Dimmable Compact Fluorescent ... Best Place to Buy?

susanandmarkwApril 21, 2007

I'm looking to replace all the lights in our new home with dimmable CFs. I've found a few places online (can't find them locally) but can anyone reccomend a good place to purchase?

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This has come up several times before. Try searching for "dimmable compact fluorescent."

Several people have recommended Greenlite brand from (I think) 1001 Bulbs (mail order). Try the search.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 2:46AM
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Oops, that's 1000 Bulbs. The one I mentioned above trades in the OTHER kind of bulbs that might interest Gardenweb folks. ;-)

Here are their dimmable CFs.

I'm kinda curious about the Litetronics cold cathode CFs with 25,000 hour life. (They're not very bright though.) I asked here a while back if anyone had experience with them, but got no response. So why don't you try 'em? ;-)

Standard disclaimer applies - I don't work for these guys, get no money for them, haven't even ever traded with them, order at your own risk, et cetera.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 6:54PM
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I've read at least one or two positive mentions of "Energy Federation Incorporated," and they have a nicely organized website...

Here is a link that might be useful: EFI Dimmable CFLs

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 8:46AM
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Thanks for posting that. I see more detail here that at most online merchants offering CFs. In particular, they note the lumens, wattage, and efficacy in lumens per watt. (I could calculate the efficacy myself from the lumens and wattage, but it's nice to have it for a quick comparison.)

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 4:57PM
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I'm glad it's useful. I was impressed, too.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 7:51AM
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We have had luck with this:

and this:

Price and service was exceptional. However, many of these dimmable CFLs seem to be currently out of stock as they are very much in demand. I find these bulbs fascinating, not sure why...

Here is a link that might be useful: Dimmable CFLs

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 12:29PM
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Thought it was worth mentioning that my local Home Depot is expanding its fluorescent offerings. Most are not dimmable yet, but I noticed yesterday that they do have a dimmable 3-watt candle-shaped CFL for chandeliers and such. It's nice to see such changes.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2007 at 7:58AM
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Well, I did eventually purchase dimmable CFs for my house. I can't say I'm impressed. They BARELY dim, if at all, and tend to flicker. What a waste of money (almost $600 worth)!

-Susan W.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2007 at 2:51PM
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What did you get for dimmable CFs, and what kind of dimmer are you using? Perhaps a different dimmer would help. I'd call the CF manufacturer and get their recommendation.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2007 at 2:34PM
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I have a few Philips dimmable CFs. They dim down to perhaps 30% and then go out. The light is a bit cooler and more greyish as they dim. They pretty well meet my expectations.

Six hundred bucks is a LOT of lights.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2007 at 3:33PM
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I'm using the dimmer my electrician installed (new home construction; small sliders around the switch) and the dimmable bulbs (reflector for recessed lights and "A" style, covered, non-spiral, for others) from servicelighting.com.

-Susan W.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 2:24PM
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Do you know the brand name and model of the bulbs?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:12PM
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This is what I ordered (see below) and, by the by, I was shorted one bulb (out of 50) with no credit or replacement to date and, after little more than a week of use, one of the reflectors (that hadn't even been used on dim) burnt out in our kitchen. I'm not very happy.

From 1000bulbs.com ...

30 14 Watt - Warm Tone Color - R30 - Dimmable Reflector Compact Fluorescent - NEPTUN Light 33014-ADIM-RY
Voted Most Reliable Dimmable CFL Ever! (Light Fair International 2007)

Product#: FC14/R3028DIMRY

20 16 Watt - Warm White - A Shape - Dimmable - Compact Fluorescent - Neptun 61916-DIM
Voted Most Reliable Dimmable CFL Ever! (Light Fair International 2007)

Product#: FC16/A27DIM

    Bookmark   June 28, 2007 at 6:32PM
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That's pretty amusing - the idea of voting on "most reliable dimmable CFL." You don't measure reliability with a vote.

I'd never heard of "Neptun." I looked up their website and I see that they've actually gotten a patent on prior art, the idea of a CF PAR-flood :

The patent claims an energy efficient fluorescent reflector lamp including a fluorescent light source enclosed in a reflector with a defined cavity and circumferential rim defining a light emitting opening, and a circumferential flange at a mating opening. The fluorescent reflector lamp has luminous efficacy which exceeds that of corresponding halogen reflector lamps while having an overall outline fitting substantially within the ANSI specified outline for PAR lamps.

Uh, yeah, sure. They invented that. Right. ;-)

It would be hilarious that they managed to get a patent on something that's been in widespread production for 15+ years, if it weren't so distressing that the patent office actually let them get away with it (just because no one else has done so to date).

This may not bother other people, and that's fine, but I don't trade with companies that, in my view, are attempting to take ownership of what amounts to public property.

Philips and Panasonic are good CF brands. Those are the ones I recommend (except for the cheap rebranded Chinese-made helical CFs that Philips has lately offered to the mass market).

I don't think Panasonic makes a dimmable CF, but I've used the Philips triple-U dimmables as mentioned above. I don't have direct experience with these Philips R30s, but it might be worth picking one up to see if you like it. Yes, they're a bit pricey, but I find that the good Philips CFs last a long time.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 2:15AM
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According to Neptun those bulbs should work with any dimmer made after 1995. Is it possible your dimmers are older than that? If you're sure they are newer than that, I'd suggest you contact Neptun. They are based in Illinois, and claim to have "Uncompromised commitment to Customer Service for NEPTUN Light Representatives, Distributors and Customers." Here's the contact info:

Tel. 1-847-735-8330
Toll Free: 1-888-735-8330

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 3:16AM
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As I said earlier our home is new construction, finished just this April.

Another reflector has burnt out since I posted last.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 10:45AM
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While it's most likely that a new house would have new dimmers, it's possible that either your electrician or his supplier used older stock.

I don't know anything about Neptun, and like David recommend Panasonic bulbs. If you have contacted them and they cannot or will not help you, then I would conclude they are a fly-by-night company.

I'm sorry we are not able to help you, but perhaps at least you are providing the service of warning people away from a questionable brand.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2007 at 1:21PM
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We buy all our Greenlite brand dimmable CFLs from Imagine Energy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Imagine Energy

    Bookmark   July 2, 2007 at 12:11PM
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The Environmental Defense fund sponsors a website that might be of interest. You can search for specific criteria regarding CFL's, read user reviews, and find where to buy the bulbs. However, this site is geared toward switching from incandescent to CFL's, not necessarily for new installation of fixtures. Also, search W.A.C. lighting for on-line purchases of fixtures and bulbs.

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/page.cfm?tagID=632&campaign=mts

    Bookmark   July 4, 2007 at 5:03PM
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dallasbill, thanks for posting the name of that site (Imagine Energy). I love it. I find their selection and pricing oustanding. I've ordered from 1000 lighbulbs and another company and they don't come close to this site. Thanks again. I'll be ordering all my CFL's from them.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2007 at 3:17PM
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I dunno. The page linked had only Greenlite products. I wanted to see what other brands they carried, so I tried clicking on the logo at the top left. That gave me a 404 error (page not found). Minor problem there.

Hit the "Back" button, then tried clicking "Home Efficiency Products" and "Compact Fluorescent Lighting," and again got a 404 error.

Tried starting with imagineenergy.net; that was a bloody annoying Flash front end. Jumped through the hoops to display that Flash junk (I keep Flash turned off because it's so annoying), but then the same links as above still came up with 404 errors.

It's kind of hard to trade with internet retailers who don't have a working website.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2007 at 7:03PM
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I ordered $90 worth of dimmable and other CFL's from 1001 and had to return all, but one bulb. I was very dissappointed. The bulbs were huge and stuck out of my fixtures. I also noted one of them became very hot to the touch. I thought fluorescents were suppose to stay cool or am I mistaken. I haven't gone to touch any of my other bulbs, but I know there is no heat coming from them. So I won't be ordering from them again. They charged a $20 restocking fee, plus I had to pay the return postage w/insurance. An expensive lesson learned. I placed an order with Imagine Energy. Their products will be better as far as size and price I know that. I'll let you know how those are when they arrive. I didn't order any dimmables with them however because I knew I had this order with 1001 coming in. I just ordered regular bright white compact bulbs.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2007 at 6:30PM
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Sorry to hear about your experience.

Heat is always a measure of inefficiency. A little is normal with CFs - they aren't 100% efficient. However, I've found some CFs that got moderately warm - enough so that I could hold my hand on them with moderate discomfort, but not so hot that I was burned.

I suspect that excessive heat output is more likely with units that are rated for very high light output but are small. Such lamps are typically overdriven (that is, more than the design current is forced through them) to achieve the desired high light output. This makes them less efficient. Overdriving is also one reason that most CFs last an average of only 6,000 to 10,000 hours, rather than the average of 20,000 to 30,000 hours that most linear fluorescents operate.

A CF marked "Energy Star" should be less likely to produce excessive heat unless it's defective.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2007 at 3:11PM
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The Imagine Energy site is being reworked. They only sell Greenlite CFLs so far as I have seen. If you stick to ordering via that link I gave, it all works. You can also contact them via a webpage from there and they will get back to you within a day.

I had 3 floods die after about 8 months, so I emailed them. They are handling everything with Greenlite for a direct drop-ship replacement to me. I highly recommend them.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 5:13PM
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I just placed an order with Imagine yesterday. I don't mind getting Greenlite as they have been recommended by folks that have used them.

That is awesome customer service from Imagine Bill.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2007 at 9:55PM
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I have had no luck with Greenlite products.

I have been very happy with the Sylvania CFLs we use in our family room. The Satco dimmable twists have also been very good. I hear that Sylvania makes a dimmable R30, but I haven't tried it yet.

One manufacturer that doesn't receive much attention is TCP. We use 5 or 6 of their Spring Lamps throughout our house and I love them. They all run at 2700K and have proven to be exceedingly reliable.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2007 at 8:51AM
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TCP supplies (or at least used to) the "Commercial Electric" CFs sold at Home Depot. TCP's CFs are manufactured in China, like about 90% of the current CFs. A friend of mine had several Commercial Electric CFs fail within a few months. Of course it's possible that the ones with their own brand printed on them use higher quality components - but I wouldn't bet on it.

Panasonic and Philips are the CF brands that I recommend. Sylvania used to be quite good but the quality declined significantly when they moved manufacturing from Germany to Taiwan. They're now made in China, and I don't buy them any more.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2007 at 7:15PM
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David - do either of these brands run a dimmable R-40 bulb that is equivalent to 90W? Our contractor ended up convincing us that our kitchen remodel would look better and still work well with a few less cans than he originally planned. He and I later used the lighting formula somebody posted on this forum (REALLY helpful!) and determined that we had sufficient wattage as long as each bulb was nearly 90W, although this figure doesn't include our 3 (not yet installed) halogen pendants or undercabinet lights). As construction continues, he has 90W halogen floods in our cans and I have to admit it looks great. However, I want to be as energy efficient/considerate as possible. Not being in CA, I am doing this out of conscience rather than requirement. I've shopped local stores and found NOTHING. I wanted to buy just one bulb to convince my skeptical wife that CFLs are viable. Buying just one bulb online isn't as economical as buying in a store. Buying all the bulbs online seems risky, as the one poster who ordered a slew of bulbs learned the hard way.

Thanks for your thoughts/info!

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 11:32AM
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Are you planning on installing CFL-specific cans? I've found that the cans designed for CFLs work considerably better than using a screw-in type CFL in cans designed for incandescents.

Here's a 2-pin type CFL bulb by Panasonic that puts out 1600 lumens, which is very close to what a 90w halogen would produce. I've used panasonic CFLs quite a bit, and have yet to have one fail. California requires the 2-pin type, as it is the house that is certified, not the owner/occupant. It's too easy for a future occupant to switch out a screw-in type CFL for an incandescent. With the 2-pin, you ensure that not only you but likely everyone else who lives there after you will also be saving energy.

Here is a link that might be useful: Panasonic cfl

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 3:41PM
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If only I knew at the start what I know now. I (naively) started out gung-ho to use LED's. My designer/contractor knew nothing about them. I learned a lot from this forum. Learned that LED technology isn't quite there yet in regards to illumination. So I told my contractor I wanted to go with CFL's, if they would work. He said they should (even with dimmers) and that I didn't need special cans. We ended up with regular cans as a result. As our job is nearing completion, I'm stuck with using a screw-in. Us east coast types don't know what's going on in CA lighting. Live and learn! Thanks for your reply. R2R

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 11:25PM
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I'd recommend using Philips triple-tube dimmables. These work well for me on every dimmer I've tried.

Some people worry about the "bare bulb" appearance in can lights, but a friend of mine has something similar (helicals, actually) in her recessed lights and it doesn't bother her at all. No one has ever commented on it. I don't know many guests who really pay attention to the ceiling lights anyway.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 8:03PM
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what about cfl for a outdoor post light; I live in the northeast where it's cold in the winter.

ANyone reccomend a wattage to use for a post light?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 10:46PM
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FYI -- Osram Sylvania has introduced DULUX EL dimmable BR30 compact fluorescent lamps. The output is supposed to be 600 lumens using 15 watts. This lamp fits into track lighting, recessed cans and other light sources that would normally take BR30 bulbs. Check out their website for more information. They only introduce products once they have been tested and they know they will work -- similar to the other large manufacturers of lamps.

I have spoken to an importer of lamps about dimmable compact fluorescents and they currently are not selling them due to the problems that are inherent in the product. They will hopefully come out with a product, once they know that it will not cause the consumer problems and can be more reliable. They are usually less expensive than the major manufacturers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sylvania

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 8:09AM
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I've used Philips Earthlight CFs in outdoor fixtures. In general any enclosed CF (meaning one with an integral globe or other cover) will work better and warm up faster at low temperatures.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2007 at 5:09PM
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I would stay away from Tresco Cold Cathode lighting. I used some of these EXPENSIVE lights, one burned out after three days. They are going to send a replacement, but I get to pay return shipping. I'll use LEDs next time, probably from Budgetlighting.com

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 11:40AM
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To follow up on this post I started last year, we have had MANY (12-15) of these supposedly long-life bulbs burn out in the past 12 months and dimming these "dimmable" lights is basically impossible (they just go off, or blink on and off). The company who sold us these lights was useless in terms of customer service or helping--they wouldn't even replace the bulbs that burned out in DAYS, unless we paid $20+ in return and re-send shipping costs (more than the two bulbs cost).

Anyway, there might be something out there that works, but I haven't found it yet and I would never again shop at 1000bulbs.com.

-Susan W.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2008 at 4:40PM
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Basically, all CFL's cost more and are much less reliable than standard bulbs. They also put out less light in less spectrum. I WILL NOT BUY any, EVER, government mandate or no. EVERY one I have ever bought burned out within days at the most, if not minutes, in several different houses. For five to ten dollars EACH instead of 4 for a dollar, I don't care HOW much energy it saves, they are NOT worth it.
Another problem with them, is they DO NOT PUT OUT enough heat to help heat your home. This adds to your heating bill!
Replacing one of these things every few days at $5 a pop, when a standard bulb lasts 10 years, is INSANE.
These are ALL made in China and I do not buy products made in China. I purchase ONLY American made incandescent bulbs!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 3:52PM
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When you look at what goes into a good quality electronic fluorescent ballast for T8 lamps, and what it costs, you can understand why a $2 integrated bulb and ballast has reliability problems.

The design of these cheap CFs is cut to the bare minimum to make the light work without catching fire. The components used are the cheapest possible. The labor is from people working in the most abysmal conditions for pay that most of us would consider starvation wages. It's no surprise that these folks might not be as careful as they should when assembling the CFs.

Fifteen years ago, the CFs I was buying were made in the US, Germany, Mexico, and Poland. They cost $15-20 each. Ten years ago, similar CFs were around $10-15 each. When you look at the electricity they saved, and the hours of service they gave, these costs were reasonable.

In fact, many of those units lasted for years. I just recently replaced one of the Philips Earth Lights that I bought in 1994, and a Philips Marathon tri-tube from 1999. Other than a couple of Lights of America products, I never had a CF fail in under a year until I bought a few cheap Chinese-made CFs for one of my rental properties in 2005. (One of them died within minutes of first use.)

I'm glad I stocked up on these older CFs when they were still available. I probably have a lifetime supply.

For years I recommended the Mexican-made tri-tube Philips Marathon CFs (mentioned above). These cost around $10 as recently as 2006, and IMO were worth it for their reliability. There was a dimmable version which worked passably well (I have a few here). Now they're nearly impossible to find. I'm afraid they're out of production.

Though I probably won't ever need to buy any more CFs, I would like to hear from others who have had good experiences with newer CFs. Please be specific about brands and models.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 12:37AM
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They also put out less light in less spectrum.

They produce as many lumens as an incandescent bulb of about one-quarter the wattage, so as long as you have the light you need, the "less light" argument doesn't hold water.

As far as "less spectrum," that's not a term I'm familiar with. If by that you mean that tri-phosphor CFs have peaks and valleys across the light spectrum, rather than the more even spectrum analysis you get from incandescents, that's true. It's the reason that CFs have a CRI of around 82-86 while incandescents normally have a CRI of nearly 100. But the difference is barely noticeable to most people.

Another problem with them, is they DO NOT PUT OUT enough heat to help heat your home.

If you heat your home with resistance heat (such as baseboard heaters), I guess it makes some sense to use incandescent lights in the wintertime. You get the light for free (light bulbs are 100% efficient as heaters).

In the summer, not so much. Then they're fighting your air conditioning.

If you heat with any other fuel, or have a heat pump, you'll be money ahead to light with something more efficient (CF or LED), and leave the heating to your heating system, which can do it cheaper.

I'm pretty frugal. If I thought I could save money by switching from CFs to incandescent bulbs in the winter, believe me, I'd be doing it. I'm not.

These are ALL made in China ...

Not all, but nearly all. There are a few exceptions. A few of the Philips brand CFs are still made in Mexico and Poland. And last time I looked, Sylvania 3-way CFs still came from Taiwan.

Lights of America was one of the other holdouts, assembling CFs in California for many years, but they too now buy most of their products from the Chinese contract manufacturers.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2011 at 8:29PM
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