One of the easiest ways to save money and energy is by switching out the incandescent light bulbs in your home for compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). These bulbs use about a quarter of the energy to provide the same amount of light as incandescent. They also last around 10 times longer and use 75 percent less heat, reducing cooling costs during warm weather months.
According to ENERGY STAR, changing just one bulb in your home will save almost $60 over the bulb’s lifetime. Since the average household has about 30 light fixtures, even though CFLs are a bit more expensive than traditional lights at the cash register, their lifetime savings making choosing CFLs a no-brainer.
So you’re ready to make the switch. How do you choose the right CFLs the next time you’re in the lighting aisle?
Choose an ENERGY STAR-qualified CFL
These bulbs have passed strict performance criteria established by the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. It ensures that the CFLs meet minimum lifetime and efficacy requirements. If your bulb is not ENERGY STAR certified, you might not save as much money as you’d hoped or get the performance you were looking for.
Decide What Bulbs to Switch First
Decide what bulbs you want to switch out first. Focus on the lights you use most, like your kitchen or living room. Resist swapping all your incandescent for CFLs immediately — experiment with different brands and colors first to see which ones you prefer and what lights work best in different rooms. Once you’ve found what bulbs work best for you, go ahead and switch out lower-usage lights.
Get Enough Light
Light bulbs’ brightness is measured in lumens. Although you can choose a CFL that uses the same amount of lumens as an incandescent bulb, the two bulbs radiate light differently. This means that depending on where it’s placed, the CFL might not look as bright as you’d hoped. When shopping, find the bulb with the light output you need first and then choose the one with the lowest wattage. This is where experimenting is important. If you find the light to be too low, try a bulb with slightly higher wattage — it will have a higher lumens output as well.
Choose the Right Bulb for Your Needs
There are different types of CFLs for different types of fixtures. For instance, you’ll need to get a CFL that’s marked “dimmable” or “three-way” for dimmers and three-way lamps or switches. If you plan to use a CFL outside, make sure the manufacturer has specified that it’s safe for outdoor use. Hawaii Energy has a handy list of the different type of bulbs and where they’re most useful.
Dispose of CFLs Properly
CFLs contain a small amount of mercury so once your bulb’s life cycle is over, it’s important to dispose of it properly. The easiest way is to find out if your regular trash or recyclables service offers CFL or mercury recycling. Home Depot also has in-store recycling at all of their stores nationwide.
If you break a CFL, don’t be alarmed. Use kitchen gloves and wet paper towels to pick up the broken glass and shards and place it in a sealed Ziploc bag. Dispose of it as hazardous material — don’t put it out with your normal household garbage.