I've heard a lot about CFLs or Compact Fluorescent Lights, but do they really save money and are they as bright?
There's been no lack of advertising; seems everywhere you turn someone is pushing a CFL at you. It seems like nearly all of our customers have either tried or know someone who has tried a CFL. And, for good reason - there have been a number of incentives ran by everyone from local utilities to the department of energy to get these bulbs in the hands of consumers. You're probably asking yourself why; well for good reason, these bulbs do use 75% less energy then traditional iridescent bulbs.
Given the hype around these bulbs and the number of questions we get, we decided it was time to address it on our site. As with all other money/energy saving devices and/or technologies, CFLs would have to pass the two tests to meet our seal of approval:
Do they save enough energy to pay for themselves relatively quickly
Do they save energy in a way that doesn't substantially change our lifestyles or daily habits.
The short answer to the first questions: overwhelmingly yes. These bulbs have a number of energy saving benefits: 1.) They use 75% less electricity then traditional bulbs because 2.) They produce a significantly less amount of heat which also saves on those AC bills. For more on the technology that makes this possible - please go to the energy star website.
The second question in our test required us to put a number of these bulbs to the test. To pass our test there were two questions we wanted to answer based on customer feedback: startup/warm up time, reliability and overall quality of the light output. To answer this question we relied on both our experience as well as independent sources such as Popular Mechanics and Energy Star. The short answer here - is yes, we believe they do pass the test of minimal impact to lifestyle and habits with a couple of caveats.
We have found the quality of CFLs has gotten better over the last 12 - 18 months (we believe in the rush to get them to market quickly many manufacturers let quality control slip initially), but when purchasing a large amount of CFLs we still find that about 1 in 10 or 10% don't operate as promised (flickering being a common problem) and need to be returned. But this number continues to get better all the time.
We've had better luck with standard CFLs vs. dimmable CFLs. Depending on the number of bulbs on a switch we found dimmable CFLs offer some challenges - if you turn some dimmers to low they can damage the bulbs - but this is easily avoided by making sure all bulbs on the same switch are dimmable CFLs and making sure that you initially turn the bulbs on at their brightest setting.
Warm up times vary greatly by manufacturer. The Popular Mechanics article provides some information on warm up. We've found the bulbs manufactured by FEIT to be one of the quickest to full brightness - they warm up in a few seconds. These bulbs are available at Menards.
In summary we've found the benefits of CFLs in terms of the energy saving capabilities (both energy they use and decreased cooling costs) far out way any negatives we've found. Especially in high use - everyday use around the house; you know those lights that seem to be on all the time. After all, in most other countries of the world these bulbs have been in use for years; many countries in Europe don't even sell traditional iridescent light bulbs any more!
With that said, there are still cases where we prefer more traditional bulbs; areas around the house used infrequently for entertainment - where you may want the ability to dim the bulbs to a very low level of light, or applications such as closets where the bulb is only on for a few seconds/minutes at a time.
If you would like Priority Energy to help assess which lighting is right for your home or business please don't hesitate to contact us.