Monday, September 12, 2011

How to Buy CFL Bulbs

You've probably heard that newer compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last longer and use far less electricity than the traditional incandescent bulbs. In fact, swapping out older light bulbs for these newer versions can go a long way towards reducing your electricity bill.

However, you may not realize that even among CFLs, as well as light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, there are many different kinds to choose from. In other words a bulb is not a bulb is not a bulb.

Currently, the most popular type of this bulb for Americans to buy is the 60-watt equivalent of the old-fashioned light bulb—the incandescent bulb. And Consumer Reports recently did a ratings test on both CFL and LED bulbs, and here's what that test found:

  • CFLs save money faster due to their low cost. It usually takes less than a year to recoup the cost of most CFLs.

  • LEDs can take four to 10 years to pay for themselves due to the high cost of the bulb.

  • To find the bulb that will give you the brightness you require, look at lumens. Watts tell only energy use, lumens measure brightness. In spiral bulbs look for the following
At least 450 lumens if replacing a 40-watt bulb

800 lumens or more for a 60-watt bulb

1,100 lumens for a 75-watt bulb

1,600 lumens or higher when replacing a 100-watt bulb.

  • In floodlights look for a lumen count that is at least 10 times the wattage of the incadescent bulb it is replacing.

  • Brightness and color are two totally separate elements when it comes to CFL and LED bulbs. Bulbs that mimic bright sunshine have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 100. (The CRI range goes from 0 to 100.) Consumer Reports found that most of the tested bulbs are in the low 80s, and a bulb with at least an 80 CRI is best for use indoors.

  • Check for rebates and coupons. Visit Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency or The Energy Star website to find utility rebates and search online for manufacturer rebates and coupons.

  • Keep your receipts. These newer bulbs are supposed to be long-lasting—for up to for years. If they don't last that long, you'll want to have saved your receipts and UPC codes, which you will need to return a bulb to the manufacturer or retailer. Sure, this requires a bit of organizing but it's worth it to get your money back for a bulb that doesn't live up to its promised lifespan.

Finally, because CFL bulbs contain mercury, they should always be recycled—not thrown in the trash. Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe's, and some ACE Hardware stores will accept used bulbs. Follow cleanup tips from the Environmental Protection Agency if you happen to break a CFL bulb.

1 comment:

  1. CFLs do contain mercury, but they are a more sustainable lighting option than traditional incandescent bulbs both economically and environmentally. Recycling mercury-containing products, including CFLs, is becoming an important issue. As this article states, it is important for consumers to realize that CFLs and fluorescent bulbs require special handling and disposal. Like all mercury-containing fluorescent lights, CFLs should be properly stored, transported and recycled to prevent these fragile bulbs from breaking and emitting hazardous mercury vapor. They cannot be thrown away in the trash, but should be taken to a recycling center or disposed of by using a proven recycling box. However, taking them to a recycling center may not always be the most efficient solution. Consumers can use a recycling box to ship bulbs instead. If consumers choose this option, it is important to select a packaging configuration that effectively contains mercury vapor. A recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota tested the effectiveness of various packages in containing mercury vapor emitted from broken fluorescent lamps. The study found that many packages do not sufficiently contain mercury vapor, such as single-layer cardboard boxes (representing the original manufacturer’s box or container) as well as single layer boxes with a sealed plastic bag. Just one configuration—consisting of a zip-closure plastic-foil laminate bag layered between two cardboard boxes—minimized exposure levels below acceptable occupational limits, as defined by state and federal regulations and guidelines. Find out more about this proven packaging method at:
    If a bulb breaks, consumers can learn more about clean-up procedures here: