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Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Tuesday 18 December 2018
Current Time-of-use pricing is: medium at 19.393¢/kWh
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Published Columns: December 2005
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 Project Porchlight 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.

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John Ford is a technology consultant, owner of a small energy conservation business, and the nominated Green Party candidate.