How to Buy Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

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Swapping incandescent lights for compact fluorescent bulbs or CFLs is a greener way to illuminate your home and help cut into that ever-increasing electricity bill.

If you are planning to ring the lighting changes in your home and prepared to ditch the more power-sapping bulbs for energy-saving ones, here’s what you need to consider before taking the step into a more power-efficient existence.
How to select a compact fluorescent light bulb
The first thing to get to grips with is how compact fluorescent bulbs actually differ from incandescent ones. Without needing to heat a filament in the bulb, CFLs use the electric current to heat argon and mercury vapour and this reacts to the phosphor coating on the CFL bulb to provide the glow.

As a result the lighting process and retaining the heat means CFL bulbs have a greater lifespan with some lasting up to 10 years depending on which one you buy.

The first type of fluorescent bulbs used to take slightly longer to warm up before achieving full brightness but that's since changed. Now they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colours and there's a series of factors to consider to find the perfect one.

First you’ll need to establish exactly where and which room you want to put them. Whether it's in the living room or in the bathroom this can dictate the type of bulb or number of bulbs needed to create the desired lighting effect.

This also relates to picking the bulb with the right light output which should be similar to what you had previously. This should be one-fifth of the energy of a standard bulb.

So if you are ditching a 100 Watt incandescent bulb, the best CFL bulb to go for is a 20-23 Watt one.

CFL lights can have different bases so it's not necessarily as straightforward as swapping one bulb for the other if it doesn’t fit into the fixture. You might need to look for a Candelabra or mini Candelabra if you have a chandelier. 

For most, an intermediate or medium bulb bases are the ones to look out for.

Depending on the type of mood you want the lighting to create, the colour temperature is key here. Lower wattage create the softer, warmer tones making them ideal for relaxing places like the bedroom.

Higher wattage bulbs will give you the kind of bright white light that might be more suitable for the bathroom.

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Flourescent Lights: Which One to Choose
Now that you know what you want from a CFL bulb it’s time to pick the type and there’s plenty of options.

One of the most distinctive and popular is the spiral bulb usually found in lamps which distributes the light evenly.

They generate largely the same amount of light as incandescent bulbs consuming less power.

Globe bulbs as the name suggest have a spherical design and are commonly used in areas where extremely bright light is required like bathroom vanities.

A-Line bulbs look the most similar to the incandescent bulb and if you want the classic look are best used where the bulb is not concealed and attached to a lamp shade.

Reflector bulbs which channel light in one direction are available to use for fixtures both indoors and outdoors.

The more durable variety can be often found in outdoor floodlights. Back inside the can appear in ceiling fans or in track lighting.

Additionally, there’s Triple Tube bulbs often found inside in security or sensor lighting, Posts used for outdoor fixtures and Candles for more decorative fixtures where the light bulb is actually on show.

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What to Look Out for When Buying a Fluorescent light
While CFL bulbs have a dramatically longer lifespan than incandescent bulbs, continually turning them on and off for short periods can have an adverse effect on the life expectancy so consider carefully how and where you are going to place them and whether they are going to be used for long periods of time.

Getting rid of them is not as easy as chucking them in the bin. Each bulb contains a small amount of mercury which can be toxic so it’s wise to make sure they are put into the appropriate recycling facility to dispose of them properly and with minimal risk.

Most CFL bulbs are not compatible with dimmer switches because of the difference in circuitry. Existing switches in your house are likely to have been set up for incandescent light bulbs, so you’ll need to buy a compatible CFL dimmer switch and bulbs marked with ‘dimmable’ to make it work.

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