Curbing Your Consumption:
Care and Feeding of CF Bulbs
By John Ford
Over the last few weeks I have been going door-to-door distributing
free compact fluorescent bulbs for
and have been answering questions about using CF bulbs that have not
been addressed here yet.
CF bulbs cost more than regular incandescent bulbs, but use only 25%
of the energy to produce the same light and are designed to last
longer - 10,000 hours for some. The key to realizing savings is by
ensuring that long life. CFBs do not like heat which will shorten
their life significantly. Enclosed recessed ceiling lights are one
example to avoid. Electronic control circuits like dimmers or
light-sensitive switches will hurt the electronics in the bulb,
although some CFBs have been designed for dimmers - ask before
buying. Be careful handling them since they can be more fragile. CFBs
used to have trouble starting in cold temperatures. They now start
down to -20°C or below.
Going door-to-door you get some interesting comments. Some people
think that CFBs do not produce enough light. However, they produce the
same amount of light as the equivalent regular bulb they are
replacing. If you want more light, there are higher wattage
bulbs. Some people want even less light than the smallest bulbs
produce. Try LED night lights. Some misers like myself argue that
regular bulbs give off much more heat which reduces your heating
requirements. Electricity is still more expensive than oil or gas, and
in the summer, your AC works four times as hard.
Don't replace regular bulbs in low use areas. The savings will never
be realized because of the higher initial cost. For example: closets.
Let's not get blinded by the brilliance of thinking that CFBs are the
only efficient solution. Traditional fluorescent fixtures can be a
better fit for the situation and are more environmentally
friendly. CFBs are not repairable and contain a small amount of
mercury. Tube fluorescent bulbs and the components inside the fixture
can be replaced from parts at your local hardware store. You can also
change the tube bulbs to create 'warm' or 'cold' light, and are
available in sizes from six inches to four feet and with multiple
bulbs. If you need more light, add more tubes. One four foot tube is
40 watts. An advantage of CFBs over tubes is that they can be
installed just about anywhere the old style bulbs are found.
Ask the Miser
If you would like to see answers here to your questions about energy
consumption, email them to
John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy
conservation business, and the nominated Green Party candidate.