Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Dr. John Vann, Department of Marketing
Green Initiatives Coordinator
January 2002

Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) is one of the easiest ways to save money and reduce the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.  CFLs use about 1/4 of the energy required by incandescents of the same light output.  Imagine, a 3/4 reduction in cost and CO2 releases simply by changing light bulbs. They can save up to $50 through savings in electricity and fewer purchases and at least 1000 pounds in CO2 emissions over the life of the bulb.  University facilities management has changed to compact fluorescent bulbs in many areas of campus.  However, you can help by changing to CFLs in desk lamps or wherever there are incandescent flood lights used in your areas.  Of course you can also take advantage of the benefits of CFLs in your homes to save money and reduce your contribution to global warming.

It is true that the initial price of CFLs is higher than that of incandescents.  Normal sizes are $7 to $13 per bulb.  However, there are few investments where you can spend $13 and get a return of $50 in such a short time.

CFLs take a few seconds to reach their full illumination.  This time seems to vary by brand and is a minor inconvenience that most of us can accommodate.

The brightness of the bulbs (and wattage) is directly related to the length of the tubes. To get the higher wattages and maintain a manageable height, the bulbs must use more U-shaped tubes, or a longer tube that is twisted into a spiral.  If you find that available CFLs are too tall or wide for your lamps, larger harps to accommodate these bulbs may be purchased.

CFLs are also available in dimmable  and three-way versions.  Some CFLs are offered  with fixed or removable reflectors (R30 and R40 sizes) for use in ceiling cans.  Be sure that you measure the diameter and the depth of your cans.  CFLs tend to run a little longer than incandescents or halogen long-neck bulbs so you may need to decide if you can live with the reflector protruding somewhat from the can. CFLs are available for most applications and can be found at building supply and discount department stores.

For more information, or to purchase CFLs online, you may want to check out the following web sites: