Tuesday, May 22, 2007

CFLs - What's The Deal?

According to Energy Star, if every American home replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) we would save enough energy to light more than 2.5 million homes for a year and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions of nearly 800,000 cars.
CFLs provide the following benefits:

  • Use at least 2/3 less energy than standard incandescent bulbs to provide the same amount of light, and last up to 10 times longer.
  • Save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb’s lifetime
  • Generate 70 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.
  • In addition to other quality requirements, must turn on instantly, produce no sound, and fall within a warm color range or be otherwise labeled as providing cooler color tones.
  • Are available in different sizes and shapes to fit in almost any fixture, for indoors and outdoors.

Obviously CFLs are good for the environment, but are they conevenient? We found this source that helps break down our most basic questions to better inform our transition to the world of CFLs.

What is a CFL?

CFL stands for Compact Fluorescent Lamp. A compact fluorescent lamp is a small version of the fluorescent lamps that have been used to provide energy-efficient light for offices, factories, stores and schools for over 60 years.

Why are CFLs called lamps instead of bulbs?

In lamp-industry jargon, a lamp is a device that generates light when connected to electric power. The term bulb is used to describe the glassware before it is made into a functional lamp. In addition, the device that most users would call a lamp, is called a fixture or luminaire in the lighting industry. For example, what most people refer to as a table lamp is technically called a portable fixture. Aren't you glad you asked?

Why do CFLs look so strange?

Most fluorescent lamps are constructed in long, thin tubes in order to generate light while using the least amount of electricity. In order to fit CFLs into a lighting fixture designed for incandescent lamps, the long, thin tube must be coiled into a spiral or folded back on itself multiple times. This accounts for the unusual shape of most CFLs.

Is it possible to make a CFL that looks like a normal incandescent lamp?

Yes. One way is to enclose the spiral or folded tube in a glass or plastic outer housing. A better way is to make an electrodeless CFL using what is called induction coupling. Electrodeless CFLs can be constructed in bulbs that have the same shape as conventional incandescent lamps. Only one model of electrodeless CFL is currently sold in the U.S. This lamp is constructed as a reflector lamp. There are currently no electrodeless CFLs that look like conventional incandescent lamps, also known as A-Line lamps.

Do CFLs work on dimmers?

Most screw-base CFLs do not work with dimmers designed for use with incandescent lamps. These CFLs will have a label on the lamp and/or the packaging stating "not for use with dimmers. However, certain special screw-base CFLs are designed to work with standard incandescent lamp dimmers. These CFLs will be labeled "dimmable" or similar language on the lamp and/or the packaging. However, due to small differences between different brands of dimmers, not all dimmable CFLs work with all types of incandescent dimmers. Some dimmable CFLs, however, will work with all major brands of incandescent lamp dimmers.

I have read that CFLs contain mercury. Is that correct?

Yes, all CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, typically about 5 mg, which is 1/6000th of an ounce (mass). If all the mercury were concentrated in one droplet, that droplet would have a diameter of only 1.1 mm, which is 0.042 inches.

Doesn't disposal of mercury-based products harm the environment?

Yes, mercury is classified as a hazardous material by the US Environmental Protection Agency and CFLs should be recycled instead of being thrown out with the normal trash. However, in many cases use of CFLs will offset mercury that would otherwise be introduced into the environment from other sources.

For further detailed information, check out CFlfacts.com and Energystar.gov on proper disposal of CFLs.

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