Earth911’s “Ask The Editor” series tackles your toughest environmental and recycling dilemmas.
Q: I've been switching to the CFLs but find that, in some cases, they don't last any longer than the incandescent bulbs I'm replacing. I thought they were supposed to be cheaper to operate and longer lasting - thus justifying their higher cost. Am I confused or is there a problem with the bulbs? - Karllynn
A: The thing to remember about replacing your standard incandescents with CFLs is to evaluate your frequency of usage. These bulbs work better in lights that are kept on for longer periods of time, such as your porch light or a bedside lamp you keep on for hours.
You've probably noticed that CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on. A CFL’s ballast helps "kick start" the CFL and then regulates the current once the electricity starts flowing. So, if you're constantly turning the CFL on and off and on again, that energy has to kick up once again to power the bulb.
CFLs can cost up to 10 times more than an incandescent bulb, and the even more energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) can cost up to $50 for a single bulb.
However, an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. Plus, it uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.
If you're not a fan of CFLs, start thinking about investing in LED lighting. While 74 percent of Americans have switched to an energy-saving lamp, such as a CFL or LED, in the past year, many consumers are still largely unaware of the impending federal phase-out of incandescent light bulbs will begin with the 100-watt bulb in 2012.