What is a Compact Fluorescent Bulb?

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  • Written By: S. Mithra
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 04 March 2020
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Compact fluorescent bulbs are extremely energy efficient light bulbs. They can replace incandescent and halogen bulbs, saving money and power, since they cast a similar color spectrum and fit into the same fixtures. Power companies have government incentives to get people to use compact fluorescent bulbs in all kinds of lamps in business, commercial, and residential applications.

Like ordinary fluorescent lights, compact fluorescent bulbs create illumination by heating a certain kind of gas, which separates them from halogen or incandescent bulbs. Yet this recent invention has several advantages over the old fluorescent bulbs popular in businesses, office building, and retail environments that make them more appealing to residential properties.

Most importantly, compact fluorescent bulbs use many times less energy than any other kind of lights. Bulbs consume watts, a measurement of electricity. We're familiar with wattage for traditional incandescent bulbs, which fall around 40-150 watts. Yet CFBs can use as little as 11 watts, and only go up to around 20 watts for the same amount of illumination. Not only are they less expensive to operate, but they end up creating less pollution from the power company.

Secondly, compact fluorescent bulbs last about ten times longer than other bulbs, about 10,000 hours compared to 1,000 hours for an incandescent counterpart. Although CFBs are more expensive to purchase initially, that increased cost is more than offset in electricity and endurance over the life of the bulb.


Outfitting all the lights in your home with compact fluorescent bulbs is easy. They resemble a spiraling tube like a soft-serve ice cream cone. CFBs come in every shape and size to fit every ballast or fixture. They don't flicker when getting ready to burn out. Neither do they take a few seconds to "warm up" before turning on, nor produce an annoying hum. Some will be compatible with dimmer switches and 2 or 3-way settings. Look for rebates through your local electricity provider.

The glass tubes of compact fluorescent bulbs are filtered to produce specific spectrums. Warm, pinkish light results from a "soft white" bulb, while bluer light comes from "cool white" bulbs. Some even mimic the sun's spectrum in "daylight" bulbs. Therefore, they are perfect for reading, cooking, or relaxing when installed in floor, desk, and table lamps, ceiling lamps like closet fixtures or recessed lighting, torchieres, and candelabras.

It's important to compare the brightness of all kinds of light bulbs based on an emerging standard unit of measurement called a lumen. Lumens give you a better indication of how much light is actually created by a bulb, regardless of the wattage. For example, a 75 watt incandescent gives about 1100 lumens. For the same amount of light, you can power an 18 watt compact fluorescent bulb. The United States energy officials award an EnergyStar rating to compact fluorescent bulbs that meet minimum requirements for efficiency.



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Post 1

Compact fluorescent lights also go by the acronym CFL.

Just wanted to share some interesting facts about CFL's that I received today from my power company:

Using a CFL instead of a regular bulb means using 400 pounds *less* of coal to generate the energy to power the bulb. That means lower CO2 emissions.

One CFL results in about $34 savings over the bulbs life.

A CFL lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.

CFLs produce less heat than regular bulbs.

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