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Never Mind the New York Times – Buy a Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb

buy a compact fluorescent light bulb.An article in the March 28 New York Times contained some pretty unflattering remarks about compact fluorescent light bulbs.  Since the bulbs were never given a chance to speak in their own defense, I guess it’s up to us fluorescent bulb-huggers to speak for them.  So, here goes.

1.  Three Good Things About Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

The article snarkily declares that you can save the planet by twisting in a few of these bulbs.  Sure, that’s great, but a second good thing is that you save a lot of effort.  My house is full of CFL’s and I can’t remember the last time I had to climb on a chair to change one of them.  That’s an important consideration for busy families, especially when you have toddlers.  I sure wish CFL’s were around when my kids were little.

What’s the third good thing?  Oh, right.  Money. You save money on your electricity bills when you switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.  You also save money on replacement costs, because they hardly ever need to be replaced.  And you save money on doctors’ bills because you won’t be always falling off chairs while trying to replace a light bulb with toddlers running around (at least, not for another ten years or so, by which time your kids will be old enough to change their own light bulbs).

2.  Quality Counts When Buying Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Any change around the house takes some getting used to, so if you’re new to fluorescent bulbs, start by buying one or two instead of an armload.  Choose from a good quality brand that you trust.  They’re available in different sizes and wattages at most stores that carry conventional light bulbs.  If you go to a specialty lighting store or website, you can find a wider variety and choose between different hues and tones, too.

The article mentions that “low-end” fluorescent bulbs do not last long in recessed fixtures.  Right you are, Sherlock.  The same can be said for cheap conventional bulbs, too.  The solution is simple, just choose a good quality fluorescent bulb.

3.  Know Your Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

As with any new product, you’ll want to stop and check the label before you throw it in your shopping cart.  Dimmer switches require dimmable fluorescent bulbs, so if the label is unclear just plan on installing your first bulb in a non-dimmable fixture.

4.  Recycle Your Compact Fluorescent Light Bulb

Once you buy a good quality CFL, you won’t have to think about discarding it for another ten years.  When you do, big-box stores like IKEA and Home Depot make it easy.  They will recycling CFL’s for you.  You can also check out the local recycling regulations in your area.

5.  About that Mercury

Oy.  Mercury doesn’t seem to be an issue when it is spewed into the air we breath, by the ton, from coal-fired power plants (you know, the ones that supply about 50% of the electricity in the U.S.A).  Why is it suddenly an issue when a minute quantity is safely sealed inside a light bulb?  If you happen to break one, common sense prevails.  Don’t sweep or vacuum the pieces.  Take some duct tape and use the sticky side to pick up any tiny particles.  Then wipe up the pieces with a damp paper towel, and seal them (with the tape and the paper towel) in a disposable container or plastic bag.

Image: rubberpaw at flickr.


  1. The only issue I have with CFL’s is the slow warm-up time. It’s not enough of an aggravation for me to stop using them (we’ve reduced our daily energy usage significantly by making the switch). I hope CA’s efforts to develop a better bulb comes up with a faster lighting one.

  2. Coccinelle says:

    Mine don’t have warm-up time?!?!

    The only thing that bothers me with CFL is the big majority of people who buy these without knowing that you should not throw them in the trash bin.

  3. Sure, common sense prevails when cleaning one up. But you left out the part where you are supposed to evacuate the room for at least 15 minutes, turn off your central heat or air, and if it’s on carpet, turn off your central heat/air and open a window for at least 15 minutes the next few times you vacuum.

    I had one pop and start smoking, emitting an acrid odor, in my home (after having plenty of them burn out after a month or two). I’m pregnant and have a small child in my house. I’m done with CFLs (and am seriously concerned about people tossing them in the trash). We’ll hold out for mass-market LEDs.

  4. Coccinelle says:

    Mass-market LEDs… my dream!


  1. […] Read more of this story » […]

  2. […] option we come up with seems to lead to more problems and unintended consequences.  CFL lightbulbs reduce energy usage by up to 75%, but then you have trace amounts of mercury to deal with.  […]

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