Compact Fluorescent Bulbs - Fight Global Warming One (CFL) Bulb at a Time

According to the EPA, if every household in the U.S. replaced one light bulb with one of their ENERGY STAR rated compact fluorescent bulbs, it would be the pollution equivalent of pulling one million cars off the road. That sounds easy enough right, so why isn't everyone doing it?


The Big Deal About CFLs

Probably the biggest obstacle standing in the way of a mass switch to CFLs is the up front cost. Most consumers still assume they're too hard on the budget. The truth is, CFLs have come down considerably in price. Now, not only are they good for the planet, but they're good for the pocketbook.

They're Efficient

CFL's use 1/4 to 1/3 the amount of electricity as incandescent bulbs. That's because incandescent bulbs waste 90% of their energy putting out heat and use only 10% for visible light. CFL's burn at an average of 100°F, where incandescent bulbs burn hot enough to fry an egg!

They're Long Lasting

A typical household spends $110 dollars per year on lighting. CFL's have a much longer lifespan than regular incandescent bulbs-up to 10 times as long. Replace a regular bulb with a CFL and you can avoid buying ten 75watt bulbs.


They Help Fight Global Warming

CFL's help fight global warming in two ways. First, they operate using less electricity. Second, using a CFL means making less incandescent bulbs-a process that produces carbon dioxide. That means that in places where coal is used to produce electricity (in most places), each CFL will cut carbon dioxide emissions by about 1,300 lbs over its lifetime.

They Save You Money

CFL's might cost a little more up front, but they still offer more savings than cheap, inefficient incandescent bulbs by using less electricity to operate and reducing the need to buy replacement bulbs. The average CFL will save you $45 in energy costs alone over the life (10,000 hours) of the lamp (based on $.10/kWh).

Tips for Buying CFLs

Advances in CFL technology have greatly improved their operating efficiency and their performance. No more heavy bulbs, and humming, flickering lights. CFLs are now instant on, quietly flicker-free, and light as a feather.


  • The Right Bulb for the Job: Choose a CFL according to its planned use. Because CFL's are slightly heavier than their incandescent counterparts, avoid using them in portable lamps where the distance from the bottom of the base to the top of the lamp exceeds three times the minimum base width. Special CFL's are made for outdoor and dimmer fixture applications.

  • The Right Size: CFL's come in a variety of tube shapes and ballast-end sizes. When buying CFL's make sure the electronic ballast end of the bulb is the right size for the socket you intend on using it in and the bulb end doesn't interfere with your fixture's shade or votive.

  • The Right Lumens: All lamp output is measured in lumens. In general, a CFL will put out 3 to 4 times as much light per watt as standard incandescent bulbs. CFL packaging makes it easy to find the right size by stating its incandescent equivalent right on the package. For example: A 15W CFL is similar to a 60W incandescent bulb in lumens. Find the bulb with the light output you need, and then choose the one with the lowest watts. After 6-7 years of use, CFL's will lose about 30% of their lumen output.

  • Color Quality: Consider color "temperature" and the "color rendering index" when selecting a CFL. Color temperatures for CFLs usually range between 2700 and 4100K. Bulbs with lower numbers produce a softer, warmer light, while the higher numbers produce a brighter, cooler light. The color temperature index refers to a light source's ability to illuminate true colors. Look for CFL's with a color-rendering index (CRI) of 80 or higher for the best reproduction of true colors.

  • Rebates: In addition to the long-term savings built in to CFL technology, many power companies offer mail-in rebates on CFLs the same way they do when you purchase an energy efficient water heater or furnace. Go to and click on "special offers" to see it there are rebates available in your area.

Tips for Using CFLs

For the greatest energy savings, use CFLs in fixtures you use most often. They operate most efficiently when they are used for 2 or more hours at a time. Handle CFLs by the plastic base when inserting and removing from fixtures.

Use CFLs in hard to reach fixtures or fixtures where bulbs are difficult to change, like ceiling fans and enclosed outdoor lights.

CFLs and Mercury

CFLs contain less than 4.0 mg of Mercury (assists in starting). That is about 1/1000th of an ounce. Because coal-fired plants making electricity release mercury in their emissions, the use of energy efficient CFLs results in a net reduction of mercury released into the atmosphere compared to using incandescent bulbs.

This amount of mercury isn't considered dangerous in the home, even if a CFL breaks. Still, spent CFLs should be disposed of at hazard waste collection sites like products such as paint, car batteries and thermostats.


About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at

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By nailfanatic (Guest Post)
December 28, 20050 found this helpful

Where do you buy these and is there a brand difference? And what is the average price?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
April 21, 20070 found this helpful

I hear there's a new LED light coming on the market soon that's even better than the CFLs. Art Bell was talking about it Friday night, 4/20. I wonder how much it will cost and whether it's worth waiting for it.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
January 23, 20170 found this helpful

Energy saving tips and ideas are terrific! We've all been using and abusing our resources without regard to consequences and it's good to see a change in mind set, good to see us being more responsible. However, when it comes to global warming, there's simply no scientific evidence that mankind has any impact whatsoever on climate. Thus far, it's all rhetoric and propaganda. Don't believe it? Check for yourselves.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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