How to Buy CFL Bulbs

You've probably heard that newer compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) last longer and use far less electricity than the traditional incandescent bulbs. In fact, swapping out older light bulbs for these newer versions can go a long way towards reducing your electricity bill.

However, you may not realize that even among CFLs, as well as light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs, there are many different kinds to choose from. In other words a bulb is not a bulb is not a bulb.

Currently, the most popular type of this bulb for Americans to buy is the 60-watt equivalent of the old-fashioned light bulb—the incandescent bulb. And Consumer Reports recently did a ratings test on both CFL and LED bulbs, and here's what that test found:

  • CFLs save money faster due to their low cost. It usually takes less than a year to recoup the cost of most CFLs.

  • LEDs can take four to 10 years to pay for themselves due to the high cost of the bulb.

  • To find the bulb that will give you the brightness you require, look at lumens. Watts tell only energy use, lumens measure brightness. In spiral bulbs look for the following
At least 450 lumens if replacing a 40-watt bulb

800 lumens or more for a 60-watt bulb

1,100 lumens for a 75-watt bulb

1,600 lumens or higher when replacing a 100-watt bulb.

  • In floodlights look for a lumen count that is at least 10 times the wattage of the incadescent bulb it is replacing.

  • Brightness and color are two totally separate elements when it comes to CFL and LED bulbs. Bulbs that mimic bright sunshine have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of 100. (The CRI range goes from 0 to 100.) Consumer Reports found that most of the tested bulbs are in the low 80s, and a bulb with at least an 80 CRI is best for use indoors.

  • Check for rebates and coupons. Visit Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency or The Energy Star website to find utility rebates and search online for manufacturer rebates and coupons.

  • Keep your receipts. These newer bulbs are supposed to be long-lasting—for up to for years. If they don't last that long, you'll want to have saved your receipts and UPC codes, which you will need to return a bulb to the manufacturer or retailer. Sure, this requires a bit of organizing but it's worth it to get your money back for a bulb that doesn't live up to its promised lifespan.

Finally, because CFL bulbs contain mercury, they should always be recycled—not thrown in the trash. Home Depot, Ikea, Lowe's, and some ACE Hardware stores will accept used bulbs. Follow cleanup tips from the Environmental Protection Agency if you happen to break a CFL bulb.

By David | | 0 comments
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