A Compact Guide to Compact Fluorescent Lighting: The Twisted CFL

the beauty of an incandescent light bulb

Think of a lightbulb. Ok, got it? This is one moment when we can all think and picture the same thing in our mind. This is the original incandescent A19 that has been a staple in homes and businesses across the country since 1907. Did anyone picture a CFL? I wonder what our children will picture in their minds? An incandescent or LED?

Now, imagine a fluorescent tube; one of those long, white, skinny bulbs that flickers for a minute when you flip the switch to turn it on, the fixture quietly humming as power surges through the ballast, bringing life to the gasses filling the glass cylinder.

Now picture that light bulb exploding, would you inhale? 90% of the billions of fluorescent tubes manufactured have not been recycled, they are polluting our land and our water. If you would inhale, you are the same kid that tried to smoke a banana peel.

Now that we have both images in mind, merge them together so that the fluorescent tube fits inside the incandescent housing. Voila! You have created a Spiral (we like to call them a Twisty P.O.S. Compact Fluorescent light bulb, dubbed the CFL.

evolution of the light bulbs

Twisted CFL Shapes

Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) are miniature versions of the standard linear fluorescent tubes and available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Designed to be more practical than their incandescent counterparts, CFLs have been a long-standing contender in the fight to improve energy efficiency and bulb life expectancy.  What consumers have appreciated most, is that Twisty P.O.S CFL bulbs are simple to install and self-ballasted — meaning they can be used in place of a standard bulb without needing to rewire your fixture to make them work. The plug in CFL's, those do require a ballast in recessed lighting, canopy, and interior fixtures.

cfl sizes and dimension, showing fried cfl bulb

These bulbs are manufactured with or without a housing. Most people are familiar with the naked CFL, which shows off its curves in all its twisted glory! Others are encased in a plastic frosted covering to make them appear more like a traditional incandescent A-shape, torpedo or flame tip chandelier, or globe light bulb. While both options are great, keep in mind that the covered CFLs tend to have fewer lumens (are less bright) because the light must fight through the frosted plastic to illuminate anything of importance.

P.O.S. Twist CFL bulbs come in several sizes, and like all other light bulbs are identified by a given code that relays the type of bulb technology along with the diameter of the tube. For CFL bulbs, these codes always start with a “T” and are followed by a number to indicate the size of the tube, measured in eighths of an inch.

Perhaps the most important factor to consider when replacing CFL is the overall size (height and width) of the bulb itself, as this can impact whether it will fit properly in the fixture. CFL Twist bulbs are as small as 2 inches and as large as 15 inches, so this can be a pretty crucial piece of information to have before you make your final choice.


To determine size, measure the space the bulb will be used in or base it off of the bulb being replaced. Wattage equivalence scales will help when figuring out a replacement LED for your CFL lights. For example, a 13W CFL is generally 800 Lumens, equal to a 60W incandescent, and both bulbs will have roughly the same dimensions overall. A 9W LED A19 is also 800 Lumens and the same dimensions.

Base Types and Sizes

In selecting a light bulb to replace your incandescent or CFL determine the base size and type. Like traditional light bulbs, LEDs abide by the same lighting terms:

different types light bulb bases

These are the most common light bulb bases used in mass production of incandescent and CFL light bulbs over the past 120 years. LED technology is the future and we expect to see fewer options available for incandescent and CFLs, in general. This is a good thing.

  • In 120 years of light bulb manufacturing, I imagine Trillons of bulbs have burned out and been replaced. LED technology is the future and we expect to see fewer options available for incandescent and CFLs, in general. This is a good thing.

Why recycle twist CFL and linear fluorescent light bulbs?

Recycling linear fluorescent and CFL bulbs is crucial due to their content of hazardous materials, most notably mercury, which is harmful to the environment and human health if released into landfills or the atmosphere. When these bulbs are disposed of improperly, mercury will leach into soil and waterways, contaminating the food chain. By recycling, we ensure that mercury and other toxic substances are safely handled and repurposed. Recycling these bulbs allows for the recovery and reuse of valuable materials, reducing the need for new raw materials and saving energy in the production of new products. This process supports environmental sustainability by minimizing waste, decreasing pollution, and conserving natural resources. Recycling these bulbs is a simple yet impactful way to contribute to a healthier planet and promote a circular economy, where products are reused and recycled for as long as possible.

All-in-all, Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs have served us since 1976. Lighting is an ever-changing industry that strives to work better and be better. The invention of the light bulb changed the course of history, bringing light into homes and allowed entire industries to blossom virtually (and literally) overnight. It is no secret that fluorescent technology played a keen part in this saga by reducing energy consumption, while performing to a standard in lighting which we all accepted. Hopefully, CFL bulbs will not be around forever, the damage they have caused to our environment is going to be really hard to fix.

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