MU Extension MU Extension       University of Missouri    ●    Columbia    ●    Kansas City       Missouri S&T     ●    St. Louis -Housing


Feature Articles - Housing


Frequently Asked Questions:

Compact fluorescent lights (CFL's)

Barbara Buffaloe, LEED A.P., M.S., extension associate & resident instructor, Architectural Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension


What is a CFL?

CFL stands for compact fluorescent light. It is a small fluorescent light bulb that uses 75 percent less energy than a traditional incandescent bulb and can be screwed into a regular light socket.


Where should I put CFLs?

CFLs should be placed in the fixtures you use the most in your family and living room, kitchen, dining room and porch.


How do I know which bulb to buy?

Pick your light output.
If you usually buy your bulbs based on their wattage, you can use the following chart to find CFLs with a similar light output:




A-shaped incandescent

bulb (watts)












Pick your color. 

CFLs have different levels of color. These levels come from the light’s Kelvin (K) rating. The K rating ranges from 3,500K (warmer, red tint) - 8,000K (cooler, blue tint). The K rating can typically be found on the bulb’s ballast.


What type goes where?


Table lamp, floor lamp, ceiling fan, ceiling fixture, wall sconce, outdoor covered fixture


Table lamp, floor lamp, wall sconce, outdoor covered fixture


Table lamp, floor lamp, ceiling fan, pendant fixture, outdoor covered fixture


Ceiling fan, wall sconce


Pendant fixture

Indoor reflector

Ceiling fan, recessed cans

Outdoor reflector

Outdoor exposed fixture


What if it breaks?

CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury. No mercury is released when the bulbs are in use so they are not a threat to your family if used properly. Like all lightbulbs, CFLs can break if dropped or handled roughly. If a CFL breaks:

  • Vacate the room for 10 minutes.
  • Sweep, don’t vacuum, all fragments.
  • Place broken pieces in a sealed plastic bag and wipe the area with a damp paper towel to pick up any loose shards.
  • Put the paper towel in the plastic bag as well.
  • Dispose at the proper location for hazardous waste. Check



University of Missouri logo links to

Site Administrator:
Copyright  ADA  Equal Opportunity

MissouriFamilies is produced by the College of Human Environmental Sciences,
Extension Division, University of Missouri

Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009