Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL’s)

I like and use CFL’s where possible. Our apartment complex converted all units to CFL fixtures, free, over a year ago. In the Phoenix house, I’ve switched almost all regular light bulbs to CFL. Fluorescent lighting is three times as efficient as incandescent – so a 20W fluorescent really provides as much light as a 60W bulb. That’s  a fact. The energy savings on a whole residence add up.

A few folks object to a perceived flickering in fluorescent fixtures of any type, and always have. Personally, I attribute this to bad ballasts in thousands of older fixtures with the  2-foot and 4-foot tubes. The same goes for hum. With CFL’s, though, occasionally I do detect a slight hum, not objectionable, and this generally goes away as the bulb warms up.

One caveat: DO  NOT use a CFL bulb in a fixture that takes the bulb upside down (screw-in base up). Heat buildup will burn out your expensive little CFL bulb in as little as one day. The CFL bulb is designed to radiate heat up and away from the ceramic base where the electronics are crammed. This makes the CFL an unsuitable choice for most porch lights and smaller glass sphere “globe lights” – particularly with the higher wattages.

A single-bulb ceiling socket fixture with glass usually takes the bulb upside-down.  I have a couple of utility fixtures like this that are doing fine with low-wattage CFL bulbs.

Three-way table lamps seem to work well with 3-way CFL’s, though they are expensive and I had one bulb burn out right away. Warming up the CFL on the lowest “dim” switch setting takes about a minute to get to its expected brightness. After that I can’t tell the difference between it and any other 3-way bulb.

I require a lot of light for reading and use the torchier-style halogen sold by the millions at CostCo at one time. The halogen is reportedly more efficient than incandescent, but uses a lot of juice. Amazon markets a CFL solution that can give me that much indirect lighting, but it lists for $159. I suppose I’ll have to keep on looking: according to one source, “Replacing halogen torchier with CFL torchiere: Save about $35/year for every torchier replaced.” These reflect light off the ceiling best with a standard 8′ ceiling.

If you have track lighting or built-in flood lights, there is a 65W CFL Floodlight solution, for only $3.19. It’s not for use with dimmer switches.

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