, Howard explains, over time they can save consumers hundreds of dollars in reduced energy costs.

CFLs use 75 percent less energy to run and last ten times as long as traditional incandescents: this means that each bulb, over its lifetime, actually costs $30 less than an incandescent. Think of it this way: incandescents cost less upfront, but come will sneaky hidden fees.

Another complaint Howard often hears, he says, is “I tried a CFL years ago, and I hated it.” Howard points out that technology has improved radically since bulbs first hit the market. Consumers can now buy energy-efficient bulbs that fit pretty much any light fixture and choose from a whole range of light effects. A 2007 study by Popular Mechanics actually rated light quality of seven popular CFLs higher than that of traditional incandescents.

While CFLs do contain mercury, with proper handling, they produce a minimal health risk. Each CFL bulb carries about 5 miligrams of mercury, “just enough to cover a ballpoint pen tip.”

“Unless you wipe up mercury [without gloves] and then lick your hand, you’re probably going to be okay,” says Russ Leslie, associate director of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytecnic Institute, as reported by Popular Mechanics.

Popular Mechanics crunched the numbers and discovered that traditional incandescent bulbs actually introduce more mercury into the environment over their product life cycle.

Because incandescents consume more energy, they’re responsible for a greater amount of pollution associated with electricity generation, including the release of trace amounts of mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the surrounding environment.

Over the next couple of years, you’ll probably see fewer and fewer incandescent bulbs on store shelves – and hear a lot more from pundits, both on the right and left, about the light bulb legislation. The best way to cut through the hype? Try out some energy-efficient alternatives, and find out how they can fit your lifestyle and save you money.

[search type="disposal" what="CFL" whatlabel="CFL"]

Related articles
Yes, You Pay More For CFLs, But Are They Worth It?
IKEA to Phase Out Incandescent Bulbs
A Safer CFL Now on the Market

Related articles

The best picks from all our categories, ready for you to read instantly.

Comments

  1. Wilfrid W. Csaplar Jr., Ph.D. says

    Please correct your statistics. It is impossible to have “CFL use four times less energy to run” than incandescent bulbs. For example, let’s suppose that an incadescent bulb uses 60 watts during an hour. For a CFL bulb to use “four times less energy” that would require it to use 60 watts – 4*60 watts = -180 watts. How can a CFL bulb use a negative amount of electricity? I suspect you mean “one fourth as much energy”. If you every hear or read somebody say or write “This is X times less than that,” I guarantee you their statistics are wrong.

  2. Indy P. Jones says

    How about a CFL that actually works in cold weather – like on my porch? I have never seen an incandescent fail to come on because of cold weather.

  3. Denise Moore says

    While you’re at it, can you also fix the statement “A 2007 study by Popular Mechanics actually rated light quality of seven popular CFLs higher than that of traditional LEDs.”? The study rates the CFL’s higher than traditional INCANDESCENTS, not LEDs. Thx.

  4. carol says

    What happens to my lamps wired through a dimmer switch? Do I have to change switches or stay with incandescents? Or is the warning of not mixing CFL’s with dimmer switches (mine had a specific warning to that effect) to be ignored?

  5. Mike says

    @Indy
    I have CFL’s outside on my back porch and they always come on even in cold weather. Now when I say cold I mean roughly 20 – 30 degrees. Your meaning of cold may be different, but for the majority of the country that 20 – 30 degrees is what cold is.

    I have CFLs in my house that have been in place for 4 or 5 years now and have not burnt out. I was replacing the incandescent on those same lights yearly. I really don’t see the problem with CFLs they come in all shapes and sizes now, and different lighting types. As far as up front cost goes, keep your eyes out for sales at your local hardware stores. I couple months ago I bought just some standard CFL bulbs for $1 piece on a 3 day sale at ACE hardware. I stocked up and bought 15 of them, and now I don’t have to buy any more for a long time. Also look for rebates from your local electric company I have seen in many stores where you can instant rebate on certain brands of CFLs and LEDs. Yes I know you have to recycle them but I have box in my garage I put the bad ones and when I get couple of them I take them to Home Depot for recycling. I have gone twice in 4 years.

  6. ruralwannabe says

    Can you address the popular theory that CFLs don’t work well in situations where lights are turned on and off frequently? In those situations, CFLs burn out quickly, thus raising cost of use considerably.

    As for the dimmer, I never heard you couldn’t mix them, just that the dimmer won’t dim the light.
    Thanks!

  7. TOM says

    Sorry.. but when you come on as a cheerleader for CFL’s and start lying to me..I call this article a crock of S$%T!

    I WANTED to use CFLs in my kitchen YEARS ago.. but when I tried them..my wife hated them and made me take them back.

    The didn’t turn on right away like the incandescent floods we still use..flickering until they finally came on, gave a harsh light, and we couldn’t use our dimmer swithches on them; they don’t dim!!

    Plus.. my local waste disposal people now says we will have to paya fee $5.00 a bulb when we dispose of the bulbs..because of the mercury content!

    So much for savings!

    Why shouldn’t it be MY choice to pay more for electricity if I prefer the light from an incandescent tbulb?

    Why does Big Brother have to dictate to me what kind of lighting I have in my own home!

    I am SOooooooooo sick and tired of this Bulls$#T!

  8. Elle says

    My CFLs are awfully slow to come on. It would be nice to have the full lighting capacity come on when I flip the switch. Also, the one in my kitchen lasted only 8 months where the life of the old bulbs, used in the same conditions of on and off in the kitchen, would last for at least 3 years! Now, I’ll find where to take this one bulb to have it recycled and drive there because with young children I will not have them lingering around the house until they build up to more to take to a recycle center.

  9. Paul says

    This article sounds like an advocate’s talking points rather than objective information. It acknowledges that “energy efficiency standards will inevitably make most incandescent bulbs obsolete, and give a boost to their more energy-efficient competitors”. How will this happen except if incandescents can’t meet the new standards and are excluded from the marketplace? But it then repeats – unchallenged – the line that “no one is requiring you to buy a CFL – not now, not ever”. I suppose that’s technically true since you can buy an LED instead of a CFL. But it’s presented in the context of challenging the idea that ordinary bulbs will banned. If ordinary bulbs are regulated out of the marketplace, then yes, that’s a ban, and the critics are right.

    The most egregious example is the statement that “the legislation will force manufacturers [of LED and CFL bulbs] to make them even better”. If LED and CFL bulbs had to continue competing against incandescent ones, as they have up to now, THAT would force the manufacturers to improve them. But by removing incandescent bulbs as a competitor, the legislation will actually reduce the pressure on manufacturers of other bulbs to improve their products.

    Some elementary understanding of how the marketplace works would have greatly improved this article and made it less of an advocacy piece.

  10. Carol says

    To all you whiners out there that can’t
    stand to wait one or two seconds for a
    light to come on, I say GOOD GRIEF!!!
    it’s only a second. Get used to it; it’s a
    small sacrifice to make for saving energy!

  11. noman says

    Since my wife likes to leave at least one light on in every room of the house in the evening, I got tired of chasing her around the house flipping switches and opted to replace every incandescent in the house with a CFL. I’m the one who pays the electricity bill, and if nothing else, they’ve already paid for themselves in terms of peace of mind. They come on at about 80% brightness and take a few minutes to warm up (big waah), and I’ve replaced one or two, but overall, they’ve held up well. At first, my wife complained about the light color, so I went back to Home Depot a couple times until I found the right style. Now no one notices a difference. For me, the switchover was a no brainer, but it’s sad that some people want to hold on to incandescents like an old blankie….to the point that the government has to regulate common sense. Hint – if you tried them in 1970 and had a bad experience, well, things have changed a bit since then. You probalby wouldn’t be happy with a 1970 computer either.

  12. Tony says

    Hey TOM … Home Depot and Lowes recycles the CFL’s for free plus the new bulbs come right on now as opposed to the ones that came out years ago. Perhaps you should do a little research before ranting like an idiot. And the Big Brother thing … wow you really are an idiot.

  13. Donovan says

    one tip my Dad told me about bulbs ..as an electrician for many years they was tought not to touch the bulbs with bare hands ..the oils in your skin will cause them to burn out sooner kinda like a hot spot on the bulb
    we are starting to move into LED bulbs and now there coming out with a 60watt version of the incandesant
    I found this site I hope it helps first part of the year I plan on ordering some bulbs from them
    http://www.ledbulb.com/A19-LED-Lamp-p/a19-e26-5.2w-f.htm
    home depot is going to sell 60watt’s for 30 to 40 dollars starting in Dec

  14. Brian says

    In response to Tom’s complaints:

    As you said, you tried them years ago. I had the same negative experience with old CFLs but, the new ones work a lot better. Also, if you have regular flouresent tube lighting with magnetic ballasts, try converting over to the T8 lights and ballasts (for 4 ft length). They use less energy and flick on faster than the old ballasts. And, don’t forget, LEDs. They work with dimmers!

    There is a reason government has to get involved. Older technologies have huge advantages over newer ones such as the plant & equipment investment having been paid for and a public resistant to change to name just a couple. So, to push us ALL into a better, greener environment, the gov’t has to give us all a push.

    “Why shouldn’t it be MY choice to pay more for electricity if I prefer the light from an incandescent bulb?” The answer is because when you and a lot of other people do it, the practice uses more energy driving up the cost for everyone, dumping more carbon into the atmosphere making everyone else’s life more miserable. Let me ask you something. Why should I have to shell out more money for my electric bill and live on a more toxic planet just because you’re not willing to get off your duff and make a change for the better?

  15. Brian says

    Hey Noman (Norman?),

    I had a similar problem with family members not turning lights off. To combat the problem, I installed a few light switches with built-in motion sensors. It took a bit of tinkering to get the settings just right on a couple but, now my family loves them. They don’t need to turn on a light, just walk through the door.

    It can be a bit of a pain if you enter a room and then sit quietly to read but, they all have a manual overide.

  16. David R. Dayton says

    There has never been a serious effort to improve the efficiency of the common 120 volt general service lamps. The lamps are manufactured at the lowest possible cost to meet ratings established about 75 years ago. For example, improving the lamp life would reduce the need for lamp replacements.

  17. noman says

    Brian,
    Can you use the motion sensors with CFLs? I was under the impression that they wouldn’t work with dimmers or motion sensors. I’d love to install them if I knew for sure they would work with CFLs. The CFLs I have are two or three years old.

  18. Tiffany says

    All of the comments on here are great and all make a valid point. However, the article as well as people dance around the fact that the mercury in the CFLs are much higher than what is in incandescent bulbs. In fact, there is a specific disposal for these bulbs and if one is broken in your home, CALL the EPA!!!! The article tries to say that the amount of mercury is so insignificant that you would literaly have to lick the mercury to become affected by it. Well that’s completely wrong, remember in science lab when the teacher would say do not drop the thermometer because the mercury can get into the air and inhaled into your body? Same goes with a broken bulb, and the glass has to be sealed in an air tight container and must be disposed of properly…not just in the trash. I’m not convinced on CFLs, but I am on the bandwagon for LEDs.

  19. Marty says

    Phew. lots of negatives.
    Some CFLs WILL work with dimmers. More expensive than Regulars. READ THE PACKAGE before you buy.

    The color rendition of various CFLs are different just like conventional Flourescents. Try several, find one you like and then look at the Color Temperature Rating for the CFL (Soft whites are 2700K).

    I live where -20F is pretty normal in the winter. There are CFLs which are rated for a minimum stating temperature of -20F (-28.9C). Again READ THE PACKAGE before you buy. (There are others that do not have to light below +60F)

    (Yes I live on a Solar PV powered system and MUST pay attention to things like this)

  20. says

    I am the purchasing agent for an electrical wholesaler. There are CFLs that are rated for dimmers and, yes, they do cost more than the regular CFLs. Motion sensors are tricky. Older ones do not work with fluorescents of any kind. Most of the newer ones on the market today do. Older CFLs(3 years or older) did flicker when powering. The newer ones are instant on and do take a couple of minutes to achieve full brightness. As mentioned in earlier comments cold temps can be a problem. Again you should read the package. The industry push now is LEDs. In the next couple of years the technology and pricing of LEDs will evolve and CFLs will become less and less expensive. Being on the wholesale purchasing end of the industry, my suggestion before laying out some serious cash for LEDs would be to wait. The market right now is being flooded with LEDs of varying quality. As with all new technologies, the longer it is on the market the cheaper they will become. It seems every lighting company has new LEDs that they are trying to peddle. If you are interested in buying LEDs, look for a name you recognize. They might be a little more expensive than others but, you get what you pay for. There is nothing worse than buying a light bulb with a five year warranty and then two years later taking it back to the store where you bought it to get a replacement and find out the company is no longer in business. It has happened.

  21. Margaret says

    The quality of CFL is just not consistent. We have many we bought at Home Depot that only last a few months. I can put 2 brands in different ceiling fixtures and one will burn out quickly, while the other lasts much longer. I never found that with incandescents.

    We have many fixtures in our house that use bulbs that are not yet manufactured as CFL or LED (vanity bulbs, small base bulbs, and flame tips to name a few). We have pendant lights in the kitchen that need a clear bulb. When are these going to be available? I was glad to finally see dimmable CFLs, but the cost is ridiculous! Considering the short life span of many of the CFLs I have purchased, I am not anxious to pay this price.

    Also, disposing of bulbs is a problem. Our recycling program doesn’t accept them, which means I need to find another place and also make a storage space for them. Ugh!

  22. noman says

    Thanks Tony, good info. The fluorescent tubes in my garage don’ tlike the cold, and I’m planning on replacing them with LED tubes as soon as I can find a good quality bulb at a reasonable price. In the time I’ve been paying attention, the price has about been cut in half (around $100 a year or two ago, and now I see them for closer to $50)…still way too steep for me. And a while back, the DOE said they still had a ways to go with efficiency and light quality (for indoor lighting), but getting there…

  23. Joshua says

    Just purchased $1000 of Edison bulbs. I am 38, I hope the 750 assorted bulb wil last most of my life. I tried the CFL and they give me horrible headaches, plus I dislike all greenies. Look at what they did with freon, morons.

  24. Joe says

    Gosh Joshua, I am amazing that you would stock up on so many bulbs. I’ve got a box in my laundry room with several used working incandescents that I have removed to install CFLs. I’ve kept the incandescents for use in closets and other rarely used locations. I haven’t bought any standard incandescent bulbs in probably 10 years.

  25. Darlene says

    What will all the mercury in the landfills do to the environment a speck in each but multiplyed by billions?

    and what about those with migraines and other conditions dont do well with CFL
    any way to improve that inferior light from Fl that causes more eye strain?

    Is LED more eviron friendly and any work to get the cost down so Most people can afford even one bulb?

  26. Jim O'Neill says

    Any time the government intrudes into the free market and legislates “innovation,” it kills competition, thereby suppressing true innovation through enforced monopoly. People will buy what they prefer, and if you leave the market alone, bad technology will eventually be replaced by better technology, like Windows finally being replaced by the Mac. But it has to be done organically, not with the iron fist of federal intrusion. That never works.

  27. Jess says

    What if a CFL bulb breaks? Check out (below) the EPA’s guidelines for cleaning up a broken bulb (from http://www.energystar.gov/ia/products/lighting/cfls/downloads/CFL_Cleanup_and_Disposal.pdf). You’re suppose to “air out the room” and turn off central air/heat during cleanup AND for the next several times you vacuum the area where the bulb broke. They say to THROW AWAY any clothing or bedding that comes in contact with the broken glass because washing these things “may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.” Seriously?

    From energystar.gov website:
    “Because CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:
    1. Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room
    • Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more. Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.
    2. Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces
    • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
    • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.
    • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
    • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
    3. Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug:
    • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
    • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
    • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
    • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.
    4. Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding, etc.:
    • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury- containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
    • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
    • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.
    5. Disposal of Clean-up Materials
    • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
    • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
    • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific
    area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.
    6. Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rug: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming
    • The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
    • Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.”

  28. says

    I’m waiting on the ESLs that will be shipped sometime this month. They’re cheaper than LEDs and have better light spectrum and power factor. They last about 10,000 hours, are dimmable and come on instantly. They also don’t have the toxic material (mercury) like CFLs.

  29. Jack says

    Y’all shoud know that “rough service” incandescents are NOT BANNED and most are rated at 10,000 hours and some at 20,000 hours. They are only slightly more exensive ($1 vs 25cents for an A19 100w) and are NOT BANNED.

    Google “rough service” lightbulbs.

    ESL’s are very expensive (not quite as LED) and have a very large base and will not fit correctly in many incandescent fixtures.

    The only reason the 2007 legislation was enacted regarding lightbulbs was GE so they could sell more expensive lighting with a higher profit margin. There is no energy cost savings (look it up), bulbs don’t use that much energy on their own. If you save $10 a year it would be amazing (per bulb).

    CFLs either burn out or simply “get dimmer” over time…so your 4-5 year CFLs are probably a whole lot dimmer than brand new-sure they have not burned out, but they light the provide is lumen for lumen, less than a new bulb.

    CFLs play havoc with the mind as they are turning off/on 200 times a second and can cause seizures and aggravate skin conditions such as psorasis.

  30. noman says

    Have all of you who are so paranoid about CFLs ever watched a movie or anything on TV? If so, by the end of the show, were you lieing on the ground writhing in spasms?

  31. Alice says

    I had four identical ceiling fixtures, three of which had CFL’s with the fourth incandescent bulbs. All bulbs were placed in the fixtures the same day. After two years I removed ALL CFL’s from my home. The CFL’s in the three fixtures were taking over three minutes to come to full light and this is inside the house not outside (don’t even go there with me on CFL’s being used outside). The light coming from the CFL’s was significantly less than that coming from the fixture with the Incandescent bulbs. The reduction in light from the CFL’s was causing me to turn or more lights and I was even bringing lamps from other rooms just so I could see what I was doing in this one room at night.

    After removing all the CFL’s throughout my home I have been able to see to read or do embroidery without severe eyestrain. The color is warmer rather than being the cold blue color that comes from the CFL’s. Yes, I did purchase the “warm color” CFL’s and the term warm should have never been used to describe a CFL bulb.

    I am glad to have these bulbs out of my house and I will never buy another one, ever! I am stocking up on the wattage bulbs I use. Even in England incandescent bulbs are being sold. Of course, they are sold as heat lamps but, they can be purchased.

    I have quite a few halogen light fixtures in my home and they at least produce light when I flip the switch.

    Using CFL’s outside is laughable. I live in Utah and even at night in summer months the CFL’s take several minutes to come to full light. I would never use one of these bulbs where I need light for safety. In winter months the CFL’s never come to full light output.

    BOYCOTT CFL’S. Can’t afford LED’s as they are costing $10.00 plus per bulb.

  32. Jom says

    CFL’s are not good for every application. They are okay in most indoor locations that are on standard switched fixtures. However.

    1) They are no good in decorative lighting like chandeliers with candelabra fixtures.
    2) They cannot be dimmer and you should never put them in a socket controlled by a dimmer.
    3) The should never be used in certain electronically controlled circuits, like some photocell actuated circuits (i.e. on a dusk off a dawn) and in some infrared controlled circuits.
    4) They are notoriously bad in cold climates. In wintertime in outdoor fixtures they will come on but they are extremely dim and take 10 minutes or more to reach full brightness. Likewise I wouldn’t use them as utility lamps in freezers or refrigerators.
    5) Never use a CFL as an oven light.
    6) never use them in appliances.

    CFL’s have their place but they are not complete replacements for incandescents. And, there are some people who simply don;t like the type of light they get from CFL’s

    Incandescents have stood the test of time and will be around for along long time to come. So far the versatility of the incandescent is unmatched.

  33. ConservMore says

    Many of you are complaining that CFLs do not turn on right away, flicker or going dim (vs. dimmable). I suspect those of you who have tries SOME of the LEDs will mention that they also dim over time. Try buying QUALITY!
    CFLs – First of all – check your CFLs to see if they are a magnetic or electronic ballast. Many hardware store employees do not know the difference, so the easiest way is to look at the package. If there is an “M” ANYwhere in the model/part number, it is Magnetic – DON’T buy that one if you do not want delay, flicker or dimming over time! Make sure you get the Electronic Ballast; it may cost a bit more – I usually pay $1-$2 per bulb for the 100w equivalent and a bit more for 3-way or even more for the dimmable ones. With my erratic work hours, my lights are often on 24/7 and the savings does add up. I have only once broken a CFL and I just put on disposable gloves to clean it up. My town has a ‘clean-up’ day to dispose of various can’t-go-in-trash items.
    LEDs – Again check QUALITY. The reason that most LEDs go dim relatively quickly is that they are not made with a heat sink. Check out the products from FineLite.com. I have used their products extensively and even specially ordered them for a custom mobile office (Mini-RV). Each bulb has an individual heat sink. Over several YEARS of constant use, they have had any decrease in output (lumens) and they have withstood the vibrations of being installed in a moving vehicle. True they were a bit more than some others, but I would rather keep a quality product for a long time than have to constantly discard and replace.
    I have not tried the ESLs, but then I do not expect to need replacing my current setup for quite some time.

  34. Miffed says

    These CFLs give me ocular migraines because of the indiscernable flashing. This is not a good tradeoff for me. Does anyone else have this issue?

  35. Caroline says

    This is kind of hypocritical don’t you think…save energy on light bulbs but buy electric cars?! Our government is controlling everything we do so we don’t have to think for ourselves! What can eat, drink, buy, where we can smoke, are we all that stupid what we believe everything our government tells us!? It all boils down to one thing and I don’t believe this bull@#$! about saving energy…who is the highest bidder and how much can the government put in their pockets at our expense!

  36. Kate says

    Dear Miffed, Yes, fluorescent lighting sets off migraines and eye pain for me too. Neurologists agree this happens. I don’t feel well in stores with such lighting, but at least I hope I would have the ability to CHOOSE to have safer lighting at home. But nooooo –the government wants to make that difficult. So, we have to build wheel chair ramps everywhere for those with disabilities, but documented health effects from fluorescents are completely overlooked? I’m not asking that every public building be required to cater to my “lighting sensitivity” but surely, in my own home at least I should be allowed to buy incandescent. I’m not a Republican, but think I’ll become one because of this issue. Go Ron Paul! (he’s trying to help with this issue.)
    Kate

  37. Bob says

    CFL’s and/or LED’s use will not save on your electric bills,BECAUSE you will use less electricity……your bill is less……and the utility company will realize this and will retaliate by raising you electric rates!!!!!!!!

    Furthermore “old light bulbs” heat your house in the cold weather……..98% heat/ 2% light

    PS: you can’t win
    Bob

  38. John W. says

    @Wilfrid…Jr. PhD,
    Ummm…. really? What, pray tell is your doctorate in? Please don’t say math. If I put a 14 watt CFL in my 60 watt fixture, I am using 76.7% less energy. The MATH works this way… 14/60=23.3 or, 14 is 23.3% of 60. 100-23.3=76.7 Hmmm…not hard to figure out “Doc”.

    I replaced all of my 60w lamps with 14w cfl (electronic balast). I get 80% illumination instantly and in less than 5 minutes have full illumination. I bought the color that was comfortable to me AND, the fact that it doesn’t come on at full intensity help ME with my own light sensetivity issues in that I get serious headaches from high intensity flash or lighting. The slower increase to full illumination allows my eyes to adjust better which makes it less likely that I will get a headache.
    None of my lights make any noise except when I turn them of… they click. With my “unstable” and “uncomfortable” CFL’s I have saved over $200.00 over the past 3 years partly from the energy saved and partly from not having to buy more bulbs. With my savings, I bought a 750w microwave that is Energy Star rated and makes popcorn that tastes like money. I have never broken any of my lights cuz, I haven’t TOUCHED them in 3 years. If, in the next 5 years, one or two of these evil lil s%^ts decides to die on me, my local HOME DEPOT will take them off my hands for me at no cost. I may even decide NOT to make a special trip to turn them in (since they take up less that .25 cuft in my closet); instead, I may just wait until I need some more daffodils for my flower garden and replace those nasty dead CFL bulbs with some flower bulbs… in the same trip.
    Seriously… No one ever demanded that IBM or APPLE make our home PC’s betterstrongerfaster. They did that on their own and much to our (the consumer) benefit. They even imposed “green tech” arbitrarily when they set my PC up to go to sleep if I leave it running and walk away. How dare they? What if I want my PC to stay awake, dammit? Well, I guess I can turn that off cuz they left me the option.
    Would anyone here mind a gas burning car that gets 100mpg? I have a 15 gallon gas tank on my 1997 Jeep. If my engine was rated at 100mpg, I could go see my sister in NY on one tank of gas (from VA). Even at 3.50/gal that is a 52.50 trip just for the gas. Round trip air is a little less than $200.00 (not counting all those lil fees for convenience items like baggage…plus a rental care that gets 35mpg) It really is a no brainer.
    It is amazing to me that people are so resistant to change in spite of the obvious benefits. We can come up with any number of “reasons” why we shouldn’t do something. But the truth is that if we don’t step out and try to make things better, then nothing will ever get done. Instead of complaining about the quality of the products available, we should tell our manufacturers what we need so they will make good on our demands.
    Our society assumes that what we get off the shelf should be exactly what we want or need. That is unrealistic in the sense that unless the producers get feedback from us, they will just keep guessing as to what to put on those shelves. If I pop some popcorn in my microwave oven, and I decide that there is not enough salt, do I take that popped popcorn back to Orville Redenbacher and demand that he put more salt in it? NO, i get out my salt shaker and fix the problem so I can go watch my movie on my Energy Star rated LED flat screen TV.
    But, if I want GE to build me a better CFL/ESL/LED to replace my incandecent bulbs, I should probably take a few minutes to send GE some feedback and let them know that I won’t buy poor quality appliances or accessories so they better get on the ball. If they don’t pay attention to me, then I sic my congressman on them and make policy to increase efficiency. Why won’t they do that on their own? Maybe its cuz our throw-it-away-when-I-am-tired-of-it society has let the greedy bastards get away with being greedy for too long….. jus guessin here.
    Why do I have a cell phone that has more computing power than my PC at work, but I can’t get a light bulb that uses 90% less energy than my old bulbs, or a car that uses 75% less fuel to take me twice as far as I can go right now? What is wrong with that? Who cares about the environment? I want my efficiencies dammit!!! I want to save more money so I can do some daytrading and stimulate the economy!!!
    What!??? If I do all of this, the environment will benefit too? What the hell???!!! REALLY??? HOLY S&%T!!! That means my kids won’t die of asthma or lung cancer!! My grandkids will have better opportunities for education and happiness!!!!
    WHY THE HELL WOULD I WANT THAT???!!!!

  39. John W. says

    Ok… I don’t have a doctorate in math either… The MATH is correct to a point, I just jumped to the conversion and put the emPHAsis on the wrong syLAHbul… Thus;

    14 divided by 60 equals .2233333, or, stated as a percentage, 14 IS 23.3% OF 60. (100 percent minus 23.3 percent equals 76.7 percent) SO, If I replace a 60w bulb with a 14w bulb, I am still using 76.7 percent less energy.

    Math is hard….

  40. Caterina says

    This is starting to sound like a communist government, telling us what lightbulbs that we can buy. I have replaced some but not all of my lights and I should be able to choose not the government.

    I have replaced some of my lightbulbs with cfl’s in areas where I can and where lights are used more to save energy but not on all because of the kind of fixtures I have. I have an antique looking candelabra fixture where the bent tip flame bulb is actually part of the look. They haven’t made nice cfl bulbs for them yet, they are out there but they are ugly.

    I have recessed light heat lamps in one of my bathrooms in the winter that work very well. I also have some fixtures with dimmer switches, that I haven’t replaced because the cfl’s for dimmers cost a ridiculous amount of money and I heard they don’t work well on the lowest light, they flicker. I need a dimmed light so my children are not scared to go to the bathrrom at night.

    I have touch lamps with three -way bulbs for my childrens’s rooms and the cfl’s don’t work on them. I am not even comfortable in having the cfl’s in my children’s rooms because of the health hazards if they get broken.

    I also agree with Margeret, sometimes the cfl’s only last a couple months while others have lasted longer, the quality is not consistent enough and for the price I’m getting tired of replacing my expensive cfl’s where I do have them.
    Caterina

  41. Ginger says

    Wow. Was this a sponsored post? Sure sounds like an advocacy piece as opposed to a fact-based article.

    It’s repeatedly stated here how everyone’s individual electric bills will be reduced as a result of CFL bulbs replacing incandescent. That’s great, but it is only telling a fraction of the story. For example, the last incandescent bulb manufacturing plant has closed its doors as a result of this legislation, and we import nearly all of our CFL’s from China. That adds a bit of a carbon footprint to each bulb saving you money on your US electric bill.

    Furthermore, China’s not particularly concerned with environmental concerns, so how much damage is being done to the environment by each of these CFL plants that are handling a major toxin? And what about the working environment for these people in China? What’s their exposure to mercury and other toxins?

    Is saving money on your US electric bill worth the trade-off to the environment and the health of other human beings? The big picture isn’t clear, and it’s a very US-centric perspective to think, “Well, MY bill is lower, so it must be good for the environment!”

    As another commenter stated above, the EPA website differs greatly from the notion that you’d need to “lick the mercury off of your hand” for their to be a health risk. Per the EPA, the room needs to be ventilated for hours (this includes turning off any heating/air conditioning and leaving windows open). Have fun with that in an interior room, or during the winter in frigid climates. This is because the MOST toxic part about mercury is the vapors, far more than touching or ingesting it. Nice way to spread incorrect information about an incredibly toxic element.

    I’m sure that the author, a recent college grad with an English degree (my own undergrad degree, so no snarkiness intended) was excited to write this article and that her intent to be environmentally conscious was pure…however, anyone who reads this without a HUGE grain of salt is, well…mad as a hatter.

  42. evilone says

    I have tried several times to use the energy saving bulbs, no matter what wattage I get it doesn’t seem bright enough to read. Plus my outdoor lighting system doesn’t operate at all. With that style bulb the motion detector won’t work properly and can ‘t set it either. by the timer. I am all for recycling etc., and doing my part but I don’t like not having a choice of bulbs to read by. And are these bulbs going to be made in the U.S.A. to replace the people who will lose their jobs in the old light bulb factory? or are we. going to import those too. !!!!! And to end this conversation I have had to replace 2 of these savers within a year in 2 different lamps. I will be stocking up as much as possible on the same bulbs my great grandpArents used.

  43. Philip Y says

    I went and replaced all my light bulbs with CFL’s because they claim that there was such a savings and that they were better for the environment. Well, after spending $75 on new bulbs my electric bill was the same as it was before I installed them. I spent $75 for nothing. Also, I read on the package that the CFL’s contain Mercury and Phosphorus and that they need to be disposed of correctly and not put in the trash. How many average people will actually take their used CFL’s to a recycling center or store them until hazardous material collection days (which usually only occur once a year)? Not many will. They will end up in the trash and then off to the landfill they go. In the process they will be crushed in the garbage truck, contaminating everything around it, then it will be in the landfill where the mercury and phosphorus will eventually leach into the ground water. All that the Bush law did was create another environmental disaster in a failed attempt to conserve energy and lower pollution. Air pollution or ground water pollution, they are both equally destructive to the environment.

  44. Brian Mark says

    I don’t care how much the bulbs cost. All I know is that for LED, I will need a bunch of rewiring and for flourescent, they do not come on when you turn them on in winter. It is a wonderful thing to live in Texas or Florida, try living in winter in northern Canada. Looking forward to flashlights again .

  45. Bob says

    Has anyone taken notice to how and where the bulbs are made They are only made in China..they are not made in the USA .So we are enacting a law to support the China Companys Not American Companys once again a lack of common sense Also with all the Bad Publicity on china products I would have to think is this going to be another Dog Food, Baby Formula, DryWall, mistake… Will theses CFLs some how leave china with a deadly amount of mercury in them and a Schools Janitor Drop on on the floor of a school and kill our children???

  46. qwertyui says

    The CFLs at Home Depot have proven to be junk here. Don’t last long, lousy light, and 2 even blew up..instead of burning out!! Called the 800 number..they said..yeah..it happens, but not a real problem??!! Maybe not for them!! Have been trying to use them where possible..but useless in unheated garage and back porch, etc…we still need the incandesecents…I’ve got alot of dimmers around here, too!! Nobody but the free market should dictate what we can buy and when!!!!

  47. says

    There is alot of misinformation here in this post. I work in lighting but for a contractor and not a manufacturer. Typically the issues with CFL’s and now LED’s is there is so much misinformation released and many non traditional lighting companies rushing to market with inferior products. The majority of retail customers are more concerned with the low price rather than the quality of the item and I see this as LED’s are released in box stores at prices lower than we can purchase ourselves. However I had the opportunity to listen to a CFL manufacturer and most of what is stated here is incorrect. Some products have been made for awhile and some are just coming out.

    1) Dimmable spirals and floods are now available down to 2% but it still looks as if some dimmers are issues(New dimmable product is now rated for even longer life)
    2) The starting temps have gone down for some CFL’s
    3) The instant start issue is being overcome by offering a program instant start product that reaches 60% of initial lumens immediately and they are trying to increase that to more like 80% and some of it is being done by overdriving the wattage of the lamp initially but it doesn’t affect the lamp life
    4) All colors and sizes are available
    5) The halogen replacements have been around for years from Sylvania and others but the manufacturers are trying to redefine the product and put some new twists on it
    6) LED is there for most applications like recessed cans for your house or track lighting(the general A-line lamps are close) but the price points typically are not

    From what I can tell TCP is only manufacturer out there taking this seriously. And even they know they have a limited time to sell this product. That is why they are diversifying in halogen and LED.

  48. Jay says

    ummmm, who even cares . I steal the little curly-q bulbs from work and have bags of them around. I put them in hard to reach lites or ones that stay on all tha time cause I don’t care about waste. When they are dead, I simply throw them away. ( or bust em’ in tha street cause it is fun.) I won’t live forever, so who cares what happens to this planet. these energy things are not even a drop in tha bucket…burn it up folks!!! as for regular bulbs, I’ll bust ‘em up as well ….f@#!%*t who cares…

  49. Avram Dougherty says

    Personally, I think it’s BS to change to CFLs. The people who say it unfairly compensates the CFL manufacturers are correct. I think incandescents should always be available, simply because there are visually impaired people who depend on them to be able to live a normal life. I’m one of those people!! And it is impossible for me to read, cook, clean house , or anything else when I use florescents. I may decide to make this a ‘stand up and be heard’ moment in my life, and if I do, then pity the man who tries to make me change.

  50. Andrea says

    sorry, CFLs are crap. i was slowly switching my bulbs to CFLs. being anal like i am i have written the install date on the bulb base in pencil each time i install. 20% of my bulbs have failed, burned out after a few months, just didn’t work to begin with, etc. how is that saving money, now i have to recycle them, how is that saving the environment if i have to go out and buy more??? none of the CFLs i have installed have lasted for 5 years yet. i still have incandescent bulbs going strong that i put in my house when it was built in 2005, that 6 years ago.

    CFLs have an extremely irritating high-pitched buzz/whine. they don’t fit in my fixtures, so i have to get new fixtures? how is that saving money? i just recently found out you are not supposed to use these bulbs in places where you turn on/off all the time. i have lots of windows in my house, i NEVER leave lights on unless i’m using them. so that is probably why my CFLs are failing before their supposed 5 year life span.

    i have to buy more wattage to get the same light i got with an incandescent. i am going to horde incandescents, i’ve already started buying in bulk when they are on sale.

    i’m not convinced about CFLs at all. AND i would rather spend a few extra bucks a year (and yes, that is all it is, a FEW extra dollars) than put poisonous and deadly mercury into the environment. DOWN WITH CFLs! they are not green AT ALL!

    if you want to save energy, switch to solar. that is what we should be pitching, something that will save hundreds to thousands per year per household, not just 10s of dollars.

  51. Ron Lentjes says

    I live in Australia. Ban has been for a while. My opinion is I don’t like CFL or Fluorescent lights even the newest ones. I am very picky, very picky. Now that’s just my choice right. Nope. Problem is gov’t pushed CFL so hard here that your favourite restaurant, hotel, motel, pub, shopping centers, cafes, you name it are using VERY POWERFUL CLF’s now. They are very bright, they only use the worst ‘mortuary’ white light (‘cold’ light) here. So that means even if you still have old incandescents at home. You can’t go out in any form of comfort. Essentially I am in a state of ‘house arrest’. I now take my old incandescents when travelling Australia locally because they have all changes to mostly: mortuary white CFL or fluorescent tubes mounted vertically on walls (in place of old light fixture) or unshielded tubes along the drapes or combinations of all these. And it causes social issues. Eg. I refuse to go to someones house that has CFLs because I don’t like them. In shopping centers, the light is way to bright halogens or CFLs with no covers on them. You walk around with direct light towards your eyes. Ever since the ban, very bad lighting practices has occured. Reality check is that Australia is no longer a comfortable place to be. So there you have it. Real life report from down under.

  52. Mike says

    @TONY.. the only idiot around here is YOU. if CFLs were that great and had good performances, then the government would let other ppl make up their own mind whether or not they want them. Not FORCE u to use them. ur a typical eco friendly tree hugger who probably thinks that incandescent bulbs is responsible for the melting of the ice on the north pole and for killing the polar bears. Grow a freaking brain. CFLs or LEDs are not the way to a cleaner planet. I dont have a problem with anybody who likes cfls or leds. If u like to use them, knock ur self out. But just because you like them, doesnt mean everyone else does. In fact, statistics show that MOST ppl hate their lighting quality. Ever heard of the saying “We are the people” ?? Not WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT. Government is suppose to represent us. thats why we vote for them. They’re not here to tell us what to do. Im defitnitly with TOM on this one.. If he wants to pay more money on using incandescents and its his house, and his bill, then it should be up to him. Not the government. Until u moron liberals and eco terrorists pay my light bill, i’l decide what bulb i can use for my house. Stick that in your eco pipe

  53. Alex says

    Hey Brian, government does not need to be in everyones business about how much electricity we can use. whats next?? hes gona tell us what clothes we can wear?? dude, grow a freaking brain. I dont know what country u live in but here in america, this is the land of the free.. (I DONT MEAN “FREE” AS IN… HURTING OTHER PPL OR BREAKING THE LAW ) I’m not gona bow down to you greenie mental cases just cuz u claim that a cfl will save the earth. just recently, i’ve used a few cfls and many of them dont last, not even close to the life span as ppl claim they do, their lighting quality is horrible and they take a while to come to full brightness. On the other hand, i have incandescents that havent burnt out in 4 years and their lighting quality is real, nicer and they give off real light. Not pissed colored gloomy lighting. i havent seen 1 cfl that have the same light output that an incandescent has. if u think i’m gona turn my home looking like the inside of a shopping mall because u eco friendly nut jobs are morons and believe it will save the earth, u have another thing coming. i have stocked up on enough incandescents to last me a life time and to put in my will. u liberals can kiss my ass!!

  54. Mike says

    @John W.
    sounds to me like the mercury you have been inhaling from your CFLs has gottan to your brain cells. As far as change, I dont mind change and living in a clean planet, as long as its reasonable. The light bulb ban is not only unreasonble but stupid. 1st off, there are many false promises about these so called “energy efficient bulbs” Many cfls dont work in all fixtures of your home, they’re potentially toxic, and in my opinion, the light quality looks like shit. And im sure that many ppl would agree with me on that one. Someone made an interesting comment about cfls not being warm which is the truth. i dont care how “warm” of a color they THINK cfls are. cfls will never have the warm light visual that an incandescent has. anybody who thinks that there are cfls that have the same color as incandescents need to get their eyes checked out. if cfls were that superior, more people will purchase them, with out government having to tell us to buy them and u wouldnt see so many ppl stocking up on edison bulbs. The other issue with CFLs, besides their horrible light quality is that they dont work in all fixtures in your home. it cost quite a bundle to replace fixtures. many cfls dont even last 4 to 5 years and if they do, they get dimmer and dimmer with in time. So after the 4 to 5 year period, you’re room ends up looking like the inside of a cave. i have incandescents that hasnt burnt out in years. I’m not sure about the amount of mercury in cfls but there seems to be a lot of concerns about them. having to call a clean up crew if one accidentally breaks. Looks to me like cfl bulbs doesnt have much promise. When you think about all the electrical things we use in our homes, that contributes to your electric bill. Even if you use ONLY cfls in your house, you’re saving very little because of that.

    John W.
    im sorry to break this to you but i REFUSE to make my home looking like the inside of a hospital waiting room because u claim its good for the environment or even more funny, “stop global warming” i am amazed how you eco friendly tree huggers try so hard to get ppl to buy items that dont work, are toxic and look like shit because of an advertisment u saw on the Disney Channel. When u and your eco friendly nazis start paying my light bill, then maybe u can have a say. Until then, you can shove those cfls up your eco pipe.

Leave a Reply