Myths and facts – CFL lighting

This post discusses myths about CFLs, and looks at the facts

The plan for lighting in Ireland is to ban incandescent (you know, the old 60W type) bulbs by 2009 and have us all using CFL (energy saving) bulbs. As an energy geek I get asked about energy stuff regularly, but not really about lighting. Truth is that everyone things they know it all about CFLs. Well fair enough, they have been around for years, but the fact is that no different from computers, the technology is improving all the time. Saying that the cheap CFL you bought in 10 years ago(or perhaps last year) doesn’t run the latest version of paint shop pro is dim, or slow to light up, or can’t dim, well come on… be reasonable.

So the other day a colleague pointed me to the lighting association’s website, where they have really good stuff on the latest standards and technology. So here is the short version of CFLs – Myths and Facts

Frequent Switching reduces the life of CFLs

This used to be true, but new standards demand that CFLs switch gear be rated to 3000 switched. So 1 a day, that is over 8 years. Considering the lamp is rated to 8000 hours (8 times that of an incandescent) I think that’s a reasonable lifetime by anyone’s standards.

CFLs are two big

Check this out and shut up

CFL lamps

CFLs need to be left on for 45 minutes to make up for the energy needed to switched on.

While there might have been some truth to this in the beginning (5 minutes energy maybe), it is not true now. CFLs use about 3 seconds of energy to switch on the bulb, but that’s it.

CFLs light is cold and sterile

Modern CFLs are available in much the same colour temperatures as incandescent bulbs.

CFLs flicker

CFLs flicker at 30,000 to 50,000 hertz. This is way beyond what a human can notice. (incidentally incandescent bulbs flicker at 50 Hz with the electrical supply) If your cfl bulb is flickering, it means itsfaulty, and about the give up.

You can’t dim CFLs

That was true, but dimmable CFLs is now available

CFLs start slowly

There is some truth to this. CFLs can take 60 seconds to get up to their upper levels of lighting, but generally this problem means you are using older, or cheaper bulbs. Truth is, with CFLs, you get what you pay for.

Another point is that CFLs generally don’t blow, like incandescent bulbs do. Instead they slowly degrade over time. So you really need to change them when they are becoming dim, not wait for … well time to end…

So… in summary, if you are using older CFLs, well you can’t reasonably use them as your measure. The benefits of CFLs are well known, and why wait for the ban… change your lighting… right now…

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11 Responses to Myths and facts – CFL lighting

  1. Sean Vanatta says:

    I work for a small technology company called PureSpectrum, Inc. that is working toward making CFL bulbs more appealing to consumers. Click on the link to watch a short, low budget video we put together to show off our dimmable CFL technology. Most of PureSpectrum’s budget was spent on research and development, so the video might look a little homemade. But the bulb you will see represents something you can’t buy today from any store – a CFL that dims just like an incandescent. We think the big lighting companies are making CFLs more complicated than they need to be and dragging their feet on bringing simple, functional technology to market. CFLs won’t save energy sitting on store shelves and consumers need to know there is technology that can make better bulbs. They just have to ask for it.

  2. [...] Switching from inclandescent to CFL is a big winner. As discussed here [...]

  3. vic says:

    “Modern CFLs are available in much the same colour temperatures as incandescent bulbs.”
    So not true ! CFL color temps are Horrendous! I can show you direct output readings from my ColorMeter to show exact color temp readings- NONE are anywhere near that of the consistency of tungsten bulbs.

    And your statement “way beyond what a human can notice”
    BULL!!!! why do some humans get headaches from this frequency? Why can blind people notice when a Flo is on versus a incandescent?

    Ask any artist, pre press technician, photographer, or graphic designer if they use Florescent Lighting when judging color.

    • kathy says:

      I 100% agree with Vic. CFL’s may be more energy efficient than incandescent, but the quality of light sucks and they contain murcury, how green is that?? Personally I prefer LED’s any where I don’t need bright light and Halogen when I do.
      I hate CFL’s!!!!!!!
      LED’s are the best, the “greenest” and getting better all the time, they are much more efficient than CFL’s, contain zero mercury and are much cheaper in the long run, outlast CFL’s by a factor of 2.5 at least, although they cost a bit more to purchase.

  4. Bob says:

    I have to say that this trendy ban is one of the most ignorant things I’ve seen in a while and the people that support it should be ashamed of their obtuseness . CFLs are old technology and they should be banned; many will not recycle these lamps and that will just put more mercury in the landfills plus all the fossil fuels used to recycle these. The light that CFLs put out is horrible and it takes forever to get up to temperature no matter how much you spend on them. I would rather see LEDs in wide use and stop letting the Chinese sell us lamps that are inferior and pollute our landfills. The standard American consumer is so incredible dumb! Be more green…Bahahaha what a joke if you’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint by using CFLs then you get a big FAIL!.

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