Since we deal with customers first-hand on a daily basis we are aware of a lot of issues that cause concern or seem confusing in relation to the use of Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs.) I will try to address a few of them here.
(to be consistent with the technical lighting lingo I will use the word “lamp” instead of “light bulb”, at least when I talk about CFLs.)

Why is a compact fluorescent lamp more efficient that an incandescent light bulb?
Fluorescent lamps are more energy-efficient than regular bulbs because of the different way they produce light.
Incandescent bulbs create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. This is not a very efficient way of producing light.
Only 10% of the energy is used for light, while 90% of the energy used to create the heat that lights an incandescent bulb is wasted.
A fluorescent lamp, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. Because fluorescent lamps don’t use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent light bulbs.


Can I use a dimmer with Compact Fluorescent Lamps?
Until recently CFLs were incompatible with dimmers. Not anymore!
Today, there are some CFLs that can be used with regular incandescent dimmer switches. Make sure to check that your CFL is labeled as dimmable.
Most dimmable CFLs don’t dim to zero, but shut off completely when they reach about 20% light output.

Can I use CFLs outdoors?
Most CFLs are best used indoors as they don’t operate well in cold temperatures and can’t be exposed to the elements. There are, however, now outdoor CFLs on the market that are made to operate in colder temperatures and are specifically listed as UL Wet Location lamps.

Can I use CFLs in enclosed fixtures?
Yes. CFLs can be used in enclosed fixtures as long as there is sufficient air flow to cool the ballast. If the fixture is recessed and totally enclosed a recessed shower light it is not a good idea to use a CFL, since it would become too hot.

Why do CFLs look so twisted?
Most Compact fluorescent lamps are constructed by coiling long, thin high efficiency tubes to reduce their size and increase their light output. This way they fit into regular light fixtures.
However, not all that glows needs to squiggle!
Although the spiral CFL is the one we are most familiar with, there are now many shapes available, which offer greater decorative options.
Try candelabra CFLs in your chandelier, a globe CFL in your kitchen pendant light and Reflector lamps in your recessed cans. Since there is no way around the ballast and it’s not particularly attractive, I prefer CFLs in fixtures that will conceal it. So, if you want to switch to candelabra CFLs in your chandelier they will look best in a fixture with shades or diffusers.

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