Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)
Snapshot & Benefits:
Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) are
designed to use up to 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs while
offering the same amount of light. They work by passing an electrical current
through a mixture of argon and mercury which then emits ultraviolet light. This
UV light excites a fluorescent coating that then emits the visible light we are
able to see. Because of this technology, CFL bulbs require fewer watts of energy
than incandescent bulbs to operate at the same luminosity. For example, a
40-watt incandescent bulb emits the same amount of light as an 11-14 watt CFL.
The lifespan of a CFL varies depending on how frequently it is turned on/off and
how much air flow is around the bulb, but on average, they last 6,000-15,000
hours (about ten times as long as incandescent bulbs).
CFLs come in a variety of shapes and styles. The
most popular style is the spiral CFL, but if you are looking to replace bulbs
that will be visible or simply don't like the look of the spiral bulb, there are
A-shape and globe options available as well. CFLs also come in 3-way and
According to the Environmental Protection Agency,
if every home in America were to replace just one incandescent bulb with an
Energy Star rated CFL, we would be able to collectively save $700 million in
energy costs while preventing 9 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every
year. That's the equivalent of 800,000 cars!
While CFLs are currently the most affordable
energy-efficient lighting option, LED lighting is quickly becoming more
efficient and inexpensive and may soon replace CFLs as the leading form of
Estimated Cost Savings:
While CFLs are slightly more to purchase than
incandescent bulbs ($2-15 as opposed to $0.25-$5), they can save as much as $30
over the life of the bulb in reduced energy costs. The average payback period
is six months.
Because CFLs contain trace amounts of mercury
(about 4 mg per bulb), it is important to take precautions when handling them.
When installing, be sure and hold the base not the glass to screw them in to
prevent breaking. If a bulb does break, follow the
EPA's guidelines for proper
clean-up to avoid
negative effects. When a CFL bulb burns out, it must be recycled at a
designated recycling center. For a list of recycling locations near you,
Note that no mercury is emitted unless the bulb
breaks. Regular use will not result in exposure to mercury.
Most photocells, motion sensors, electronic
timers, and some sockets are incompatible with CFLs. Be sure and check
manufacturing and packaging labels before purchasing.
Installation (Getting it Done):
Replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFLs is
one of the easiest ways to save energy. CFLs are available at most home
improvement stores and general retailers and can easily be installed without the
help of a professional. Remember to hold the bulb by the base and not the glass
Videos On This Topic:
How to Save Energy by
Changing to CFL Bulbs
(1:40) - The Home Depot - Lighting
represents a large portion of the average home�s energy bills, but by replacing
your lightbulbs with CFL bulbs, you can easily save energy and money. Find out
more about how CFLs compare to regular bulbs in this video.
(1:45) - National Geographic Green Home - In this short video featuring Kyra
Sedgwick, Natalie Portman, and Chloe Sevigny, find out about how changing your
lightbulbs can have such a drastic impact on your home, your energy bills, and
Incandescent v. Compact
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
(1:14) - GoGreen Tube - Replacing an incandescent light bulb with a compact
fluorescent one is an easy way to save energy and money. In this short video,
learn more about the pros and cons of each type of bulb and find out how big of
a difference CFLs can make in your home.
How to Save Energy with Dimmers and Motion Detectors (1:40)
- The Home Depot - Installing dimmers on your most commonly used light switches
can help reduce the energy usage by up to 20% and save around $70/year. Find
out more in this short video.
More Information On This
Energy Star - Lightbulbs -
Energy Star - Frequently
Asked Questions on CFLs
Energy Star's How To Choose
a Light Guide
U.S. Department of Energy -
Tips on Using CFLs
Research Center CFL Consumer Guide
EPA - Mercury-Containing
Light Bulb Recycling
EPA - Clean-up and Disposal