Tuesday, January 25, 2011

CFLs are cost-effective

Columnist Deanna Caswell gives us a nice break down of the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of CFLs in today's Commercial Appeal...

Practically Green: Fluorescent bulbs: You get what you pay for

While I was presenting at a brown-bag talk for the Memphis Botanic Garden, the subject of compact fluorescent lights came up. There were many complaints about them.

They take too long to come on. The light is an icky color. They don't last as long as they say. I was asked to please do some research on it and write a column. So here you go. (I will address complaints about disposal of spent or broken CFLs in a future column.)

CFLs save you money, but that up-front cost is painful. Over the life of the bulb, the math works out, but most of us still flinch and reach for the store-brand discount version. It seems that is the reason for problems with delay, early burnout and poor light quality.

To avoid those problems:

Buy brand-name bulbs. Discount CFLs are poorer quality and may last only six months, regardless of what the box says. You will still save money over the life of the bulb compared with incandescent energy cost and bulb replacement.

Buy soft light or daylight varieties to improve the light quality and avoid that depressing blue fluorescent flicker.

CFLs like warmth. In an environment below 68 degrees, they take longer to come on. For outdoor use in winter months, use CFLs specified for outdoor use. Yes, they're more expensive, but they're worth it.

And tighten up your ceiling fans. Vibration shortens the life of the bulb.

How much is too much to spend on lightbulbs? When am I not saving money any more.

Here's the math:

For 8,000 hours of 60 W incandescent light, we pay about $43, plus the cost of about 10 bulbs.

For 8,000 hours of what is equivalent to "60 W light" from the CFL, we pay $9, plus the cost of the one bulb.

So unless that CFL bulb costs more than $35 dollars, we're still saving money.

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