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April 12, 2007



hey, what CFLs ? Im running LEDs :)
See the "shootout" comparison here:

And LED bulbs are improving practically every day, now there are OLEDs already.

Roy Wasson

The big market for CFLs seems to be overseas right now. Today's Wall Street Journal has an editorial that reports "In February, Australia announced an outright ban on incandescents to take effect in 2010. In March, the European Union handed down a directive on 'eco-design for energy using products' whose regulations phase out incandescents within three years . . . [which] will affect 490 million people and all homes, offices and even streetlamps."


I have installed several Chinese manufactured CFLs in my house, only to have all but one fail after a few months.
Is the technology good, but the manufacturing poor? Or is there a problem with the power supply in my house? I have them installed with the base up - does that matter?
I find the quality of the light too white and generally not bright enough. I can buy higher wattage bulbs, but not if I am paying a premium for a bulb that fails after 100 hours.

greg woulf

I've never had one fail yet, so I think it's the manufacturing. I've got 4 or 5, I replace my Incandescents when they blow with CFL's.

I have two that are over 3 years old that I put in when I moved in. I could be just lucky.

David Grenier

I bought wicked cheap CFLs a year or two ago when they were on sale at my local hardware store. I think the brand was MaxBrite or something and they were 33 cents a piece. My electric bill went down, but I have had several blow out. Way more than I would expect considering all the hype about not needing to change a bulb for 10 years.

Certain light fixtures seem to blow out my CFL bulbs almost immediately, which makes me think it has something to do with the power (or cheap manufacturing that is too sensitive to fluctuations in power?).


I've got many brands and types of CFLs in my house (my lighting is almost all CFL now), and they have wildy different light quality and longevity.

My rule of thumb is replace short-lived CFLs with a brand that I have installed that hasn't died recently (I write the dates of installation, when I remember, on the bulb bases with a Sharpie). I can't give a detailed accounting from memory, but I think I don't have any Lights of America anymore, but have plenty of Philips and GE. I haven't replaced a CFL in a long time.

The Home Depot ones (I forget the brand; they have a : in the name) have insanely slow warmup- I heartily encourage people to try different brands.

I am very enthusiastic about CFLs and am happy to have more info to bolster my advocacy- I am personally very happy with the lighting quality of CFLs. However, I really don't like the mercury issue (though it's obviously not a dealbreaker for me), and will happily switch to other technologies that provide comparable benefits (e.g. LED or GE's 'vaporware' high efficiency incandescents).

Michael Lawson

Our experience with CFL's (one particular big-name brand so far) has been that they tend to burn out almost as often as incandescents. We've had our whole house on CFL's for about a year now, and have already replaced at least 3 CFL's that have burned out.

I do enjoy the higher color temperature "daylight" bulbs in the closet, though -- it makes it feel like I have a skylight in there.

We haven't noticed a significant change in our electric bill, mostly because lighting is such a small part of our electric load (~10%).

George Bruce

GJacobson, I've used CFLs for years now. Some brands last much longer than others. The Chinese ones seem to be the worst. The Lights of America brand does not do well. The Phillips brand seems to last forever. I think I am going to do what BCC does. If I experience short life span in the future, I'm going to take them back.

Since some brands last a long time, I doubt it is the power quality.

John F.

"The Home Depot ones (I forget the brand; they have a : in the name) have insanely slow warmup- I heartily encourage people to try different brands."

Sounds like the N:Vision. This Popular Mechanics review mentioned the slow warmup, but nevertheless gave it their highest rating. I guess they don't place much value on that.

We've also seen pathetic failure rates from several makes.

Interestingly, we seem to get more hours out of the CFLs installed outdoors, even though the temperature often drops well below the recommended range. Perhaps this is a result of usage pattern -- less frequent on/off switching out there.

On top of such failures under good conditions, manufacturers also don't factor in other real world reasons why bulbs fail, such as lamps being knocked over. Even if they do last 5,000 hours under ideal conditions, in the real world, they don't last anything near that long.

So I don't factor any manufacturer longevity claims into my cost analysis. I do still buy CFLs, but not to save money.


No seriously, guys ? Why are you still using CFLs ? LEDs that can replace an incandescent are there.
Here is a drop-in ( er , screw-in) replacement for a 70W incandescent


Just to clear out any possible doubts: kert is not me. :-)

Kert, however do notice how expensive those bulbs are. Here's hope that prices will come down!

On a side note: do you know anything about those flat panels that would act as giant LEDs? I think I read about them some time ago on slashdot, but never heard about them again since then.

Brian Wang

In 2005, U.S. consumers spent about $1 billion to buy about 2 billion lightbulbs--5.5 million every day. 5%, 100 million, were compact fluorescents. First introduced on March 28, 1980, swirls remain a niche product, more curiosity than revolution.


Walmart sold sold 40 million of the energy efficient bulbs compared with about 350 million incandescent bulbs. It was from August 2005 to August 2006. (40% of the CFL US market, 18% of the total US light bulb market) After a series of steps to promote the energy efficient bulbs.

Walmart was targeting 100 million for this year.

If TCP is still 70% of the market. then going to 1 million would mean CFL are at 1.3 million per day (400 million per year). So perhaps TCP is worldwide. 160 million to 200 million seems possible for the USA. closing in on 10% of the light bulb market.


Several have commented about the short life of CFLs in some applications.

The weak link in CFLs is the electronic ballasts. To maximize life of the electronics, the base needs to be kept cool. This means running the CFL base down if possible, or base sideways. Base up is a poor third choice since the fluorescent tube is preheating the air that rises to cool the electronics. Keeping the base cool also means not using CFLs in closed fixtures, or even in recessed ceiling fixtures (cans).

Fortunately, inside my house the most often used lights (where I have most of my CFLs) are open fixtures that position the CFLs with base down or base sideways.

I have some light fixtures mounted on the outside walls of the house. The fixture design is a closed, four-sided square lantern. I removed the glass from the side that faces the house in order to get the necessary cooling air, yet maintain the desired look of the fixture. The fixtures are under the overhang of the roof, so they are still protected from the weather.

After initially having quite a number of early CFL failures due to misapplication, I now have very few early failures, even of "brand X" CFLs.


::do you know anything about those flat panels that would act as giant LEDs?

In production. Philips now owns the Luxeon & Lexel lines, those are "architectural lighting" type that you can integrate basically anywhere.
Browse the news on them here:

There are resellers for those at least in Europe.

General Electric also produces similar stuff, Toshiba as well, there are others.

Equivalent LED is about 3 times as expensive as a brand CFL, but they also last longer and draw less power.

John F.

Thanks for the tip about keeping the base cool, donb. It could explain a lot about our bad luck with CFLs.

With the exception of the outdoor fixtures, indoor desk and floor lamps, and a couple of closets, all of our fixtures are recessed or enclosed. Since the desk and floor lamp CFLs tend to succumb to violent early deaths (we have young kids!), and the usage pattern of closet lights doesn't favor CFL (on for a few seconds at a time) the only place CFLs are likely to last long are the outdoor fixtures, which is precisely what we have observed.

greg woulf

My CFL's have lasted and they're all indoor. The original two I put in when I moved in are both horizontal, but the rest are all sitting upright.

I'm not sure of what's going on. I checked last night and have Phillips bulbs if it matters.

Janis Mara

These posts are hugely helpful, thanks so much to all! I had gotten the impression that light from compact flourescents isn't always as good. Sounds like folks here are saying quality does vary, and a couple people praised GE and Phillips, yes?

Janis Mara

Harvey D.

We have been using 20+ CFL in table lamps and other inside applications for the last 5 years without a single failure. Most are Globes, Philips and Sylvania but the last few were from the $1 store and they haven't failed either. The light output seems to be superior from the major brands but I have not measured it.

Curent LEDs have maginally higher light output i.e. 70 to 80 lumens per watt versus 60 to 70 lumens per watt for good quality CFL. However, LEDs cost up to 40 times more than CFL. Future LEDS may be more efficient, up to 150 lumens per watt, but the price will have to come down (a lot) to compete with CFL.

Brian Wang

what is still missing for CFL

Varieties of sizes and shapes to match incandescent. Some don't fit in place lights and fixtures.

People still have issues with using them with dimmers.

Many people still have had the last experience of not liking the color temp and the amount of light.

There are aesthetic issues.

If you are making, then perform marketing surveys and focus groups on the 90-94% of households that mostly do not use them to see where the gaps are exactly.

Get out there with taste test like steadies at Home Depot Expos and other locations where people can see the color temp side by side.

Also get out to the lamp shops and be able to put a CFL in every model of lamp, chandelier etc... that they sell as well as used shops and match up those models.

Get side by side comparisons going at lamp shops.

Talk to model home interior designers about the specific issues with how CFLs can provide a more appealing home environment etc...


::Future LEDS may be more efficient, up to 150 lumens per watt, but the price will have to come down (a lot) to compete with CFL.

The current price difference is about 3x for CFL vs LED ( 70w equiv ) bulbs. Life expectancy difference is about as big or bigger, plus LEDs are much more robust and flexible in their possible shapes and sizes.

They are competing already, at high-end at least.


Thanks for LED lighting links.

Jim makes good point about small amount of mercury in CFLs relative to other household items. The mercury has been a concern for me. I certainly appluad the reduction in power use many of you are acheiving with CFLs. Sounds like there are a few problems with CFLs in some fixtures (ballast up) and for some makes of CFLs. I'm thinking LED lights are more reliable, improving more rapidly, and are coming down in cost. Seems similar to lead acid, cadmium, and Li Ion batteries. Incandescents would be lead acid, CFLs cadmium, and LED lights Li Ion. The last being more expensive, but way more efficient, with way more room for improvement and cost reduction. Already they are worth purchasing if you can afford the up-front cost. Think we will see more use of Li Ion battereis and more use of LED lighting. This comparison is rough. LED lighting seems to actually be improving much faster than Li Ion batteries. I'm thinking of changing over to LED lights.


http://tyler.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2007/2/12/2731265.html (Raleigh, N.C. studying use of LED street lights to reduce power use, 2-3 years pay back – Feb 2007)

http://www.theledlight.com/120-VAC-LEDbulbs.html Drop-in LED based light bulb replacements.
“Estimated watts of light is approximately 60 watts/200 lumen. Consumes 8 watts” i.e. equivalent to 60 watt incandescent bulb (13% power use)
“310 lumen/100 watt light output - 13 watt consumption” i.e. equivalent to 100 watt incandescent bulb (13% power use = 87% less power)

Kit P.

MDS, why are you concerned about mercury? Do live i a third world country? There is no reason to be concerned about the amount of mercury in CFLs.


Kit P,
I'm not overly concerned. I own fluorescent and CFL lights already. I'm mostly interested in LED lights because they are a significant improvement efficiency wise, even over CFLs. Think they will win out in the long run anyway. Why not start using more of them now and speed this up? ...if you can afford to. It was nice to find out there is less mercury in CFLs than in other household devices. A lot of small sources can contribute to a larger amount. Every little bit helps, like a lot of other things. Liked the point on mercury in coal as well. Use more CFLs and you can reduce over all world mercury levels by reducing coal used for electricity. LEDs are better still.
I eat a lot of fish. I figure it increases my creativity ;-) I'm not very worried about mercury in CFLs but am sensitive to it as a problem pollutant in general. Sorry if I'm creating the impression of great concern. Not true. Both CFLs and LED lights are great!


Mds wrote: LED lights [...] are a significant improvement efficiency wise, even over CFLs.

This Wikipedia article on lighting-efficiency implies the opposite:



5–24 W compact fluorescent 45–60 [8] 6.6%–8.8%

28 W fluorescent tube (T5) 104 15.2%

white LED 26–70 [9][10] 3.8%–10.2%

white LED (prototypes) up to 150 [11][12][13] up to 22%

Compare CFL to LED:
First LED case has wider spread, but high end is more efficient. i.e. some better.
Second LED case is way better.

Compare best fluorescent tube to LED:
First LED case not as good, but this is not CFL.
Second LED case better than best fluorescent tube.

LED lights better and improving faster. Not surprising. Fluorescent are more mature and have been around longer. More room for improvement for solid state LEDs. Often the case for solid state vs more mechanical solutions. (PV vs CST?)


Are you misreading? Higher percentage means more light output per watt used.



White LED lightbulb efficacy ranges from about 15-30 lumens/watt. This is well-known and not controversial. CFL efficacy is around 60 lumens/watt. Lumen maintenance tends to be superior for CFL vs. LED. You can run your LED for 10,000 hours if you don't mind it being half as bright and half as efficient as it was when it was new.

You said, "I'm thinking of changing over to LED lights." Therefore, prototypes are offtopic. Here are some LED light bulbs that you can purchase right now:

They range from $22-36 each, and (as can be calculated from the data given at that link) are about 1/4 to 1/2 as efficient as CFL's. Higher-quality LED bulbs can be several-hundred dollars each.



I put in more time checking on this. You are better informed. Thank you for correcting me. I was partially misled by this link:

http://www.cyberlux.com/list.php (Cyberlux – LED lighting company)
“less expensive than conventional bulbs or tubes by 200% in total cost of ownership”
“technology that consumes 92% less energy than incandescent bulbs (common household bulbs), 30% less than most fluorescent lighting systems, and new lighting efficiency that can last up to 20 years”

Maybe they are using more directive light or maybe this is just hype. Is it possible they are already using this LED improvement?:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/11/white_led_break.php (130 lumen LED)
“This new white LED has a brightness of 130 lumens per watt! ‘Normal incandescent light bulbs produce 15-20 lumens per watt; modern fluorescent bulbs produce between 60-110 lumens per watt; and current LED methods allow for a maximum of 60-70 lumens per watt.’”

I only started keeping links on LED lights a few months ago. Not a lot of research though. Went back through few notes on LED replacement bulbs. Your information seems to be more accurate. Less than 30 lumens per watt for some replacement bulbs. Also, I was not aware they faded so badly over time.
Sorry about that.

Thank you for the addition LED bulb link. I'm still interested in LED lights. Some good potential there.

Robert McLeod

Short answer on CFLs: you get what you pay for.


The real truth is simple, there are too many products to choose from and not enough information to educate the general masses. Don't be fooled, 98% of all energy efficient lightbulbs (lamps)cfl, led or otherwise are currently being made in China. That said, even the big boys have closed up shop in the states to cut costs and stay competitive in todays crazy market. For example, Sylvania closed their New York CFL plant in June 06 and put 3000 workers out on the streets only to open their own new factory in Shenzen Province, Mainland China.

The market is getting crazier too with bans and outlaws against conventional lighting methods. Give this market 5 years and we'll see big changes in regulations and so on. Be careful of what you buy! Do your homework because there is a tremendous amount of crap being sold. Product with false CSA and UL labels and so on... causes fires, interference with electrical devices etc. That said, there are also some tremendous products out there also you just have to know where to look and NOT at the Home Depot!!! LED technology is moving ahead in leaps and bounds along with new technologies such as induction lamps and other Light emitting capacitors.

By the way, the Mercury content in each CFL is indeed low, 1 mg for the real good ones. 3mg for the low quality lamps. Now just imagine what the impact will be on the environment when we (the world) have disposed of billions of units into land fills and recycling plants etc,!!! There are far better technologies that are not using Mercury as a stabilizer. Think before you buy!!


If you would like a FREE amalgom based, high qulaity, CSA approved compact fluorescent lightbulb sent to you, visit my blog at http://e-fficiencycentral.blogspot.com/


Kit P.

Wow, $17.99 is now what free is. Plus a bonus gift of tips from Al Gore on how to protect the environment. Tip #1, do not live like Al Gore.

That much better than my $6000+ free CFL that came with my new high efficiency heat pump. When my last electric bill was higher than expected, I found the emergency heaters stuck on. This destroyed the flexible boots and the crawl space was being heated. When the air handler was replaced, the replaced the bulb with a CFL. Can anyone calculate the savings with a CFL used 15 minutes a year?

For the record, modern landfills have liners and collect the runoff for treatment. I would expect lots of mercury and other toxics from batteries and so forth.


Now now Kit P. no need to get testy! If you really think that those tips are directly from Al Gore, boy are you deluded. He's got some good points though. As for the land fills, yes you're right about the liners, TODAY in modern landfills!!! What about the millions of landfills that are over 10 years old? They don't have liners at all!

What happens 10 years from now when the amount of raw garbage including batteries, refrigerators, coolant, raw chemicals and yes of course Mercury that are being disposed of incorrectly causing the already overloaded landfills to increase the burden on the environment.

Did you know that Beluga whales that die in the St. Lawrence seaway are treated the same as toxic waste!!! And it's not because they smell like dead fish. Clean-up crews actually have to wear HAZMAT suits to handle these poor creatures. Just imagine the volume and type of toxins that have leached out of landfills into our waterways and oceans over the last century or so that these Belugas have been ingesting to reach that level of toxicity. It's not getting better, it's getting worse!

SO what do you foresee happening in the near future with the increased demand on Humanity to deal with its Garbage problem?

That said, $17.99 is one hell of a great price for the energy efficient lighting cost analysis software (which I have been selling now for over 5 years to engineering firms around the world for several hundred dollars per license), along with a plethora of documents giving tips and tricks to the average building/homeowner (who don't know these tips and tricks) on how to reduce their consumption. Would you consider giving a CFL away to every customer you had? I'm doing it because I have the ability to and genuinely want to help reduce overall electricity consumption for the betterment of our planet. I have 3 small kids who will also be burdened with cleaning up this mess. I bet you are one of those people who think they know everything there is to know about energy efficient lighting. Are you giving away free CFL's or anything else to help the environment for that matter?

What happened to your heat pump that the emergency heater got stuck in the on position. Did you have an emergency? What brand heat pump do you have and how long have you had it? Does it use Ethylene or Propylene Glycol? What type of lighting do you use in your home and business?

Roger Rondo

I find a lot of outdated info above about LED's but no mention of what's really happening.

These CFL's are being promoted as an easy way to feel good by doing something ostensibly good... and easy.

The issue though for anyone on here (reading this blog or posting especially) is... IS USING CFL'S really good enough for us to crow about? That is, are we setting an example, etc. by this choice?

Or, what are we going to do with our CFL'S that have most of there life left when unquestionably alternatives are available that are far less expensive to even own? And I don't mean to refer to there toxicity. I'm talking about the money we will have wasted. About the profits earned by this company that peddles totally obsolete LED's in it's catalog which COULD instead be directed much more responsibly to dimming or controlling or other areas of waste in the building including the general lack of daylight use.

Buy CFL's if you can really say honestly that you don't have ANYTIME to do FAR BETTER.

Talk about the lumens is a distraction. They waste almost all of the energy delivered to them. And there is tremendous waste in generation and distribution even before it gets to the bulb.

Consider your use of light instead. Is it to fight depression? Is there no daylight available even if you change your schedule around or move?

The amount of energy that CFL's can save is not even relevent. They BY SAVING OFFENSIVE PLANTS AND DISTRIBUTION deter the actual investment that would save the world for real. Cooperate with what your glacier melting grid wants on this day if you must but don't kid yourself about it being noble in any way. Be proud instead of how many hot wires you keep mainly off. In that practice the greatest benefit for all can be enjoyed.

kit P

E-F, the problem was in the 25 year old air handler but I decided to replace the heat pump that was 12+ years old at the same time. I knew air handler was in sad shape this when I bought the house, so I was planning on refurbishing it this spring. We found out that the heat pump could not handle the load on the first hot day last summer. I fixed attic insulation and just now installed an attic vent fan. Without any history, it was not until my bill for not heating was not much lower than for heating that I got motivated to clean up the air handler. This is when I found the problem. With the system off, the air handler was too hot to touch. Fortunately there was no combustible material near the air handler. I think this was more good luck than good codes. The fire and energy codes were much stricter in the city I moved from. I tried a few things like cycling the system but it was time to pay to get it fixed.

The first thing we did moving into the house was install CFLs in light that get more use and light that require a ladder to change the bulb because of the longevity of CFLs. All the fixtures were very dirty but many were also corroded. I have replaced 5 so far. We actually has a small electrical fire in the dinning room chandler, arcing and sparking and smoke. I have also installed halogens spot lights for my wife over the sink and some for me over my work bench. She also got a new recessed florescent light in the laundry area. The last remaining energy chore is the single pane picture window.

When the Realtor was showing us houses, I remarked that it did not look like they had heard of the energy crisis in these parts. Then we got our first bill. Love that coal.


Roger Rondo, I agree entirely that the real solution is to make your best effort not to even turn on the lights. That said, conservation is critical. So for those of us out there who truly want to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions, the key is education. The more you learn and understand about your consumption, the more you will be able to isolate your problem areas and reduce your consumption at the source. As far as electricity in general is concerned, delivery wastes far more energy than we consume due to transmission loss.

Some people want to spend good money after bad by going to the Home Depot and kitting themselves out with all of the latest and greatest CFL's available. Let's think about this for a moment; This indicates to me that the "Conservation Culture" is coming to pass. The more you learn about conserving, the more you will be able to reduce your consumption. Are CFL's a bad thing? Of course not but there are far better and more energy efficient products on the market that put CFL's to shame.

Obviously we are all aware of the LED craze, the unfortunate reality here is that they are simply too expensive for what you get! The problem is that there are very few LED lamps that actually give you any form of useable light and they typically cost $12-25 US depending on where you live. These lamps are generally marketed as "3-5w MR16" replaces a standard MR16 lamp and last 100,000 hours!!! That is a load of Bull! Sure if you plug the lamp in and point it at your eyes your sure to be blinded, but install it at 9' above the floor and see what kind of light you get delivered to your floor and you will be very disappointed.

So if you want a good quality LED lamp, and they are out there, you need to spend allot, I mean allot like $50-150 per lamp to really see change. This will drop over time and with increased popularity, however be very careful that you ask the right questions and above all else, GET EDUCATED!

Peter Morrell

Without wishing to spoil the CFL party I am for the use of energy efficient compact fluorescent lamps in context. However there are environmental, safety, security and practical issues regarding their use

Some of the implications of CFL lighting are

CFLs :

Are made using toxic mercury vapour, making them difficult and expensive to recycle

When broken they release mercury vapour

Take more energy to manufacture and recycle

Can be dangerous on stairs as the light is not always instant or at full power until warm

Can flicker making power tools seem stationary

Produce UV light, a problem for Lupus sufferers

Do not work with all timer switches

Do not work outside reliably because of moisture or temperature

Cannot be used in enclosed light fittings, as heat destroys them

Do not fit up to 50% of light fittings in a home. Fitments or down lighters that do not accept a CFL need to be replaced

Do not work in ovens or freezers

Do not work with dimmer switches

Can lose their light output before failing meaning early replacement

Can fail after being switched on and off frequently

Cast an unnatural light. The colour rendering index of incandescents is near the max at 100, CFLs are 60-80


The price of LED bulbs have come down significantly and have been optimised for beam pattern spread. It makes more sense than ever to switch now.



The price of LED bulbs have come down significantly and have been optimised for beam pattern spread. It makes more sense than ever to switch now.



I have had good luck with most CFL bulbs, but no good in the bathroom or areas with high humidity. I sat down to do some paper work and after two minutes the bulb went out and began to melt. The glass part almost fell away and then began to smoke just before i turned off the power. Quite sure it would have burst into flames if I would have left it energized. These bulbs are a money saver but they really are a small type of appliance.

Philippines properties for sale

Each and every room in our simple house used incandescent bulb because this is more save than others.

Deirdre G

khurshid alam khan

CFL is the best lighting or writing singing.

led bulbs

Hi, Great post,thanks for sharing such a wonderful blog.
everybody needs to start led bulbs and start using these new bulbs. we need to go green.


i think this is a Good idea in warm climates, but if you live in cooler climates in heated buildings

techs 21

http://www.techsonhandstore.com -I have been using the energy efficiency lights for years now. My electric bill has decreased dramatically but these light bulbs are not cheap. I have to wait til they go on sale and buy in bulk just to keep them all year round.

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