26 May, 2011

Compact Fluorescent Lamp (CFL)

 I just hate coming home to a dark house, and I don’t want new lumps on my shins from smacking into the cabinets by the back door or tripping over the dogs.  So, to prevent all that excitement from happening, I have a lamp on a timer in the kitchen and on the back porch there is a fixture with a photo-eye switch so I can find the lock on the door.  I use low-wattage compact fluorescent lamps in those lights

A compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) is a miniaturized fluorescent tube packaged into an integral ballast screw base that can be installed into nearly any table lamp or lighting fixture.  A common style is a spring shaped tube but some others have a long u-shaped tube.  Also, there are floodlight bulbs for exterior use or for recessed ceiling fixtures.  Some u-shaped fluorescents are of the "modular" type, having bulbs and ballasts that can be separated and replaced separately.

CFLs are being promoted as energy savings alternatives to incandescent lamps.  Some CFLs are guaranteed for 8,000-to-10,000 hours. (Incandescent bulbs typically last 800-1000 hours.)  CFLs use about four times less electricity. For example, a 13-watt CFL produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb (approximately 850 lumens) and remains much cooler.  But many folks didn’t want to pay the higher cost for the fluorescents which was typically about $6-to-$10.  The prices have been coming down and the big-box homecenters are selling a six-pack of 13-watt bulbs for about $10 (about $1.67 each).  So, besides saving money on the electric bill, it also helps to reduce pollution created by the generating plant

As well as the good, there are some not-so-good things about CFLs.  Many companies use a tiny amount of mercury in the manufacturing process, so care should be exercised in handling or disposing of  them. 
Talk to your city waste management department to if they have a recycling program for CFLs.  Compact fluorescent lamps usually do not produce full light output until they warm up for a minute.  In an outdoor fixture in cold weather, the CFL may need about several minutes to fully warm up and will produce as little as 25 percent of its light output when first started.  The light produced is not the same color quality as incandescent bulbs, and this can distort color rendering of walls and furnishings, but the newest models have come close to eliminating this issue.  

Compact fluorescent lamps, to work well, need to be used in lamps with polarized plugs.  The large prong on the plug is the neutral, and is wired to the threaded shell of the bulb socket.  The smaller prong on the plug is the hot, and is wired to the brass tab in the bottom of the bulb socket.  This design allows the bulb to light reliably during its entire service life.  Most CFLs won’t work with an ordinary dimmer switch, you will need to purchase bulbs rated for dimmer use.  Lastly, they are often physically larger than incandescent bulbs they replace and simply may not fit the lamp or fixture at all.