CFL Light Bulbs – Users Guide for Retrofits

Posted on September 28, 2016 by

CFL light bulbs

In the lighting industry, the CFL vs LED debate favors LEDs as the wave of the future. But based on the economics, CFL light bulbs continue to be popular.

The most common CFL light bulbs for retrofits are:

CFL Spiral Bulbs are screw-in base bulbs most often found with medium Edison (E-26) bases and integral ballasts; these can be used in common household fixtures that are designed for incandescent bulbs such as table lamps, ceiling fixtures, and wall sconces.

Decorative CFL Bulbs or Globe Lamps are similar to spiral lamps, but feature a globe or other decorative shape enclosing the actual CFL lamp. These are used in more decorative fixtures where the lamp is visible such as bathroom and ceiling lighting.

CFL Flood Lamps also have a screw-in base, and are designed to focus light on the objects in front of them. They are commonly used in indoor fixtures such as recessed or enclosed down lights as well as outdoor floodlights.

Pin-Type Tubular CFLs can have one to six tubes and feature a special pin-based connection rather than a screw-in base. These lamps are made to fit specific lighting fixtures or luminaires where the ballast is part of the fixture.  There are many different kinds of pin-type lamp bases so it is impossible to plug a lamp of this design into a fixture not designated for that size lamp.  These products are rarely found in residential applications and are primarily used in commercial buildings.

Despite the imminent shift to LEDs, compact fluorescents or CFL light bulbs continue to have a significant role in the marketplace.

Consider these examples:

  • Last year, Entergy Mississippi, a major energy service company, donated 26,000 CFL bulbs to the Mississippi Food Network, which assists low-income residents.

The CFL light bulbs, donated by the utility through its Entergy Solutions energy-efficiency program, will light about 6,500 low-income Mississippi homes, reducing those families’ energy costs and freeing up limited resources for other necessities.

“Entergy has a long history of support for the entire community, and unfortunately we know some of our customers face hardships each month in paying their bills,” said Lawrence Johnson, Entergy Mississippi energy efficiency manager. “Giving CFLs to these customers will help them reduce their electricity usage, which reduces electricity costs. CFLs last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use about 75 percent less energy. Changing just one bulb can save customers about $55 in electricity costs over the life of the bulb.”

“This is just the beginning of our effort to educate customers on how they can save energy, and more importantly, lower their monthly bill.”

  • Earlier this year, Georgia Power recognized DeBartolo construction services for its focus on energy efficiency in the construction of The Office apartments on Piedmont Avenue in downtown Atlanta. The Office, once a former office building, is now a repurposed 20 story luxury high-rise featuring 327 apartment homes.

Georgia Power leaders presented DeBartolo with a rebate check of $258,825 for various energy efficiency upgrades throughout the renovation including CFL lighting retrofits, the installation of programmable thermostats, selection of Energy Star appliances and energy efficient doors and windows, among other improvements.

  • California’s Seaport Hotel installed energy-conserving CFL bulbs in all of its guestrooms and public space fixtures with a total of 2,012 light fixture replacements throughout the hotel and its partner facility, the Seaport World Trade Center.

The Seaport also installed motion sensors in housekeeping linen closets, allowing the lighting system to shut off when no motion was detected for 30 seconds. With these installations, Seaport has saved 1.9 million kilowatt hours annually.

The primary disadvantage to CFL light bulbs is the mercury contained in the bulb. This is ordinarily not a problem, but if the bulb breaks cleanup is a hassle. Mercury is a dangerous heavy metal, so proper cleanup and disposal of CFL bulbs is critical.

Most people make the decision on CFL vs LED their pocketbook. LED costs more at purchase, but lasts longer. CFLs are cheaper, but if broken become not so convenient very fast. Other people decide that CFL lighting is closer to what they’re used to and therefore choose these bulbs to replace incandescent bulbs as they blow out.

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