dimming CFL

lori0124July 17, 2010

Hi all,

I'm building a new home and would like to have 5" recessed cans with CFL bulbs throughout the house. I've heard there are some CFL dimmers and dimmable CFL bulbs on the market now. I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on which brands of CFL bulbs and dimmers would be the best.


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Leviton has a new dimmer that they designed to work with screw in dimmable compact fluorescent lamps. It's supposed to be compatible with these lamps.

Philips EL/A R30 DIM16W
Philips EL/A R40 DIM20W
Feit BPESL23T/DIM (23W)
Feit BPESL15T/DIM(15W)
Ecosmart ES5M10123 (23W) or Technical Consumer Products Model 10123
Ecosmart ES5R315DIM (15W) or Technical Consumer Products Model 2R3015DIM

Here is a link that might be useful: Leviton CFL dimmer

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:04AM
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Looking forward, you should consider GU24 base lights instead of the standard edison base (screw in) bulbs as energy efficiency laws become prevalent throughout the USA.

In CA for example, title 24 compliance is necessary.

Here is a link that might be useful: maxlite

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Thanks for the great ideas and product suggestions! I'll go talk to the contractor and electrician. :)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 4:21PM
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Another viable option is the Cree CR6 for which the total cost will be less than a non dimmable cfl can with ballast+ light and trim.

Replacing the ballast on a cfl can will require access to the upper side of the can.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2010 at 11:13PM
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Davidray, thanks for the response. Lighting is certainly turning out to be more of complex issue (at least to me) than any of the other choices I had to make (flooring, plumbing fixtures, cabinets, countertops). So these response are very, very helpful.

I had considered LEDs for the recessed cans, but was under the impression that the LEDs were more directional than the fluorescents, so the LEDs might not make as good sources for ambient room lights. Has that problem been taken care of?

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 2:42PM
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Yes, the CREE LR6 series works very well for ambient lighting.

My only gripe with LED lights is that the initial cost is high, although the LR 6 is cost competitive with title 24 CFL recessed lighting - ballast integral to can, non edison base lamp.

The CR6 will be cheaper.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 6:19PM
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The likelihood of a CFL breaking is really quite low, unless you drop it from some height.

The unfortunate thing is that there is extreme pricing pressure on CFLs such that most people end up regretting their purchase.
Some common complaints
1. Insufficient light output from the start.
2. Light output declines significantly within a couple of months.
3. Bulb dies within a couple of months.
4. Bulb takes time to warm up.

The 4th is an expected characteristic as fluorescent lights are discharge lamps and require some time to warm up unlike incandescents and LEDs.

Common complaints about LEDs
1. Too expensive - Still largely true in the year 2010, but not necessarily the case.
2. Not enough light.
3. Heat - early generation LEDs are relatively inefficient and heat dissipation issues. Side note - LED modules with an output of 206 lumens per watt have been demonstrated (2009 - 2010).
4. Too directional - also true for cheap early generation LEDs that one can still find for decorative purposes.

Title 24
The aim is to improve energy efficiency through legislation. One notable item is that the GU24 base is intended to displace edison/ screw in base.
The GU24 socket and base system is designed to replace the Edison socket and base in energy efficient lighting fixtures. The ENERGY STAR® Program Requirements for Residential Lighting Fixtures, Version 4.0 require that residential lighting fixtures cannot use the standard Edison screw base, even if they do not have a built-in ballast. The same requirement is included in California's Energy Efficiency Standards for Residential and Nonresidential Buildings, known as Title 24-2005.

For more info

Here is a link that might be useful: CA title 24

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 6:40PM
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I will definitely pass this info on to my contractor and electrician and have them price the CR 6 and check availability here in Hawaii. I would like to use LEDs if cost and availability allows since it would be more energy efficient and the light color would be more flattering.

Thanks for all the info davidray!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:11PM
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"there is extreme pricing pressure on CFLs such that most people end up regretting their purchase."

I agree with the first part of your sentence; intense competition has driven the prices down to where the quality is often poor, at least among the mass-market retrofit (Edison base) CFs.

However, I'd like to know what your data source is for contending that "most people end up regretting their purchase." I haven't seen surveys that indicate this. Perhaps you have, and can cite them?

The answer to the first part of your statement is to choose carefully, and NOT primarily on price. You will have to pass over quite a few cheapies; you don't get a good retrofit for $1.50 or $2.00.

I've had good results from Philips brand retrofits. Expect to pay $8-20 each, depending on style.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 9:12PM
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Most of my friends and collegues won't touch a cfl with a 10 ft pole. Those that did purchased the really cheap cfls and were disappointed.

I'm the only one in my social circle with an extensive cfl and LED deployment . Obviously that may not be a satisfactorily large sample size to be significant.

I personally have used cfl lights from a number of vendors and the only ones that have been satisfactory are Philips and Panasonic.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2010 at 11:06PM
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Thanks for clarifying your statement as "most of my friends end up regretting their purchase." That's rather different from "most people end up regretting their purchase." ;-)

I suspect there are some psychographic issues at play here. I'm not suggesting anything about your social circle, but the folks I hang with seem to be less fussy about lighting style and more fussy about energy use (and saving money). Most of them are gradually replacing incandescent lamps with CFs as the incandescents fail. So far I haven't heard anything that indicates they regret buying CFs.

I haven't used Panasonic CFs. I'd gladly try them if I could find any offered for sale anywhere.

Philps have been great. These days I mostly use the SLS-20 and SLS-25 triple-U lamp retrofits. As the old saying goes, the plural of anecdote is not data, but it's still worth mentioning that I installed the first one about 8-9 years ago, and it's going strong as I type this. I'd guess that it has over 20,000 hours on it by now.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2010 at 6:31PM
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We decided against dimming CFL's for the ceiling recessed lights because the transformers, fixtures and bulbs were so much more expensive than non dimmers. We put dimmers on the chandelier and pendants. We switched them to switches also because the dimming CFL bulbs were just ridiculously priced (especially since 7 of twelve blew out before the electrician figured out his helper wired the boxes backwards) and very fragile (we busted two cutting open the packaging). Now we just turn the switch off and on. It really is fine. We don't miss the dimmers at all.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 10:42PM
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