Learning to use CFL’s

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An Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent bulb uses about 75% less electricity than a filament-based incandescent bulb to produce the same amount of light.  Basically, the technology, which makes light by energizing glowing gases, converts a lesser percentage of the electrical energy provided by the socket into heat, and more into light.  So it promises to be more efficient and the bulbs are supposed to last about 10 times as long. 
But am I the only one that’s had problems with these things?  I feel like my family and I were early adopters, using them in all kinds of ways for 10 years or more, but now I have a shelf in the basement full of dead ones.  The claimed longevity seems rarely to be achieved. 
Essentially, it turns out that the way light bulbs are tested isn’t a very good analog for the way we use them.  I’m one of these people that goes around turning off any lights that are on, and we live in Maine where it gets pretty cold.  But the longevity testing is based on bulbs burning at room temperature, in 3-hr blocks.  What I’ve learned, after having a bunch of these expensive bulbs burn out, is that they don’t like to be flicked on and off, they need to installed right side up (or you need to buy different ones for right side up or upside down installation), and you should only use them in warm or protected parts of the house.  They’re not always a good choice for the garage or the basement, or exterior lighting.  But if you tend to leave your lights on a lot – and especially if you run an air conditioner – they can really save you money, because they generate so much less heat.  So, they’re still great to use, just be sure to buy the right bulb for the application. Have you tried CFL’s at your house?  How have they worked for you?  

Note that most Home Depots will accept expired CFL’s for recycling.  Just put them in individual plastic bags and place them in the orange collection bin near the front door.  And while you’re at the Home Depot you can check out our Timberline Cool Series Shingles!  That can save money on air conditioning too.



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  1. Bob Tafaro

    Marty, I always enjoy touching base with your blog. It is always well done. You have proven that sustainability is not only the right thing to do for the environment but can add tangible results to a business and the manner in which we all approach our jobs.

    Thanks. You have made a difference in the manner with which we all view the topic.


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