Dispelling common myths about CFLs

Efficient options include dimmers, new designs
Dispelling common myths about CFLs

Don’t let CFL myths keep you from saving money on lighting your home. There are a wide variety of CFL bulbs available to meet your home’s needs. (Photo by GreyStone Power)

U.S. retailers have been switching out traditional incandescent lightbulbs with more energy-efficient options because of new regulations under the federal Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that began taking effect this year.

Compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are the most widely available technology that meets the law's provisions. Consumers are relying more heavily on CFLs but also expressing misconceptions — myths that the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-profit research consortium, would like to dispel. Here are top CFL myths:

Myth: CFLs cannot be used in 3-way fixtures.

Several manufacturers have developed 3-way CFLs that provide performance equivalent to traditional 3-way incandescent lamps and also operate in standard 3-way sockets. As with incandescent bulbs, 3-way CFLs are offered in a variety of wattage and light output combinations, including:

A 12/23/29-watt CFL equivalent to a 50/100/150-watt incandescent

A 14/19/32-watt CFL equivalent to a 40/75/150-watt incandescent

Different manufacturers use slightly different wattages and lamp designs to match the output of traditional 3-way incandescent bulbs. Try different 3-way CFLs to find the design that best suits your needs.

Myth: Dimmable CFLs do not work with standard line dimmers.

While dimmable CFLs are available today, not all dimmable CFLs are compatible with every dimmer. There are also different CFL dimming ranges, with some dimming from 100 to 10 percent, others from 90 to 30 percent.

Incandescent lamps are frequently dimmed with standard electronic line dimmers — rotary, slide or touch dimmers. Dimmable CFLs that specify "true dimmability" are most likely to be compatible with most rotary or programmable dimmers.

Myth: CFLs do not last as long as advertised.

If installed properly, a CFL offers energy savings and longer life than incandescent lamps. Installing a CFL in a recessed can fixtures not rated for its use will likely shorten the lamp's life. Most reflector-type CFLs are rated for use in cans, and some twist-lamp CFLs can be used in cans. Package labeling specifies whether a CFL can be used in recessed cans. (Always read packaging closely.)

The life of a CFL also depends on how frequently you turn it on and off. Some manufacturers list the recommended average number of daily switchings along with the rated number of operating hours. Switching on a CFL more frequently than the recommended average can shorten its life. If you use CFLs with occupancy sensors, purchase CFLs with the longest life rating.

Myth: CFLs do not fit in fans or candelabras.

CFL products available include various wattages and designs that can be screwed directly into specialized fixtures such as fans, candelabras, chandeliers and wall sconces.

Typically, lamps in fans and candelabras are highly visible, so you need to consider the aesthetics of your choice. Manufacturers now offer design options such as frosted glass, "flame" lamps, curled lamp tips and traditional incandescent shape.

Myth: CFLs are too expensive and costly to dispose.

The cost of CFLs has dropped significantly as higher consumer demand drives increased production. Also, free disposal sites are available. To learn more about lighting changes, visit www.energysavers.gov/lighting.

Local CFL disposal sites

CFLs today contain only trace amounts of mercury, usually less then that found in a can of tuna. But it’s still important to properly dispose of used or damaged CFLs. Consumers can find safe, free disposal sites through their local waste management hauler and retailers in North Carolina such as Lowe’s and Home Depot or via online resources like www.earth911.org (put in your zip code to find the nearest drop-off site or recycling center).

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