“Everyone has his day and some days are longer than others.” -Winston Churchill
No, Winston Churchill was not talking about Edison's incandescent bulb that has been the king of the hill for the last 118 years, but he might as well have been. It kind of shocks me that people are still using these things. After all they were designed to create heat and thereby give off light so they are massively inefficient lighting devices. And yet, many people are still fighting the change to Compact Fluorescent (CFLs). Well, thanks to our friends in Washington, come 2012, it will be illegal to sell Edisons bad boys in the US, so the time has come to jump on the CFL bandwagon.
The problem I find that most people have with CFLs is misconception. I wrote a detailed piece on them a while back but for time's sake, I'm going to jot down the "back of the napkin" practical info so you can get rid of those incandescents and rocket into the 21st century.
Some pointers I've come up with along the way.
- Since these last so long, write the purchase date on the base of the bulb (the white part) and save the cardboard insert in a file somewhere with the receipt attached. That way if they go bad early, you can send them in and get another. They made the warranty, hold them to it.
- Not all CFLs are alike so start small. Get a bulb for a closet in the back of your place first. If you like it, you'll know what kind (color, wattage, etc.) to get next time, and if you don't like it (usually the color) it's the back closet so it's no big deal.
- There are a ton of these things out there so there are some cheapies. For my money, stay away from the Ikea bulbs. That said, anything with an Energy Star rating is generally a decent bulb.
- Stay away from the small chandelier bulbs if you need dimmable. I hate to say it but these aren't there yet, they strobe a lot. The solid ones are good, but the small dimmables aren't there yet.
- As for other dimmables, they work great, but there are some that will have a problem with certain older dimmer switches. Try one before buying a dozen.
- Speaking of ballasts, these are generally the first thing to go on these bulbs. They say that turning a bulb ona nd off will shorten it's lifespan so you ahve two choices. You can leave the light on a little longer than usual, or you can get 5 years out of a 7 year bulb. Either way you've got Edison's little gems beat.
- They look different than incandescents - CFLs now come in about 5 different color spectrums and unless you have them side by side, you really won't notice the difference. I'd try warm light for the "nicest" look.
- They don't have different sizes - Wrong! They make CFLs to fit just about every screw in type bulb out there and many even look the same.
- They aren't dimmable - Wrong! The only difference is that not all are so you have to buy one that is specifically dimmable. You'll have more luck with this on the Internet than hardware stores but a specialty lighting store may have them. Dimmables work great, but once they hit about 10% on, they shut off, so there is an abrupt "bottom end". That said, you're saving a ton of money, so handle it.
- They Buzz - Wrong (well mostly). I have CFLs all over the house and have run into one or two that hum slightly. The noise comes from the ballast in the light but the majority make no noise.
- They contain mercury so they are harming the environment - CFLs do contain mercury (I think the exact measurement is a dot) so they need to be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility. That said, we're talking about a trip every seven years, so the paint can you didn't close in the basement needs to go out by then anyway. As to the amount of mercury, it's been shown that more mercury will enter the atmosphere by generating the extra power regular bulbs will use than will be put out there from CFLs.
- They are more expensive - Wrong! Check out this CFL Calculator and you'll see that the average bulb will save you money within 8 months and make you money for the next 6 years.
As for the old bulbs, well, you can wait for them to burn out, or if you want to replace them now, why not donate them to a shelter, and while you're at it, throw in a few CFLs to get them started on the path.