CFL Lights are now the norm in most countries. They make sense, save you money and reduce pollution all at the same time. CFL light bulbs are available in all sizes, shapes and fittings.
European countries have banned the sale or supply of conventional, incandescent filament lamps. Conventional light bulbs rely on a hot tungsten wire filament to give out light. Most of the electrical energy is converted to heat.
CFL bulbs do produce heat as well as light, but a much bigger percentage of the electricity is converted to light. You can touch most compact fluorescent light bulbs while they are on. They feel warm to the touch, but ordinary, domestic CFLs do not become hot enough to burn you.
Compact fluorescents have come a long way since early designs. Gone are the two minute warm-up times that early adopters of CFLs had to put up with. Modern bulbs take about half a second to reach full brightness.
Early compact fluorescent bulbs were about twice the size of a conventional 60W bulb, meaning that they protruded from small table lamps. They were this size because they were fitted with a frosted glass diffuser that covered the mini fluorescent tube inside the bulb.
The early bulbs were also more than $10 each. Even at that price they more than paid for themselves because of the reduced amount of electricity they use. A typical house has 8 light bulbs burning at any one time. If those are an average 75W (a mixture of 100W and 60W bulbs) then every hour the lights in a house burn 0.6kWHrs (units) of electricity.
Replacing all those bulbs with CFL lights means that only 0.12 units of electricity are being used per hour. That's nearly 0.5 units per hour saved, about 4 units a day less on your electricity bill.
CFL light bulbs also last up to ten times longer, so you do not need to climb on ladders so often to change awkward light bulbs.
Price of CFL Lights
The price has plummeted. Discount stores sell CFL bulbs for $1 each. Even in convenience stores the price is only about $8 each, for a plain, common or garden bayonet or screw in bulb.
Smaller screw fittings and mini-bayonet cap bulbs cost more, perhaps because there are fewer economies of scale with less common bulb sizes.
Candle bulbs, twisted candle and golfball CFL light bulbs also cost more than the common ones.
Longevity of CFL Lights
Not all CFL bulbs are created equal. Some are more equal than others. The expected life of the different styles of light bulbs is usually printed on the outer packaging, either in number of years, or as a multiple of the life expectancy of a traditional filament bulb. The common shape replacement for an ordinary Edison screw or Bayonet Cap bulb has a life expectancy twice that of some of the smaller, bulbs that have fancy shapes.
CFL Lights for Security Lighting
You can buy larger output CFL light bulbs to replace conventional 400W security lights. The saving here is massive, especially if your security floodlights are on for a few hours a day
CFL Light Bulbs for SAD lights
Research shows that the best treatment for Seasonal Affected Disorder is one hour a day under a 2,500 lumens light box, but many people claim that their SAD symptoms are reduced by working under a 2000 lumens bulb for four or five hours a day.
This treatment regime is less intrusive, you can just set up a 30W CFL Daylight Simulation Bulb over your computer monitor and leave it on all the time you are at the computer. This is a very bright light, the equivalent of a conventional 150W bulb about 18 inches from your eyes. The 30 watt CFL bulb produces very little heat and you do not need to look directly at it for it to reduce your SAD symptoms.
CFL GU10 Lights
GU10 lights are the kind used in recessed ceiling fittings. You can buy CFL GU10 bulbs, but they are very disappointing. If you are expecting the brightness of an ordinary GU10 bulb you will be sorely disappointed, in addition the CFL version of the GU10 has a very long warm up time of around five minutes. It starts off extremely dim and reaches least dimness after about five minutes.
LED GU10 bulbs may bew a better option, but buy ones with the highest number of LEDs that you can, because the basic ones are even worse than CFL GU10 bulbs.
All LED bulbs give a directional light. LED GU10 bulbs are fine on stairs or outside your house door to illuminate whoever is knocking. For background light forget LEDs. Use LED spotlights to highlight photographs or lead crystal, but for general purpose lighting, a lot of development is needed yet.
Sourcing CFL Lights
If you are looking for something out of the ordinary then forget local suppliers, your only realistic option is to use Internet suppliers.
Amazon have a great range of CFL lights and their customers' reviews are extremely useful.
Cheap CFL bulbs obtainable in North America and European consumers may be tempted to buy. Do NOT buy. Most of the electrical equipment on sale in US outlets is intended only for the domestic market. America uses a 110v electricity supply, whereas most European countries use 220v. Unless an appliance says it can be switched between the two voltages, it can't be switched.
Light bulbs cannot switch voltages. If British customers buy cheap CFL lights from Amazon.com and plug them into the British electrical supply they will burn extremely brightly for a fraction of a second, then blow. Always check the voltage a CFL light is designed for before ordering it.
EBay is another excellent source of cheap CFL light bulbs, but check the postage before you order, especially if the supplier is not in your own country. Ebay limits domestic postage charges, but international charges can double the cost of your purchase of CFL bulbs, even though they are very lightweight and come in well padded packaging from the manufacturer.