[This article originally appeared on GreenovationTV.  I like Matt’s headline for it (which I retained, above) much better than mine, which was kept as a subhead.]

Track Your Compact Fluorescent Bulb

I recently had an unusual occurrence at my house: one of the lightbulbs in my kitchen burned out.  What’s so special about that, you ask?  Lights burn out all the time.  But I’ve been using compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) for the past few years, so it is rare that I need to change a bulb.

Sure, you’ve heard about the advantages of compact fluorescent bulbs.  Maybe you don’t think that they are going to be cost effective, and you can’t bring yourself to invest in one or two in order to find out.  I have a couple of suggestions for those of you who are still holding out.cfl

We think about the energy savings from using CFL bulbs, and that’s one of the big advantages to using them.  But they also save time and effort.  If an incandescent bulb has an average life of 750-1000 hours, then you’re going to end up changing that bulb about twice a year, if it’s being used an average of 4 hours a day.  CFLs have an average life of 6,000-15,000 hours, so they last about 10 times as long, which means you would be changing that bulb about once every 5 years (maybe 10), instead of twice a year.

Maybe that’s not a big issue for a table lamp, but if you have ceiling lights that are harder to reach, changing bulbs is more of an undertaking.  (Those of you with high ceilings that need a maintenance visit and someone with a ladder to replace your bulbs should definitely be thinking about this.)  Isn’t that a chore that would be better if it needed to be done less frequently?

Most of the standard light sockets in my house now have CFL bulbs of one variety or another.  Some I like better than others.  I’ve identified a couple manufacturers and brands that I won’t buy again.  But others have good brightness and a color that I like.  I was dubious a decade ago when I first started trying CFLs.  One way I tried it out was to put one CFL and one regular bulb in a two-socket fixture.  That balanced out the color and let me find that the fluorescents weren’t that bad, and it also gave us some instant-on light with that fixture (since the first CFLs were often dim for the first couple minutes).

CFLdated-revCompact fluorescent bulbs are now available for only a couple dollars, and, even if the energy savings aren’t convince you, maybe the longer life of a CFL will make a difference for you.  If you absolutely don’t like them, you can still swap them away into a utility space like a closet or basement where, if you only turn on the lights there occasionally, the bulb might last for decades.

If you want to convince yourself (or perhaps a dubious relative or neighbor) that your compact fluorescent bulbs are really lasting for a long time, write the date on the base of the bulb when you put it in (you can use a Sharpie or a pencil and write on the plastic covering on the base).  Unfortunately, I didn’t do this with that last bulb, so I can’t tell you how long that one lasted (our kitchen light is on for more than 4 hours a day, especially in the winter time, and I think this one was about 3 years old).  But if you check in with me in a few years, I can tell you how long the new one was good for.