CFLs Vs. Incandescents: Facts About Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

incandescent CFL and LED
FYI... This article is 10 PLUS years old... CFLs are awful. Please stop buying them and speak with a lighting specialist about LED!!!!

Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) provide more light for less energy when compared to traditional, incandescent light bulbs. The Energy Star program claims that CFLs last 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use 75 percent less energy.

Have more questions about CFL’s? Here are some interesting facts that you need to know!


CFLs create light when an electric current runs through a tube containing argon and mercury vapor. This reaction causes invisible ultraviolet light to excite phosphor within the tube, thus producing visible light. In incandescent lights, electric currents run through wire filaments, which heat up until glowing.

Energy Efficiency

According to Energy Star, CFLs use 66 to 75 percent less energy than an incandescent bulb and last six to 10 times longer.


Brightness, measured in lumens, determines the light output of a CFL bulb. The wattage scale for CFL products differs from incandescent lights; for example, a 40-watt incandescent light produces 450 lumens corresponding to a range of 9 to 13 watts for CFLs.


Color temperatures are measured in Kelvin on a temperature scale. The color temperature range for CFLs runs from 2,700 to 6,500 Kelvin. Lower temperatures appear yellow in color, and higher temperatures appear white or blue.

Choose the lowest wattage within the desired light output to save energy.

Handling Tips

A small amount of mercury (less than 5 mg) is contained within CFL bulbs, therefore take a few precautions when handling and disposing of bulbs. Always screw the CFL bulb by its base, avoiding the glass, and never force a bulb into a socket. Also, when CFL bulbs burn out, contact your local municipal solid waste agency to find out where you can recycle your bulbs. Broken or damaged bulbs should be handled with particular care.

Originally published Nov. 7, 2013 and updated Sept. 1, 2016.

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