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Editor's Blog

Saving money with compact fluorescent lights

By Kenneth Barbalace
[Wednesday, April 18, 2007]
At first glance, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) seem like they might be too expensive to justify their energy savings, and bad fluorescent lights in offices and schools have turned many of us off to them. Just over a month ago, however, I thought I'd give them a try when I needed to replace the 150 watt bulb in my primary floor lamp.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the performance of CFLs and was even happier when I got my next electric bill. I was so happy in fact that I decided to write an article on CFLs and provide a table and Javascript calculator to help readers calculate their potential savings by making the switch to CFLs.

Read More and calculate your potential savings, see Compact Florescent Lights (CFLs): Are They Worth the Switch?


NOTICE: Comments are user generated feedback and do not represent the views and/or opinions of EnvironmentalChemistry.com.

Allan said...

The math is a bit flawed. If you live in a climate that requires heating in the home then the watts not emitted by the bulb must be made up by the home heating system. This keeps the carbon footprint the same if you are using electricity.

In the summer these lights are used less. Thus the payback is even less.

More voodoo logic by our government.

Ken (EnvironmentalChemistry.com) said...


By switching to CFLs we have been able to cut our household electric bill by 10% to 20%, which is nothing to sneeze at. In addition buying a CFL that lives for 10,000 is cheaper then buying the number of 1,500 hr incandescent bulbs that would have to be purchased to equal the life of that one CFL.

In regards to the heat comment, there are efficient ways and inefficient ways to generate heat to heat a house and incandescent bulbs are an inefficient source of heat. One would save far more money by using efficient CFLs to light one's home and a high efficiency heating system to heat the home than to use waste heat from the incandescent bulb help heat the house.

If you want to throw your money away, I'm sure your electric utility will be more than happy to charge your for the extra energy incandescent bulbs use and your store will be happy to sell you pack after pack of incandescent bulbs. If, however, you are looking for a great way to cut your household budget, CFLs have a very quick payback on their upfront expense. Personally I like to hold on to as much of my money as I can.

NeilA said...

A bit late - I only just saw the article but let me add my two-pennyworth anyway. The comment about the use indoors of CFLs reducing the heat contribution of regular incandescent lamps is worth noting, although I would like to think that not many still use electric resistance heating nowadays.
I have been using CFLs in Europe for more than 35 years and have observed that the new super-cheap ones are rarely up to the suggested life expectancy - only the big-brand expensive one are reliably long-lived. Also, the usable life of many CFLs seems to be reduced in sub-zero temperatures in that only the ones with fewer hours of use will fire up when very cold.
As a final comment, please observe the difference between Power (W, kW etc) and Energy (W-hr, kW-hr etc) as the original, otherwise excellent, article causes some confusion here.

John Thielking said...

CFLs may not be suitable for wet locations such as bathrooms. I tried to use a few CFLs in a bathroom that got steamed up regularly. The CFL package warned that the CFL was not designed to be used in wet locations.

Sure enough, the CFLs burned out sooner than the incandesenct bulbs that were there before the CFLs were installed. I hope that in those jurisdictions that are banning incandescent lightbulb sales they will have a CFL on sale that is actually rated to be used in a wet location. Or maybe we will have to start using hallogen lamps/floodlights in bathrooms?

Another drawback is that CFLs are non-linear loads that draw all their current at the peak of the AC voltage sine wave, which I'm sure the power company does not want to put up with for the long term.

Hopefully the power supplies and enclosures for LED units are designed better than this disaster.

Daveeblog said...

Allan is correct !For winter use just reduce the price /kwh by 90% to recognize the heat contribution of incandescent bulb It is 100% effecient in its use as heating energy & cheap enough to compete with most residential fossil fuel appliances

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