Has anyone else been fooled by CFL claims?

scottysJune 17, 2010

Just curious to see if anyone else realizes that CFL's are not the big money saver that we are led to believe they are. I paid 4.69 (5.09 with tax) for a GE 60 watt equivalent (11 watts) bulb promising "lasts 5 years". After just a little over 6 months with the bulb burning on average 6 hours per day, it burned out. Yes, I returned it to GE at the cost of $3.51 to mail it back and received a coupon for a free replacement. So now I'm up to $8.60 on the CFL.

GE 4 pack 60 watt incandescants are regularly on sale in my local drug store for 99 cents, making them 28 cents each with tax.

After doing the math, the CFL used 1.93 in power over 6 months compared to $10.54 for the incandesants (2 bulbs used and second one still working).

$8.60+1.93=10.53 CFL

$.28+.28+10.54=11.10 Incandesant

Savings with CFL = $0.57 cents (less than 10 cents on each of the 6 months electric bill)....not very impressive!

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David

If you bought simply on the promise of money savings, then you'd be disappointed.

There are other reasons
1. Heat output compared to incandescent lighting.
2. Relative cost to LED although some LED configurations are actually cheaper than the CFL equivalent. For example title 24 compliant CFL cans do not use the edison base (screw in) lamps and the combined cost of the can + lamp >= CREE CR6/ LR6 + can (title 24 compliant).

    Bookmark   June 18, 2010 at 12:43AM
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texaskitchentoo

Personally I'm waiting about a year or two until LED's come down in price and output color that I'm comfortable with. Then I will swithc over. Still too early, let the early adoptors bring down the cost.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 3:08AM
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roadbike

Let me make sure I understand the situation. Did all of the bulbs you bought fail at 6 months or did just one bulb fail?

If just one failed then I don't aee the problem...just replace the bulb and move on. It's important to read and understand the claims of energy savings BEFORE buying. Agonizing over a poor decision after the fact does nothing.

I replaced over 95% of the incandescent with CFL bulbs in a 4 bedroom house 3 years ago. One bulb failed at 1 year but that is it. I get plenty of light and the bulbs no longer serve as an inefficient auxilliary heating source. I'm amazed you bothered returning one bulb given that replacements can be gotten for around $1.00 if bought in bulk.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 2:11PM
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geckogo

Yes I have

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 4:14AM
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nancyinmich

No matter how much I spent on them (because I had heard that the "cheap" ones fail faster), my CFL bulbs are constantly failing. Then we have to wait several months for the Health Department to hold a hazardous waste disposal day to get rid of them. We have also had the misfortune to break one or two. I have decided I will not put them in tabletop lamps again. Dogs + toxic breakables = disaster.

I do not know what causes them to fail. Could the screw-in style (is that the Edison base?) just not be as stable as CFL-only fixtures?

I forgot - the CFL-only lamp I have on my dresser often takes several turns of the switch for it to stay on. It has gotten better over five years of use, it used to be much harder to get it to turn on. Now I can at least get it on after a turn or two - or three.

See why we get frustrated?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 10:03AM
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roadbike

"No matter how much I spent on them (because I had heard that the "cheap" ones fail faster), my CFL bulbs are constantly failing."

Help me understand the situation. If bulbs are constantly failing does that mean every day at least one CFL bulb fails? Or over 5 years 5 have failed? Were some of the failed bulbs ones that your dog knocked over?

"I forgot - the CFL-only lamp I have on my dresser often takes several turns of the switch for it to stay on. It has gotten better over five years of use, it used to be much harder to get it to turn on. Now I can at least get it on after a turn or two - or three."

The switch is probably bad, so don't suffer for another 5 years. An Edison style switch is dirt cheap and easy to swap out. A CFL switch should be as easy to swap out, but you may need to go to a lighting supplier for the part.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 2:49PM
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dancingsams

I hate the CFL's. At LightFair almost everything was LED. There were several that were beautiful. Yes, they are still expensive (my personal favorite was by BlueStorm), but they should last at least 5,000 hours per unit, so that counts for something. Also, they are now available in many different color temperatures.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2010 at 8:38PM
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dash3108

I hate them! They are ugly and I refuse to buy them. My parents are actually "hoarding" incandescent bulbs and they have so many that my sister and I will probably "inherit" them.

I am a realtor and I have a buyer right now who is buying a GORGEOUS house and they have these stupid bulbs in everything -- lamps, chandeliers, recessed lights. They are awful -- the light they give off is hideous.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 10:14PM
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DavidR

> They are awful -- the light they give off is hideous.

You must be buying the cheap ones. Good quality CFs are essentially indistinguishable from incandescents when installed in fixtures where the bulb is behind a shade or diffuser. I have asked guests to tell me which of my table lamps has an incandescent and which has a CF. Most can't tell the difference, and the others guess wrong about as often as they guess right.

CF lifespan is an average. If the rated life is 6 years, some will fail in 1 month, some 6 months, some 3 years, some 9 years, some 12 years ... you get the idea. The fact that one or two you put in failed early is mostly likely just your bad luck. I probably got the ones that balance out yours, because I've have very few premature failures. :-)

You can't really tell whether the brand is reaching its lifespan claims until you've bought and used a few dozen. To find out what's really going on, mark the installation date on the base. Keep records. Don't just get upset and give up because a couple of them failed early.

Also consider how you use the CF. If you turn the light on and off more than 2 or 3 times a day, that shortens its lifespan. If you fit it into a fixture that traps heat in the bulb's electronic base, because the bulb is enclosed by a shade and/or is upside down, that shortens its lifespan. So don't do those things if you can avoid them. Try to install the CF in an open fixture, with the base to the side or bottom.

LEDs sold for home use are still less efficient than CFs (lumens per watt) and cost much more. Be warned that there is a fair bit of fudging going on with manufacturer's claims of incandescent equivalence, just as there was in the early days of CFs. I've seen LED retrofits claim equivalence to 40 or 60 watt incandescents - but when I checked the actual lumen output buried in the spec sheet, it was closer to 15 or 25 watt incandescents' lumen output. Caveat emptor.

Someday LEDs will no doubt be better than CFs and may even be cheaper. But they are not yet ready for prime time. They may nevertheless be good for commercial situations where replacement is by highly-paid workers. There the longer life makes a real difference.

LEDs also excel right now for extremely dim lights, such as night lights, where both fluorescent and incandescent lights have relatively poor efficiency.

Bottom line on CFs: anybody can cite specific cases where one or two specific CFs didn't save him money. That's interesting information, but not very helpful in making a yea or nay decision. On average, when you consider the reduction in electricity use, CFs are almost always a winner.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 9:52PM
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lee676

4-packs or 6-packs of cheap CFLs sold at the big-box stores are now almost as cheap as incandescent bulbs. I've found the EcoSmart bulbs sold at Home Despot for $5.99 for a 4-pack give off light that's indistinguishable from incandescent bulbs (if you get the soft-white version; the bright-white and daylight types aren't meant to look like incandenscent light). I too have found CFL bulb life not to live up to claims, but I've found them to generally last about 3x to 4x longer than incandescents. Maybe longer - I tend to leave them on longer since I know they're not using much power. Bulbs in open-air fixtures definately last longer than those in small enclosed fixtures that don't let heat escape, especially if the base is on top.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 5:49AM
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lolauren

I changed out all my lights to CFLs in the last house upon move-in (whatever brand Costco had... I think GE.) 2.5 years later, none of them needed to be replaced. *shrug*

    Bookmark   July 16, 2010 at 8:45PM
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DavidR

The quantity of mercury in CFs is tiny, but I agree that you shouldn't just landfill them. (Oddly, there are some linear fluorescents that are EPA-certified as so low in mercury that they can be landfilled - but I have yet to see any CFs so certified.)

However, CF disposal isn't too big a deal, at least for me.

I've been using CFs since about 1992. I don't think I've had more than a dozen, maybe a dozen and a half, fail in that time. I still have in service a couple of Philips Earth Light CFs that I bought in 1994 - for about $20 each. I think I've gotten my money's worth out of them.

When they do finally turn toes up, I dump 'em in a small box on a shelf in the cellar. When the box gets full, I take it to the local household hazardous waste collection point. Even though I accept some duds from friends, I've had to make only one such run so far. Might have to go again in another year or two, though.

The key to getting good life from CFs is to buy good quality name brands. If you ever open up a CF's ballast housing (careful!) and see the amount of electronic hardware inside, you'll understand why a cheap $1.50 CF just about has to contain low-bid, rock-bottom-quality components that are almost certain to fail prematurely.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:09AM
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roadbike

"I am more concern of the mercury that it contains. It should be really disposed properly after use, which I doubt everyone is doing."

The quantity of mercury in a CFL is minute. An incandescent requires a lot more coal to be burned than a CFL. That wasted energy releases much higher levels of mercury and other pollutants.

"They are ugly and I refuse to buy them. My parents are actually "hoarding" incandescent bulbs and they have so many that my sister and I will probably "inherit" them."

Don't forget to have your parents hoard some extra money for you to pay the higher electric bill. Hoarding incandescent bulbs??? To get attractive light bulbs they are buying a stash that will sit on the shelf for years and allow you all to pay higher electric bills??

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 3:32PM
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dash3108

Yep! They're ugly -- when they make them so that the light is not hideous, I might buy them. Until then, I'm buying the old-fashioned kind. I've been in my house for almost 7 years, and there are some bulbs in vanity lights, fan lights and recessed lights that I've NEVER changed. I know, I'm an evil non-liberal energy-sucker. Sue me.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 10:21PM
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DavidR

For those still concerned about the mercury in CFs, I've just run across some containing about 80% less mercury than the norm - only 1mg per 23 watt unit. They are "Neolite" CFs and are made by Litetronics.

Note that I haven't yet tried these CFs, so I can't comment on their performance.

I will say that the low mercury 32w linear fluorescents I'm using (Philips Alto) seemed a bit dim for the first few uses, but after a few days they seemed to perform as well as any other 32w linear I have in service.

I also have no particular position on the vendor linked below. They just happen to be one which showed up in a web search as offering this particular brand of CF. There are many other choices.

If you do decide to order from these guys, make sure you get the color temperature you want, most likely 2700K soft white. The first items listed on their page are the 4100K cool white models, probably NOT what most people would want for incandescent retrofit uses.

Dash3108, if you consider CF light "hideous," you might want to try buying a few different brands. Definitely try some that aren't the cheapest ones on the shelf. I find that CFs vary significantly in light quality. I'm not going to recommend a brand for this because it's a subjective matter, but don't give up yet.

Hope this helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Litetronics Neolite Low Mercury CFs

    Bookmark   September 1, 2010 at 7:20PM
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