Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Many of you probably did not realize that you could spend twenty dollars for a light bulb, and most of you are wondering why you would. The answer will surprise you: to save money. Before you decide that I have completely lost my mind, hear me out. The light bulb that I am referring to is a compact fluorescent light bulb, commonly called a CF. This is a self‑contained fluorescent light that fits into standard 120‑volt light fixtures. When compared with incandescent bulbs, CFs use only 25 to 30 percent of the energy and will last up to ten times longer. Even though they cost more, from eight to twenty‑five dollars each, the CFs you install in your home will not only pay for themselves but save you a substantial amount of money as well.

To understand how these lights can save money we need to look at the way they work. CFs consist of glass tubes whose inner walls are coated with a material that fluoresces when an electrical current is applied. Incandescent lights contain a filament that is heated by an electric current to the point that it glows; but the majority of energy put into the bulb produces heat, not light. The CF is more efficient at turning electrical energy into light than the incandescent bulb, and electricity costs money. Locally, Public Service charges around 6.1 cents per kilowatt‑ hour. Table I shows a comparison of three compact fluorescent bulbs with incandescent bulbs of similar light output, all made by the Philips Lighting Company. The life of the CFs is 10,000 hours, so this is the time period we will use.

The two columns in Table 1 that are important are Light Output and Money Saved. Light output is a measure of the light a bulb p...

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...venience, or environmental concerns, by making informed choices you will not even be aware that you have a different kind of light bulb in your home. Start slowly, maybe with just one or two bulbs, to make sure they fit and that the light output and color work for you. Be reasonable with your expectations; your utility bill fluctuates from month to month, so you may not even notice a decrease of one or two dollars. Just remember that the savings really are there. Finally, do not think about the price of the CF; think instead of the money you will save by using the bulb.

Notes

1. All CF bulb data from National Lighting Product Information Program, Lighting

Research Center, School of Architecture, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 5 June

2001 <http://www.lrc.rpi.edu>.

2. “Compact Fluorescents Come of Age,” Consumer Reports, Jan. 1999: 37.
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