Feature Articles - Housing
Compact fluorescent light bulbs help save energy -- and money
Barbara Buffaloe, LEED A.P., M.S., extension associate & resident instructor, Architectural Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Consumers may feel sticker shock when paying $4 to replace
that burnt out 50-cent incandescent light bulb, but that
pricey new bulb can last for years.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) cost more than
incandescent bulbs, but they last up to 10 times longer and
use about one-fourth the energy.
Efficiency standards under the Energy Independence and
Security Act of 2007 will require a phase-out of sales of
conventional incandescent bulbs beginning in 2012. By 2014
those bulbs will no longer be sold, giving way to CFLs and
other more energy-efficient bulbs.
CFLs can not only lower your electric bill, their longer
lifetime should more than make up for the higher price.
Government cost-comparison figures indicate a 167-day
lamp life for a 100-watt incandescent bulb, compared to a
1,642-day lamp life for a CFL bulb, translating into an
estimated $63 in savings.
First-time buyers may want to go to a hardware store or
other retail outlet where they can ask questions to make
sure they are getting the right bulb.
Consumers should look for the Department of Energy’s
Energy Star label on the packaging. The Energy Star program
sets strict criteria for lamp life, energy savings, start
time, color and brightness. Bulbs with the Energy Star label
also come with a limited two-year warranty.
Another thing to consider when buying a CFL is its light
output. To decide what bulb is best, compare the wattage of
incandescent lamps with CFL wattage that provides similar
For example, a 25-watt CFL bulb compares with a 100-watt
incandescent bulb in light level. Retailers should have
charts to make such comparisons.
Also check the bulb’s Kelvin (K) rating. CFLs with a
lower K rating (2,700-3,000K) give off a soft light similar
to incandescent light. Bulbs with a higher K rating (6,500K
to 8,500K) give off a cooler white or bluish-white light
identified as bright white or daylight.
Check to see if your light switches are set for dimming.
If so, be sure to buy CFLs with dimming indicated on the
packaging to avoid an early burnout.
CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, about 5
milligrams, roughly equivalent to the tip of a ballpoint
pen. No mercury is released when the bulbs are in use and no
health threat exists from an unbroken bulb.
Do not dispose of your CFLs in household garbage if a
hazardous waste facility is available. If there’s no such
facility, place the bulb in a sealed plastic bag before
putting it the trash.
Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009