NOTE - Most models in this page are specific to countries where "household AC line voltage" is 120V at 60 Hz, and some models mentioned here may be specific to the USA.
Where Compact Fluorescents are NOT Recommended
Compact fluorescents for outdoor use, porch lights, post lights, etc.
Compact fluorescent security lights, yard lights, etc.
Compact fluorescents for table lamps and floor lamps
Compact fluorescents for recessed ceiling fixtures
Compact fluorescents for small enclosed fixtures
Compact fluorescents for ceiling fan fixtures
Compact fluorescents for bathrooms - a tall order! (slight update 4/24/2005)
Compact Fluorescent Torchiere Lamps!
Low Cost Compact Fluorescents that I Recommend
What else is good - "Energy Star"
Recommendations for Color Issues
Compact fluorescents that are less bad at starting dim and needing to warm up
High Power Factor Vs. Non-High-Power-Factor (less of a concern in homes)(simplified in a 11/19/2007 reorganization)
Disposal/Recycling of CFLs
Bug reports, blowout reports, brands/models that I have seen problems with (updated 2/17/2008).
Also beware that halogen lamps are also not recommended where they will usually not be given a chance to warm up, since a hot bulb is required for the halogen to keep the bulb (or inner capsule that some have) from blackening.
In addition, compact fluorescents often do not do well in places where the temperature varies a lot. Where high temperature variation or consistent moderately cold temperature is expected, outdoor models are recommended.
Places where compact fluorescents are generally NOT RECOMMENDED:
Restrooms used mainly for short trips (However, 4-foot or 32 watt or 34
watt or 40 watt linear fluorescents are more economical than an equivalent
amount of incandescent lighting since 4-foot linear fluorescents are cheap.)
Refrigerators (other than high traffic walk-in ones or walk-ins with lights that are kept on during the workday).
Closets, unless you spend at least a few hours a week in one.
Motion sensor lights.
I also do not recommend compact fluorescents for use with Radio Shack's "Plug-N-Power" system, since the "trickle" of current used to sense lack of continuity will cause most compact fluorescents to blink or glow dimly. Such "use" may cause extra wear in starters (for kinds that have starters) or wear out the electrodes in electronic-ballasted types since the electrodes would operate in "glow mode" which is rough on them.
In general, compact fluorescent lamps that have outer bulbs over the tubing tend to do better with wider temperature ranges, especially colder conditions.
These have a spectrum favorable for seeing in dimmer conditions, such as outdoors at night.
Expect most outdoor illumination with these to be about 18-30% greater than with "equivalent incandescents" (with favorable temperature), and 25-35% greater than with usage of "usual warm color" CFLs.
One brand that I mostly dislike appears to me to do well for compact fluorescent yard lights and "security lights": Lights of America.
There are 27 watt, 65 watt, 85 watt and 100 watt units. Light output is good,
although I believe it is exaggerated. Light output claims on the package may
involve "brightness lumens" as opposed to real ("photometric") lumens. This is
based on these lamps having a "daylight" color that is more favorable to
scotopic vision ("night vision") than warmer color light is.
The 27 watt units have "nighttime outdoor illumination power" (my words) comparable to or slightly exceeding that of a 100 watt "standard" incandescent lamp. The 65 watt one is comparable to or may slightly outperform a 300 watt halogen in "nighttime outdoor illumination power".
Where to get these: at Home Depot and probably other home centers.
The 27 watt units are probably better for low-level illumination of warehouses, large buildings, etc. rather than outdoor use since they spread light out all over the place and a lot of the light will never reach the ground if they are mounted on walls outdoors. The "floodlight" style 65 watt units can be aimed for better use of the light.
NOTE: Lights of America bulbs for these fixtures are of a proprietary style. Should production be discontinued, there may be no other manufacturers of replacement bulbs.
UPDATE 10/10/2006: The variety and availability of spiral compact fluorescent lamps is increasing! Most home centers now sell spiral models of wattage 30-32 watts which are slightly brighter than "standard" 750-hour-rated-life 100 watt incandescents.
I like 3500 K versions, which is what *some* "bright white" units are. This is a "halogen-like" "whitish shade of incandescent", or "whitish shade of warm white".
I find 3500 K very pleasant, more white than usual but still "warm".
Watch for Sylvania 3500K CFLs being referred to as "Daylight" - which is normally used for icy-cold to bluish shades of white, 5000-6500K.
CFLs of 42-45 watt wattage are now commonly available in home centers and at least some True Value hardware stores. These are roughly equivalent to 150W incandescent. These easily overheat at least sometimes in base-up usage, enclosed fixtures and recessed ceiling fixtures. These work well in table lamps.
Even higher wattages are available from online sellers - watch for the base type (it should be "medium" or E26/E27) and know the color codes - the colors will vary. 2700K is the usual color approximating that of incandescents, 4100K is "cool white", 5000K is an icy cold pure white that sometimes appears slightly bluish, and 6500K is a bluish shade of white.
Another one that is good for lamps with shades is the GE "2D" with a screw-in adapter. The 39 watt one is slightly brighter than a 100 watt "standard" incandescent lightbulb. This one is also better than most other compact fluorescents in the area of light output while you are waiting for it to warm up. I have seen this one in some hardware stores.
3-way CFLs are increasingly common, especially at home centers and Target. Most have "high" having "incandescent equivalence" that I consider "140-144 watts".
Then there are compact fluorescent torchiere lamps, which I have seen at Home Depot and Lowes. They are not as bright as 300 watt halogen ones, but probably produce close to the light output of a 200 watt incandescent from about 60 watts of electricity. Electricity savings with these can be substantial.
The 15 watt SLS produces as much light as a 60 watt standard incandescent, and the 20 watt SLS produces as much light as a 75 watt standard incandescent - possibly a little less after heating up in a recessed ceiling fixture. (I have known the 15 watt one to be dimmed by chilly drafts in apartment building foyers.)
The 15 and 20 watt SLS bulbs are available with removable, reusable snap-on reflectors of the R30 (3.75 inch diameter) and R40 (5 inch diameter) sizes. With the R40 reflector, the light output pattern is a "wide flood" pattern. The R30 reflector is compromised in performance for smaller size but may still be useful depending on the application.
Another thing to possibly consider - obtaining recessed ceiling fixtures that are designed specifically for compact fluorescents (such as 2-lamp ("2-bulb") dual-26-watt units, which are impressive. Look in electrical/lighting supply shops of the kind that contractors go to.
A compact fluorescent that should be particularly good in small enclosed fixtures is the Philips SLS 15 watt. I have seen this one at Home Depot. The light output is about that of a 60 watt "standard" incandescent lamp.
Most other compact fluorescent lamps rated 15 watts or less, especially 13 watts or less, should work well or at least reasonably well in small enclosed fixtures. The Philips SLS 20 watt should also work reasonably well. The Philips SLS-20 produces as much light as a 75 watt "standard" incandescent bulb, slightly less if it overheats.
UPDATE 5/13/2007 Compact fluorescents specifically mentioned as being for ceiling fan fixtures are now available at home centers and a few supermarkets. So far, I have seen only 9-watt ones that are about as bright as 40 watt incandescents. They have outer bulbs so that they can easily be screwed into ceiling fan fixtures without cracking the tubing. Like many with outer bulbs, they tend to start very dim and need a couple of minutes to warm up.
Just beware that many Sylvania CFLs have a slightly whiter, less warm color than most others and can appear a little "harsh".
As for other compact fluorescents I would recommend for ceiling fan fixtures: The Philips SLS 15 and 20 watt ones (known to be good in hotter locations) and spiral models of 15 watts or less. I know someone who has been using the Ikea 11 watt ones that cost $5 per 3-pack in ceiling fan fixtures with no complaints.
One problem with using compact fluorescents in ceiling fan fixtures is that screwing the bulb in and out may require holding the bulb by its outer end - which is normally not recommended if there is bare glass tubing since the tubing is fragile and can break easily. You have to screw the bulb in gently, or be good at squeezing your fingers between the tubing and the bell-shaped parts of the fixture to screw these in.
I recommend models that have gentler starting methods to reduce the wear from having a large number of starts.
Ones to avoid in bathrooms: Those with glow switch starters. These are mainly ones where the bulbs are separate from the ballasts and the bulbs have 2 pins with a boxlike protrusion between the pins. This includes mainly "PL", "PLC", "twintube" and "doubletwintube" types.
Others to avoid are GE's older FLB and FLG types - mainly 15 watt and largely obsolete now.
The best ones are probably models with electronic ballasts and
of the "Big Three" brands - Sylvania, Philips and GE. I have seen
Sylvania spirals show signs that they have a gentle starting method.
In addition, I have noticed 23 watt spirals of a non-"Big 3" brand, namely
Feit Electric, have a gentler starting method (updated 4/24/2005).
One model that appears especially good except for one drawback is Sylvania's globe shaped "Dulux EL" models, available at Lowes. The drawback is that the color is slightly whiter, pinker and less yellow than incandescents and most other compact fluorescents.
For a better color and good performance and gentle starting but a more "wierd" appearance, try Philips SLS models.
In addition, reducing electricity consumption by 240 watts gives you approx. 800 BTU/hour less heat. That can mean at least half a cent per hour of air conditioning cost during air conditioning season.
Beware - these produce somewhat less light than 300 watt halogen lamps. A 55 watt "2D" fluorescent produces about as much light as a 200 watt incandescent does.
Note that some universities and colleges do not permit halogen lamps in their residence halls. The concern is that combustible objects can catch fire if they touch or get too close to hot halogen bulbs, and some halogen bulbs have been known to explode (usually if they are contaminated by skin oil, salt, alkalis, ash, etc). Compact fluorescent torchiere lamps do not have bulbs that can explode and the bulbs are normally not hot enough to ignite anything, although it is a good idea to not let clothing or other combustible objects cover or touch the bulb.
Color appearance is good, similar enough to incandescent. The color rendering index is apparently the usual 82. Light output is claimed to be 600 lumens, which is somewhat brighter than a 40 watt regular incandescent lightbulb. I have yet to take any home but they appear to meet this claim. That someone I know has a couple ceiling fan fixtures with them and no early failures.
Home centers sometimes have promotions. For example, Home Depot sometimes to often has 6-packs of 14-watt spiral ones for about $10. These are about as bright as or barely slightly dimmer than 60 watt "standard" incandescent light bulbs.
Target has 4-packs of GE spiral compact fluorescent bulbs of various wattages for about $16.
Now for "Energy Star": A lighting product that achieves this does so by being both good in energy efficiency and otherwise being useful. Such a lighting product has to have acceptable reliability, acceptable life expectancy and an acceptable color of light and also no worse than average color rendering index - and a large majority of compact fluorescents claim 82 for color rendering index.
If you get a compact fluorescent that achieves "energy star" rating, chances are that you will do well unless you do something not recommended or have expectations not recommended to expect. (Such as instances where temperature, fixture heat buildup or light distribution pattern are significant issues.)
Using compact fluorescents that have "Energy Star" achievement and/or of "Big 3" brands significantly reduces but does not completely eliminate chances of being disappointed.
DISCLAIMER - My statements on color of specific or general types below are based on my experience with those types.
First, avoid "dollar store models" sold in dollar stores other than Dollar Tree. Most in my experience had color issues that I would complain about and nearly all in my experience had other problems that I would complain about, such as producing a lot less light than claimed.
The light is too purplish/pinkish/harsh
Sylvania models in general, especially ones with 3000K color or D830 color
code. However, I liked their 2700K Dulux EL ones - if you can find any!
Ones with magnetic ballasts regardless of brand - including most "PL-13" lamps.
Next-worst, maybe not too bad:
Most of wattage 24 watts or more.
Philips SLS of wattages 23 watts or more.
General trend of improvement: wattage 19 watts or less and with electronic ballast.
Spirals 19 watts or less of the Philips and Feit Electric brand.
14 watt spirals of the Commercial Electric brand - although they can be very slightly whiter and less orange than incandescent.
Sylvania Dulux EL with 827 or 2700K color. However, these appear to me to be discontinued.
Other hints: Some color dissatisfaction may come from mixing different kinds of light bulbs, so that you have ones of slightly different color. If you mix incandescents with compact fluorescents, you may find slight color differences to be something objectionable about compact fluorescents. This can be solved while having compact fluorescents by having all of the lights being compact fluorescents of the same brand and model. This has the possible disadvantage of possibly noticeably reduced light output while you are waiting for the bulbs to warm up.
The light is too greenish
This is a less common complaint, but when compact fluorescents look greenish they can look ugly!
One cause of this is from having lamps of slightly different colors, with some more purplish-pinkish and others more greenish. In that situation, the more greenish ones can look ugly. But having all lamps of the same brand and model can fix this - the greenish ones usually only look greenish when in comparison with ones that are more pinkish.
But if they still look greenish to you even when all of them look alike in color, then:
You will probably not like 14 watt Commercial Electric spirals.
Lower wattage non-Sylvania spirals in general and lower wattage electronic ballasted ones in general may not look good if you are prone to seeing compact fluorescents as greenish.
Less greenish are higher wattage ones and most 3000 K Sylvania ones, and most "PL-13" ones and most with magnetic ballasts.
The color needs to be whiter!
If you want a "whiter warm white" or a "whitened incandescent" sort of color, then you probably want 3500 K units. These are whiter than the usual compact fluorescents that have rated color temperature 2700-3000 K.
1. Sylvania "daylight" spirals - available at Lowes.
2. Some units of the "bright white" color, available at Home Depot.
Beware that these are largely to a slight extent more pinkish-purplish and less "sunnier-yellowish" than incandescents of same color temperature have. (Such as projection and photoflood lamps with very short life expectancy).
I have found better for such a color to be a hard-to-find Westinghouse "medium white" 19 watt spiral model.
If you want a "daylight" color, then:
First, beware that such a color can have a "dreary gray" effect in most home use!
If you still want that, then:
1. Philips SL/O "daylight" or "5000 K" 15-watt unit.
2. Home Depot has "Daylight" spiral models with color temp. at least 5000 K.
Lowes has 6500K spiral models.
3. GE Daylight 6500 K spirals are available at Target.
BEWARE - light output is usually slightly compromised (reduced) by achieving such a color.
Especially good ones in this area tend to be:
* Ones with wider tubing well over 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) wide, such as many used in compact fluorescent torchiere lamps, GE's "2D", and some Lights of America models (mainly obsolete or for outdoor and security lighting fixtures). Tubing that is 15 mm (nearly .6 inch) wide is somewhat common among CFLs made in Japan, so it may help to look for Japanese ones such as ones of the Panasomic brand.
* Ones with tubing ends that extend past hollow tubing bridges between tube segments. Those tubing ends are called "cold chambers". Compact fluorescent bulbs with these tend to have pure mercury rather than amalgam, and start brighter and have less need to warm up. The downside is that they are dimmed more easily by extremes of temperature than CFLs with amalgam are. CFLs with cold chambers in my experience are mostly ballastless Philips models that plug into CFL fixtures or ballast-adapters. Some Japanese ones also have cold chambers as well as wider tubing.
* Another possible option is to use non-compact fluorescents instead of compact ones if a standard fluorescent fixture can be used. For example, a fixture with two 17 watt T8 (1 inch diameter) 2-foot fluorescents could be used in place of roughly 45 watts of compact fluorescents. T8 lamps of 17 watts (2 feet long) or 32 watts (4 feet long) are available in a few different shades of white (color temperatures) and two different levels of color rendering (upper 70's and mid 80's color rendering index). The ballasts for these are normally electronic ballasts, so flicker-free operation with high efficiency is the norm.
Power factor is ratio of watts to volt-amps, and VA is volts-times-amps. With AC, it is possible to have amps that do not translate to watts. This means little to most homeowners and most home occupants, since only watts are billed by electric meters, and volt-amps that do not translate to watts require only a fraction of the mechanical power input to generators as watts do.
The main concern of volt-amps and power factor is for commercial, industrial and institutional customers of electric utility companies, since amps mean what size wiring, fuses and transformers and power supply equipment are required whether or not these amps translate to billable watts.
More discussion on this has been moved to a separate file here.
Generally, allowable and preferred methods of disposal of CFLs in your area can be obtained from www.lamprecycle.org. Most CFL packages mention this.
Home Depot accepts dead unbroken CFLs for proper recycling/disposal.
(UPDATED slightly 4/18/2010)
DISCLAIMER - Based on personal experience, often with sample sizes that are not impressively large. Some problems may have since been fixed.
Burn hazards - it is not too unusual for compact fluorescent bulbs to get hot enough to cause burns, although generally they do not get as hot as incandescent light bulbs. I am more concerned about unsafe failures of mostly "off brands" and especially of ones sold in dollar stores!
Some 3-way spirals with "high" being claimed to produce light like that of a 150 watt incandescent: There is a December 2004 safety recall. Details are here.
42 watt spiral with light output of a 150 watt lightbulb:
I have received more than the usual share of complaints about this one. Complaints are about early failures. I believe that most early failures are due to the high heat output of such a high wattage compact fluorescent bulb and their tolerance to heat being lower than that of incandescent lightbulbs. I believe that most premature failures of compact fluorescents of wattage 24 watts or more can be avoided by not using them in small enclosed fixtures, desk lamps that have a reflector around the bulb, ceiling fan fixtures, recessed ceiling fixtures and other fixtures that similarly confine and build up heat that is produced by the bulb.
Many "daylight" models other than pre-2007 Sylvania spirals:
Pre-2007 Sylvania "daylight" spirals do not have the icy cold pure white to bluish white color of 5000-6500 K that "Daylight" usually means, but a "whiter warm white" (my words) with a rated color temperature of 3500 K.
The problem is that most compact fluorescents of the icy cold pure white to bluish white color are slightly dimmer than ones 2700-4100 K. This is especially true of the more bluish 6500 K. The compromise in light output is sometimes negligible at 5000 K. One wattage of spirals of one brand has the 5500K version producing 12% less light than the 3500K version. However, some claim output that I consider anywhere from on the high side to too good to be true even for warm to neutral colors, and I have found these lamps to be slightly dimmer than 2700-4100 K ones of the same wattage.
Dollar store "energy saving light bulbs" in general of nominal wattage 9-36 watts: (20 "brands" totalling 68 "models" tested, UPDATED 2/17/2008)
This has been moved to a separate page, http://donklipstein.com/don/cfdollar.html
25 watt spirals purchased in 2001: I bought two and both failed in a few hundred operating hours. Light output was noticeably less than claimed.
FLB-15 (circa 1992):Produces approx. 70% of claimed light output. The light output problem did not occur in the apparently-related FLG-15. Both make a buzzing sound that can be noticed in quiet areas.
Lights of America:
Many, maybe most models, maybe excluding spiral ones made in 2002 or more recently: Light output is less than claimed, especially in "incandescent equivalence" (my words). Some "high" claims of light output in lumens have been fixed in recent years, but as far as I have noticed, without change of claims of "incandescent equivalence" (my words) that I found fault with.
25 watt spiral purchased in 2001: Failed in only a few hundred operating hours. Light output was noticeably less than claimed.
"Sunlight" 14 watt spirals in a package with a 2005 copyright date:
Light output is claimed to be 1048 lumens, and in my tests these did not outshine an 845 lumen "soft white" 60 watt incandescent. The package also highlights electricity savings based on a well-above-average electricity cost of 16 cents per KWH. The package also mentions standard incandescents lasting 750 hours, but 60 watt ones are normally rated to last 1,000 hours.
FURTHER UPDATE 4/18/2010: I have two of these, and I have known for a year or two at least that one of them usually flickers after being on for several minutes, depending on what fixture I use it in. I suspect that this flickering is caused by a temperature-sensitive poor internal connection. I have yet to operate it more than a few dozen hours since I got it because of this flicker.
"Q-Lites" models: I bought 4 in 1992 and two of them had reliabilibility problems due to poor contacts, bad solder joints, etc.
45 watt model: I bought one around the beginning of 2000 and it lasted approx. 12 hours. Light output claim in terms of lumens was exaggerated, but has been corrected since. Light output in terms of "incandescent equivalence" remains exaggerated or did at least as of 2002 - claimed equal to a 200W incandescent, actually produces slightly less light than a 150 watt "standard incandescent".
At least some outdoor units of "daylight" color, especially ones 42 watts or more: Light output claims have fine print as to measurement of light output that actually has some truth for use outdoors illuminating large areas at night. (As of some time in the 2002-2006 range.) The trickiness relies on the spectrum being more favorable to night vision than that of incandescent, halogen, sodium vapor and mercury vapor lamps.
Most models with replaceable bulbs: Bulbs are proprietary style bulbs not available from other manufacturers. Some are already discontinued.
30 watt spiral, model # MLM30SWW/SP:
Light output is claimed to be 2600 lumens and like that of a 150 watt incandescent. My tests indicate light output of approx. 1800 lumens, barely more than that of a 100 watt "standard" incandescent.
20 watt spiral, model SKS20EAWWW:
I tested one and found light output to be 4-9% short of claimed. I would not have considered this significant if not for the more severe light shortfall of the above 30 watt one of the same brand.
25 watt spiral, model MLM25SWW:
UPDATE 1/20/2007: My tests show light output about 9-10% less than claimed.
30 watt spiral, "120 watt equivalent": I have one and it produces a buzzing sound. It is not as loud as a magnetic ballast, but it could be a disappointment to those who like the silence that units with electronic ballasts normally have.
27 watt spiral, "100 watt replacement" "Daylight": I have one and it sometimes produces a faint but sometimes noticeable buzzing sound.
19 watt spiral, "75 watt replacement" "Bright White": Two of six that I purchased produced a buzzing sound that was noticeable in some fixtures.
It is to be noted that with the exception of some 19 watt units, lower wattages from 23 watts on down do not buzz at all in my experience.
UPDATE 7/28/2009 13 watt spiral "60 watt replacement": The ballast housing melted and became slightly scorched in appearance around one end of the tubing from that region of tubing getting extra-hot from the unit being in an early stage of end-of-life failure. The tubing also got somewhat loose. The unit did this after 5,000-6,000 operating hours in an enclosed ceiling fixture, and may not have done so in other fixtures. However, I do not believe the CFL was in any danger of actually catching fire.
13 watt daylight spiral model comes in a package claiming "65 watt brightness", but no mention of a light output in lumens. One that I tested was a little dimmer than a 60 watt "soft white" incandescent and I estimate its output to be roughly 750 lumens. However, this model will slightly outshine many "commercial service" 60 watt incandescents.
Another item with this one: The markings on the base region do not include an FCC ID (required of USA-marketed integral-electronic-ballast line voltage compact fluorescents) nor indication of UL listing.
Sunbeam, although this may not be a brand-specific problem:
24 watt "mini spiral" of especially small size for 24-watt, purchased in October 2002: The one I bought failed after only a few hundred operating hours in conditions slightly worse than "optimum". This was in a bathroom fixture that confined heat towards the bulb only a little more than a table lamp would.
Sylvania: One 13 watt spiral in my experience had an internal connection crack after about 1,000 operating hours in an enclosed fixture, and had to be screwed more tightly into its socket every few days to work. However, I had two others of the same model not develop this problem.
5, 7, 9, and 13 watt PL/twintube (and related compact quadtube) types of the Abco/Westinghouse brands and some other non-"Big 3" brands: Most light output claims are the same as highish ones that other manufacturers had to back down from by ~8% several years ago.
The claimed light output in lumens that "major manufacturers" have mostly been using around and after 2000, which I consider realistic:
5 watt twintube - 230 lumens, approx. equal to 25W incandescent
7 watt twintube - 400 lumens, slightly dimmer than 40W incandescent
9 watt twintube - 560 lumens
9 watt quadtube - 520 lumens, sligthly brighter than 40W incandescent
13 watt twintube - 800-825 lumens, slightly dimmer than 60W incandescent
13 watt quadtube - 780 lumens, somewhat dimmer than 60W standard incandescent or slightly brighter than 60W "commercial service" incandescent
5, 7, 9, and 13 watt PL/twintube models in general: Most household applications involve fixtures or socket adapters that typically have magnetic ballasts. Unless the ballasts are of construction to minimize buzzing, they buzz, often with a "squeaky" or "slightly cricketlike" buzz that can be noticed in quiet areas. "Wall wart" ballasts for desk lamps are especially bad at this in my experience. Even the bulbs can be heard at very close range to produce a slight buzzing or sometimes whining sound - this is common for fluorescent lamps with magnetic ballasts to do in general.
Another thing: With these models, wattage does not include ballast losses. Actual power consumption including ballast losses is typically about 3 watts more than the wattage rating of the bulb.
END OF BUG REPORTS
Written by and copyright 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Don Klipstein.
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