Need CFL advice

postum(9b CA (S.F.))July 8, 2008

Hi everybody -

I have replaced incandescent bulbs with CFLs in our lamps. I'm finding that though they say "equivalent to 60 watts" they are not nearly as bright. If a fixture/lamp says it takes a maximum of a 60 watt bulb, can I use a CFL that is "equivalent" to 75 watts in it? Or does someone know of some *bright* CFLs? I do look at the lumens but this seems to be meaningless.

Can I put a CFL in lamp that takes 3-way bulbs? Or that has a high/low switch?

Also, I thought these things were supposed to last for years, but ours are burning out quite quickly (within a year.) Our wiring is old - could this be a factor?

I have not replaced all the bulbs in our ceiling fixtures because many are on dimmers. I have been trying to find good dimmable CFLs, but they all make buzzing noises.

I have looked at a few sites online that have dimmable bulbs, outdoor bulbs, etc. but the prices are astronomical, and I have no idea what the quality might be.

What have you found that is working?


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We just did our new home in (mostly) cfl's, and I learned a lot by going over to the THAT HOME SITE, or something like that, where they've got a lot of forums on things related to the house and home, 'Lighting' being one of them.

What I've learned and done, is yes; you can go higher than the recommended equivalent, but stay within the wattages. For example, in the boy's room, they have a light that takes 3 60 watt incandescent bulbs, but when I placed 3 equivalent 13 watt cfl's, the room looked dim. So I replaced with 3-23 watt cfls' (equivalent to 100 watt output) and now it is bright.

The dimness for the first 30 seconds is something else we had to get used to...and we have.

I had my kids trained so well, they leave a bathroom they turn off the lights. Well, with cfl's wear out faster with the on off on off use, and are better situated in rooms that the lights stay on for longer periods of time. In the boys' bathroom the light fixture has 3 13W cfl's, and in the morning each kid turns it on to use the toily, then off, then later it is back on to comb their hair, then off (and this is each kid individually!) then on again to brush their teeth, then off, so I had to explain that they can leave this bathroom light on for the hour in the morning that they are getting ready, then turn off when they leave for school (hasn't quite worked that way) but my math tells me that I'll only be using a total of 39W for the hour.

ANOTHER important thing to watch out for besides kelvins (which is the colour of the light - 2700K is yellowish, 3500K more whitish, higher gets flourescenty looking) is the size of the bulb. My fixture over the kitchen table can take 100W old style, but the equivalent cfl is 5 inches in length, and does not fit! So I have to use the 13W which is 4 inches in length - same as the 100W incandescent - and we have a slightly dimmer look, but oh well. Something smaller may come up down the road in a higher lumen output (I hope). Definitely do some more reading on that other site. I will try to attach a link for you later.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 10:49AM
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Try doing a search for cfl's on the Lighting site. I think that is where I did a lot of reading (and learning).

Have a good one!


Here is a link that might be useful: That Home Site home forum

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 11:01AM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Bad electricity will drastically shorten their lives, personally I would recommend installing t-5's where you can or LED arrays which can handle more abuse and live longer (40 years at 8 hours a day) produce more light per watt and unfortunately have a very directed spotlight effect (good task lighting, bad room lighting). The wattage of fixtures is based on their wiring, a CFL doesn't pull more current than its listed wattage dictates, so a 60W lamp can handle 60W worth of any electronic device (A 60W LASER would be a bad choice).

LED's can be dimmed.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2008 at 7:51PM
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Am sure I'm in a minority here, but CFL light bulbs to be more 'green' just doesn't pass in my home or lifestyle.

I live alone. I have a stash of regular bulbs accumulated during good sales years ago and am not about to trash them. Bulbs rarely burn out in my house, and I must be part mole 'cuz I don't require stadium lighting to live thru the evenings.

I do have three lamps w/CFLs - (was bullied into buying them couple of years ago, for a high price, and out of the package, one didn't work so had to be returned). They're mostly still in place 'cuz I'm too lazy to change them out, but are lacking the three-way capacity and that does annoy me. One of these days, I'll buy regular three-ways and be done w/the squigglies. Third squiggly is in my desk lamp which I do tend to leave on for long periods so that one works.

Putting squigglies into my ceiling fan lights (total of 20 bulbs) is just not an option. I rarely have to replace a bulb, have a stockpile of the old type and most squigglies don't fit, are ugly and don't work w/dimmers.

I think there's an element of knee jerk reaction to these bulbs ..... were I planning a new house, they would come under consideration, but to retrofit existing lighting plans leaves a lot to be desired. In my existing fixtures and lifestyle, they make no sense whatever.

My lights are more off/on - not left on. Disposal of dead CFLs is a problem (a problem which, did they live up to their longevity claims, wouldn't be an issue yet - but it is an issue. They're not living up to the claims.)

My electric light use is lower than that of many, but even so I have made some dramatic changes that benefit immensely. I have two interior bathrooms w/no windows. I've added solartube skylights which are truly amazing. Now, rather than flicking a switch turning 4 bulbs on/off/on/off thruout the day, both baths are awash w/natural light from sun-up thru early evening and I only turn the lights on to dust them. I also put a solartube in the dark end of my kitchen, so rarely turn on the ceiling fixture and the natural light is soooo much better. Solartubes can't be installed in all homes, but where they can be installed, they're terrific and a sleeper in the green movement. No, I don't work for the company, am just a very satisfied customer!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 3:12PM
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postum(9b CA (S.F.))

Thank you all for your advice. We are considering solar panels, but after the estimate ($20k+) we thought we'd do everything to get our energy bills down (esp. as our gas is higher than our electric, and solar wouldn't help much with that.)

We are replacing several old windows and one of our gas heaters (we have gas wall heaters, not a furnace.) We are also updating and downsizing our old mammoth refrigerator (tho' it will be a used one - amazing how many fairly new fridges are on Craigslist.) Making lots of little changes, and putting in *all* CFLs was a change that I thought would be easy. Not so!

kioni - thanks for your tips. Now I can put in the more powerful CFLs without worrying that I'll burn the house down! I didn't know the 2700 referred to the color of the bulb - thanks. I will check out the lighting forum as well.

Brendan - I think I'll use LED in one or two spots. They are also hard to find :-( In a couple of places I'm using lower wattage halogens, as it seems to me the 40 watt halogens are almost as bright as a 60 watt incandescent, and they are dimmable and more readily available than LEDs. From what I'm reading, CFLs will probably not be around that long; there will be superior technology coming along - I'm looking forward to it!

Zigzag - you make a lot of good points. Our electric bill is not that high (we don't need air conditioning and heat and stove are gas.) We don't keep a lot of lights on either. But I am curious to see just how low we can get our energy usage. There are some places (chandelier, closets, bathroom) where CFLs are not going to work and I'm not worrying about that. On the other hand, we leave the light over the stove on a lot, and changing out to a CFL there made a lot of sense. I have seen the solartubes - they won't work in our house, but they are great!


    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 4:19PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)
    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 6:22PM
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Postum, look closer on the CFL base or the package. You usually can find what the CFL actual watt is. For example, a huge CFL equivalent to 120 watts of an incandescent I believe is 75 watts. It usually says what the CFL watt is, not equivalent, on the base of the bulb. So, if a lamp says maximum 120 watts, you will know the lamp can handle the CFL since it is really 75.

The only bad place for CFL is in lights with dimmers. My bedroom ceiling fan has a dimmer switch, which I cannot disable. Before discovering CFLs do not work in dimmers, I killed a couple. They dead CFLs are now sitting in a drawer waiting to be recycled at my next IKEA trip.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2008 at 10:27PM
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Solar tubes are passive solar lighting, and a wonderful invention. Not all CFL are squiggly. I have a lovely tiffany styled light over my kitchen island and found CFL you'd think were round incandescents just to look at them. Quite expensive, but worth it to me.

I've read that every CFL in the world is only made in China. If they are mandated like many countries are doing, does that mean we are throwing one more item's production to an environmentally unsensitive country?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 4:06PM
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Calliope - your name makes merry-go-round music start in my head! :o) That happily said ..... prey tell, what isn't made in China? We Americans have dug ourselves into a very scary hole .... yet, the powers that be keep digging! End of political comment (just had to say it!).

There are many CFL types available, but cost is a consideration as is the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' aspect of willy-nilly replacing all bulbs. I am glad you have found some acceptables ..... I got stung on one recently.

I added a ceiling fan on a 3' drop rod to my two story tall stairwell (finishing touch to a renovation). I have fans in every room, but this was the biggie, so I went with a custom ordered big name brand w/lite, rather than an off the floor of the home center model. Once installed, I was stunned that the lite took a CFL thingie - a round tube bulb much like the old kitchen fixture I remember from my childhood. Ugly? Very. Dimmable? Nope. So much for the pricey electrical work and switches. As soon as I find a more conventional lite kit, it will be replaced - meanwhile, I just don't turn it on. Lesson learned and $$$ lost.

Glad you (and Postum) are familiar w/the solartubes - mine have been in for two years now and I honestly love and appreciate them more every day! And, corporate America is beginning to 'get it' .... the company that did mine just did an installation of 68 tubes (yep, 68!) in the new deli prep facility of a natural foods store. That store is walking the walk .....

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 5:50PM
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Postscript: In today's paper there's still another blurb (letter to editor, actually) on even more restrictions of use. Writer tells of how her father is constantly replacing squigglies - investigation led her to read the fine print on the base of the bulb itself (!!)..... "Not to be used in recessed or covered lighting" - this verbiage was absent from the box packaging. But, of course, we all read the fine print ON our lightbulbs, now don't we so we'd know this ..... ??!

So the list grows ..... CFLs are NOT appropriate for:
* recessed or covered lighting
* lamps/lights that are turned on and off frequently
* lights connected to a dimmer mechanism
* three-way lamp switches
and CFLs do require mathematical abilities, not to mention trial and error, to translate wattages and comparable lumens from incandescent to the new and improved and costly squiggly. Oh, and remember to dispose of it properly.

Oh my ...... are we being had, or what?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 11:32AM
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Zigzag, I believe the author of the article you read is incorrect about CFLs not being appropriate for lights that are turned off and on frequently. I think that is a myth, similar to the myth is uses less energy to let a car idle that turn in off and on when waiting in a parking lot (big myth).

Also, you while you cannot use regular spiral CFLs for recessed light, there are floursecent bulbs made for recessed lighting usually found in stores with the CFLs. I have these these bulbs for recessed lighting in my kitchen and they are fine. Like spiral CFLs, they still take a bit of time to fully brighten, but otherwise they are good.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 2:45PM
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Sarah/theanalyst - thanks, and I really don't mean to be argumentative or a naysayer here. The on/off caveat didn't come from today's reading, but has been cited repeatedly in a host of media stories/reports before. From what you posted, it's probably another one of the 'which "expert" does one believe?' cases.

Today's writer was bringing to light the poor marketing practice (of hidden restrictions) on the product which had resulted in substantial cost and frustration from repeated trials and errors.

I'm sure in due time, we'll all be chuckling over a whole new genre of "how many (fill in the blank) does it take to change a light bulb?" jokes. I can see double mileage for an old staple ..... "and how many (fill in the blank) to change a CFL?"' :o)

    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 5:37PM
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Zigzag, you are correct. I stand corrected in that it does shorten the life of the CFL. Of course, I guess what one would have to ask is, "How often do I turn the bulb on and off." If you left a room for a minute, it is not a big deal to leave the CFL. I believe I heard the rule of thumb is under 15 minutes it isn't bad to leave it on. If you are out of the room for more than 15 minutes, turn off. Although, I don't follow that rule myself, b/c I just have a habit of turning the light off when I leave.


    Bookmark   August 3, 2008 at 6:16PM
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Does anyone have information on the best way to dispose
of these light bulbs, when they're burned out?

I've using them for years, find that some of them
have improved the brightness and it is okay to go
for a high wattage. They have a cooler temperature as well.

Some last a long time, and some don't, especially
if a clip-on lampshade is gently placed on it.
The contact between the metal clips and the bulb
seem to shorten the bulb's life span.

I've heard about mercury being inside the bulbs,
Is this true? If that is true, their disposal concerns me,

Try to never drop one of these bulbs with shattered glass.
A real chore to sweep and gather every shred of glass from
the bulbs.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 9:57AM
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Thank you for your helpful information.

One wonders why there is not more information for the public
regarding the appropriate disposal for these bulbs.

Are there recommended brands that members purchase?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 5:45PM
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In my experience you shouldn't buy anything less than a 23 watt CFL which they claim is equivalent to a 100 watt incandescent but really isn't, I would guess really about 85 or 90 watts. Buy 26 watters which are really equivalent to a 100 watt. You live in northern California, if you lived down here in Orange County you could buy 23 watt CFLs for 25 cents each, which is as cheap or cheaper than the equivalent incandescent, since the price is subsidized by southern California Edison. I bought a case which should last me for the rest of my life. And yes it does take a CFL about 45 seconds to reach full brightness, so I use regular incandescent bulbs in lights that are constantly being turned on an off like the bathroom. Actually when the current bathroom bulbs burn out I will be using halogen light bulbs. A building supply was going out of business and I got a lifetime supply of these too for an average cost of about 40 cents each, regular retail is $3 to $5 a bulb.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 2:51PM
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Opening a two year old thread but I think its safe to say the CFL's belong in the dustbin of history. LED lights will last 30+ years, have better quality light, use less electricity and are mercury free. The extra cost of buying them now is worth it, not to mention prices are rapidly falling. Look for deals right around then end of quarters as lots of manufacturer try to clear inventory then.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 8:17AM
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