CFLs: Astonishing Facts and Myths Debunked


Did You Know?

If every US household makes its next lightbulb an Energy Star-rated CFL:

  • We will save more than $800 million on our national energy bill and 8.4 billion kWh of energy!
  • That's enough to power over 808,000 homes for one year – about the number of homes in Boston, Denver, and San Francisco combined!
  • In pollution terms, it would be like removing the pollution of 1.2 million cars for one year!


  • Lasts between 5 and 10 years (depending on daily usage)
  • Saves over $30 in electricity costs over the lamp's average lifespan
  • Saves 2000 times its own weight in greenhouse gases
  • Compared to an incandescent lamp that gives the same amount of visible light, uses less power and has a longer rated life
  • Protects fabric shades from showing burn spots or becoming fragile over time; and does not cause browning, flaking on the decorative frosting or glass shades
  • At the end of its life, unlike an incandescent lamp which leaves you in the dark, a CFL gives you a “warning” buzz or inconsistency in performance

Myth vs. Reality

Fluorescent light bulbs get a bad, and badly outdated, rap. Technological advances in the last twenty years have introduced the CFL bulb with electronic ballast and, in the process, have eliminated three of the four most common objections to fluorescent lights.

  • Myth #1: Fluorescent lights flicker.
  • Reality: Yes, they used to; however, modern CFLs, with their electronic ballasts, do not flicker.
  • Myth #2: Fluorescent lights are slow to start.
  • Reality: While CFLs don’t start at full intensity like incandescent bulbs, nearly all CFLs turn on (without flicker) instantly and reach full illumination very quickly. Of the nearly 30 different types tested*, all come on instantly at close to full illumination. Only the flood light styles start at noticeably less than full illumination but reach 80% of illumination within 20 to 30 seconds.
  • Myth #3: Fluorescent lights are always cold-feeling and remind us of office lighting.
  • Reality: Older, standard, long fluorescent tubes do emit a cool (bluish) light; today's CFLs come in complete range of hues. In fact, many CFLs produce exactly the same warm white light (2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin) as traditional incandescent bulbs.
  • Myth #4: Fluorescent lights won’t fit in my fixtures, candelabra, or recessed lights.
  • Reality: Sometimes, a CFL may not be an exact size substitute for an existing incandescent bulb, but a far greater range of sizes are available than before: standard, globe, flood, candelabra, 3-way and dimmable bulbs. To get the widest range of shapes, it is often necessary to shop online.

Source: Hinkle Charitable Foundation*

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