You may be among those who have bought energy-saving compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, only to get confused and disgruntled once you try them at home.
Both the lighting industry and consumers have been on a learning curve in recent years. Manufacturers have cut the price of CFL bulbs (from $25 each some years ago to less than $2 today) while retaining their energy efficiency. Consumers have struggled to figure out how to properly use the bulbs.
Youï¿½ll find some answers on this page, and more detailed info by going to www.KentuckyLiving.com, typing ï¿½cfl useï¿½ in the Keyword Search box, and clicking ï¿½Go.ï¿½
Used properly, good-quality fluorescents use about 70 percent less energy than incandescents. Consumer Reports estimates that using them can save about $30 in energy costs over the life of a single bulb. The average CFL lasts eight to 15 times longer than an incandescent.
The lifespan of a CFL can be affected by how it is used. Turning it on for just for a few minutes at a time can cause it to conk out sooner. The U.S. ENERGY STAR program recommends leaving CFLs on if you expect to need the light again within 15 minutes. Some CFLs take a minute or two to reach full brightness (which could prove a challenge in a closet or stairwell). Theyï¿½re not recommended for use with a dimmer.
Some users complain that CFLs emit less light than incandescents, or that the light seems harsh. CFLs do produce a different spectrum, and they do get dimmer over their life. Users who prefer ï¿½warmerï¿½ lighting should check the Kelvin number marked on fluorescents that have an ENERGY STAR rating. Those in the lower range (2,700 to 3,000 K) and marked as ï¿½softï¿½ or ï¿½warmï¿½ light will have a warmer, more yellow color. Those in the higher range (3,500 to 6,500 K) and marked ï¿½daylight,ï¿½ ï¿½natural,ï¿½ or ï¿½bright whiteï¿½ will give off a whiter light.
A dilemma for many is that efficient compact fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, so disposal can be a concern. Experts and governments say the amount of mercury in each bulb is tiny, about 5 milligramsï¿½enough to cover the tip of a ballpoint pen. They further note that the mercury is sealed inside and none is released while the bulb is in use. Because the amount of mercury is so small, there are no state or federal rules restricting CFL disposal. If you are concerned about disposal, many of the stores that sell the bulbs also offer recycling programs. Or, on the Web site www.earth911.com, you can search for the recycling center closest to your town.