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Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs)

Never before have so many people had so much power to do something as simple as changing a light bulb to save money and fight global warming simultaneously!


  1. Intro
  2. History
  3. CFL Adoption Quickly Gaining Widespread Support
  4. Comparison with Incandescent Lamps
  5. Other CFL Technologies
  6. Choosing the Right CFL Bulb
  7. Disposing CFLs
  8. Cleaning- Up Broken CFLs
  9. Video
CFL Bulb | CFL Bulbs


A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL), also known as a compact fluorescent light bulb (or less commonly as a compact fluorescent tube [CFT]) is a type of fluorescent lamp. Many CFLs are designed to replace an incandescent lamp and can fit in the existing light fixtures formerly used for incandescents.

Compared to incandescent lamps of the same luminous flux, CFLs use less energy and have a longer rated life. In the United States, a CFL can save over 30 USD in electricity costs over the lamp's lifetime compared to an incandescent lamp and save thousands of times its own weight in greenhouse gases. The purchase price of a CFL is higher than that of an incandescent lamp of the same luminous output, but this cost is recovered in energy savings and replacement costs over the bulb's lifetime.

Improved phosphor formulations have improved the subjective color of the light emitted by CFLs such that the best 'warm white' CFLs available now such as SaniBulb™ and CarbonNeutralBulb™ are subjectively similar in color to standard incandescent lamps and provide superior lighting quality.



The compact fluorescent lamp was invented by Ed Hammer, an engineer with General Electric, in response to the 1973 oil crisis. Globally introduced in the early 1980s, CFLs have steadily increased in sales volume. The most important advance in fluorescent lamp technology (including CFLs) has been the gradual replacement of magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts which essentially eliminated the flickering and slow starting traditionally associated with fluorescent lighting. The quality of light has also improved significantly to the point that warm white CFLs are virtually indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs and offer better lighting.


CFL Adoption Quickly Gaining Widespread Support

Due to the enormous potential to increase energy savings and reduce pollution, various organizations and companies have undertaken a variety of creative measures to encourage the adoption of CFLs. In addition, governments across the globe are considering strong measures to encourage adoption of CFLs or to even entirely displace incandescents. Some countries have proposed efforts that involve tax measures, while others have gone further by instituting bans on future production of incandescent light bulbs. Ireland will be the first country to implement a ban in 2009 and Australia will phase out incandescent lights by 2010. The United States and Canada have also committed to phasing out incandescent lights starting in 2012.


Comparison with Incandescent Lamps

Modern CFLs typically have a lifespan of between 6,000 and 15,000 hours, whereas incandescent lamps are usually manufactured to have a lifespan of 750 hours or 1,000 hours.

Energy consumption
For a given light output, CFLs use between one fifth and one quarter of the power of an equivalent incandescent lamp. For example, lighting accounted for approximately 9% of household electricity usage in the United States in 2001, so widespread use of CFLs could save most of this, for a total energy saving of about 7% from household usage.

Energy efficiency
The actual energy efficiency of CFLs compared to other lamp technologies such as incandescent, LED and halogen is significantly better. This makes a compelling case to switch over to them.

Energy savings
Since CFLs use less power to supply the same amount of light as an incandescent lamp of the same lumen rating, they can be used to decrease energy consumption at the location in which they are used. In countries where electricity is largely produced from burning fossil fuels, the savings reduces emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants; in other countries the reduction may help reduce negative impacts from radioactive waste, hydroelectric plants or other sources.

In addition to the savings on energy costs, the average life of a CFL is between 8 and 15 times that of incandescents. While the purchase price of a CFL is typically 3 to 10 times greater than that of an equivalent incandescent lamp, the extended lifetime (less lamps to replace and reduced labor) and lower energy use will compensate for the higher initial cost in most applications. A US article stated "A household that invested $90 in changing 30 fixtures to CFLs would save $440 to $1,500 over the five-year life of the bulbs, depending on your cost of electricity. Look at your utility bill and imagine a 12% discount to estimate the savings."

Helps Fight Global Warming
Light is powered mainly by coal burning power plants and natural gas, both of which create greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming. The EPA estimates that 1.535 lbs of greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere for every kilowatt hour of electricity generated by a coal-fired plant. Replacing a single 100 watt conventional incandescent light bulb with a 25 watt CFL can prevent more than 169 pounds of coal from being burned and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 814 pounds over the lifetime of the bulb. Looking at the big picture, if every American swapped a single incandescent bulb with a CFL, it would collectively save $8 billion in energy costs, prevent burning 30 billion pounds of coal and remove 2 million cars worth of green house gas emissions from our environment. Now imagine what a difference we can make if we switched all our incandescent light bulbs to CFLs!

Prevents Other Pollution Too
Coal-fired power plant smokestacks are also a big threat to health. In addition to releasing carbon dioxide, they also release sulfur dioxide (main cause of acid rain), nitrogen oxide (causes smog and acid rain), radioactive pollutants (can release more than a nuclear power plant) and particulates. These deadly pollutants could lead to heart attacks, strokes, asthma attacks and premature deaths. Using CFLs will help reduce this pollution and smog by using less energy and contributing to a safer environment. Furthermore, it can also help reduce the negative impacts from radioactive waste and hydroelectic plants.

Enjoy Warm Inviting Lighting
There is no reason to be concerned about CFL lighting quality anymore. It has been improving dramatically since they were first introduced almost 20 years ago. CFL light quality now rivals traditional light bulbs in many applications. They turn on instantly, don’t hum, are flicker free and the 2,700K warm white version CFLs delivers warm inviting light that is indistinguishable from incandescent lights. This is made possible by use of rare earth phosphors for excellent color and warmth. In fact, according to a study performed by Popular Mechanics, CFLs scored higher than incandescent bulbs for overall quality of the light. In other words, CFLs aren’t just better for both your wallet and the environment, they produce better light and they don’t peek above most lamp shades anymore!

Reduces Fire Hazards
Standard old fashioned incandescent light bulbs are very inefficient. In fact, over half the energy consumed by them produces heat, not light. Your home or business will be safer when you switch to CFLs since it produces less heat thus reducing fire hazards. This reduction in heat will also cut your AC bills when the weather gets hot.

Maintenance Free
Simply replace your old fashioned incandescent light bulbs with CFLs and forget about them. Since they last for over 8,000 hours, which is ten times longer then incandescent bulbs, you won’t have to replace them for a very long time. Imagine cutting down on your trips to buy bulbs and the times you have to change those hard to get to bulbs. Also, since CFLs are quiet, you won’t notice the difference while you enjoy your music, TV or share a quiet conversation. So switch to CFLs, sit back and bask in its long lasting, comfortable, energy saving light while fighting global warming.


Other CFL Technologies

Another exciting variation on existing CFL technologies are bulbs such as SaniBulbTM with an external nano-particle coating of a photocatalyst such as titanium dioxide. Titanium dioxide is a photocatalyst, becoming ionized when exposed to UV light produced by the CFL. It is thereby capable of converting oxygen to super oxide ions and water to hydroxyl radicals, which neutralize odors and kill bacteria, viruses, and mold spores.


Choosing the Right CFL Bulb

Compact fluorescent light bulbs have come a long ways in both quality and variety since they were first introduced. Gone are the days of poor lighting quality and limited styles. These days, CFL bulbs come in many styles and the quality of the light is better than most incandescent bulbs. To get the best CFL for your application, simply choose the correct wattage and color temperature:

Wattage/Light Output
When you purchase a CFL, it’s less about trying to figure out how many watts a bulb uses and more about the light output, or lumens generated by the bulb. When choosing the best CFL for your application, simply choose the CFL replacement from the table below to match your current incandescent light output. For example, if you are looking to replace a 100 watt incandescent light bulb, simply choose the 25 Watt CFL replacement. It’s as easy as that!

CFL Power (Watts)

Output (Lumons)

To Replace Incandescent Bulb










Color Temperature
The color temperature of a light bulb can best be described as how the light compares to ‘natural’ sunlight. Outdoor sunlight has a color temperature of around 5,500K. Bulbs with a higher color temperature (closer to 5,000K) will produce light that is more ‘cool’ or blue similar to fluorescent tubes. Bulbs with a lower color temperature will produce light that is more ‘warm’ or yellow like incandescent light bulbs. The color temperature of a light bulb is usually described by how ‘white’ a bulb is, like ‘warm white’ and ‘soft white’

The most popular residential light bulbs in the US are ‘warm white’. We recommend choosing a CFL with a color temperature of 2,700K bulb for your home if you want to get the same warm effect as incandescent bulbs. If you are in a commercial setting or trying to get the whiter lighting typical of fluorescent light tubes, you should consider choosing the ‘cool white’ CFL with a color temperature of 4700K.


Disposing CFLs

When your CFL burns out years from now, simply recycle them properly, like any other fluorescent light, to minimize the environmental impact due to the small amount of mercury that may be present. To find a CFL recycling center near you, simply call 1-800-CLEAN-UP or go to earth911.org or lamprecycle.org. Do not discard with your regular trash.


Cleaning- Up Broken CFLs

All CFLs contain a trace amount of mercury in the liquid form that is not harmful. The mercury in CFLs is about hundred times less then in thermometers and about five hundred times less then old thermostats. In addition, using CFLs instead of incandescent lights can prevent about 75% mercury from being released into the atmospheres form coal powered power plants which is the countries main source of power. The small amount of mercury is only potentially harmful if the bulb breaks and the mercury becomes vaporized. But even then, the amount of vaporous mercury present is negligible.  EPA recommends the following clean-up and disposal guidelines:

  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
    • Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
    • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.
  • Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
    • Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
      Note: Some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
    • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
  • If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:
    • First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
    • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.