post off: have you switched your bulbs?


The NYTimes has an interesting story today called Any Other Bright Ideas? about people’s reluctance — besides the best intentions — to switch to energy-saving fluorescent bulbs. The story looks at advances in design — like more pleasant bulb shapes and shades, above — which aim to provide more warmth — and chronicles some readers’ choices on whether to switch or not. The choice is usually an aesthetic one — with complaints about the ‘dental office’ effect that the fluorescents give off. One complaint we have with them: they don’t work on dimmers. As a result, we admit that our homes are about 50/50 when it comes to green bulbs. What about you? Have you switched to these energy-efficient, cost-saving bulbs yet? If not, why? If yes, do you have a favorite bulb to recommend? Let us know!

Click here to see NYTimes story online.

From our partners

We have not switched to CFLs mostly because our lights are almost entirely on dimmers and, from what I understand, there isn’t a good dimmable CFL on the market yet. (Emphasis on “good.”) I’m also very worried about the color of the light, a fear which the NYT article seems to reinforce.

In the interim, until good, efficient, enjoyable bulbs are available, we save energy the old-fashioned way: Turn the lights down and off.

We’re about half-and-half. I admit that I can’t stand the bright white light that they emit, preferring the warmth of the incandescent bulbs. So we put CFLs in the lamps that have coloured lampshades (where the “whiteness” of the light doesn’t really matter), and incandescents everywhere else.

I know. I’m a bad, bad person… :-)

(great post!)


We’re about 50/50 also. Several of our light fixtures are too small to accommodate the bulky CFL’s. I also hate the horrible light it casts in some rooms.


We have been putting in CFL as the old ones burn out, as I hate to throw out an old one that is still working. This has helped with the intial “ouch” of the expense of replacing them. We like them, our only complaint being that some of them take a little while to come fully “on”. For example, the one I put in the lamp in my toddler’s room takes forever to come on. Not great when you are trying to get to read to a squirmy kiddo at bed time. Perhaps different kinds or brands come on faster, but so far I have not done any reseplace on this.


I despise the nasty light they emit, but we did put one in our kitchen, because that light is on so much. I can’t stand to read by this light, though, so that limits where I want them in the house.

Also, although the yellow color on the kitchen walls was pleasant with an incandescent bulb, with the new horrid fluorescent, the yellow turned an odd, somewhat green color. Hideous!


50/50 here too. anything that is on often like porch lights and over the sink is CFL, anything where ambiance trumps all is not.

We attempted to switch approx. 70% of our lights to CFL without success–bulbs burnt out faster than incandescents. (! $ !) We were told by an electrician that this was due to our wiring (old house non-rubberized NM, some of which was installed by a previous homeowner). The wonky fluctuating current fries the CFL bulbs. (We have electronics on power conditioners.)

I can’t be the only old-house owner with this issue, can I?

At any rate, I was quite pleased to go back to incandescents, as my DH was the one who pushed the switch and I feared the intensity/color of CFLs–and was proven correct in this regard.

The only thing that freaks me out is that incandescents are now by law required to be phased out. Let the hoarding by old-house owners begin!

On a side note–there is no recycling of CFL bulbs anywhere in my (40K) town, public or private. What will happen when this first generation of bulbs burn out and suddenly we have massive amounts of mercury to deal with? Not very green.

I switched the bulbs in the kitchen. You could operate in there now. And the lighting has all the charm of the OR, too.

I’m about 75/25. My problem is the opposite of Jess’s. My old, regular bulbs burned out if you looked at them funny. I have an old house and I guessed it was the wiring as well. I switched some to the new bulbs over 6 months ago and not one has burned out yet. Actually I’ve had one “green” bulb in a bed-side lamp for multiple years and it’s never burned out. I use the GE ones from Target. Granted the light is not as warm as I would like but it’s not very noticeable when shades are involved. And why do they never go on sale?

Most of our lights are also on dimmers, or “canned” lights that take the big spotlights. I guess I don’t even know if you can get CFL lights in that size! I’m waiting for the ones in the garage and outside lights to burn out so I can replace those with CFL!


Am I the only person who is worried about the mercury in CFLs? And what will happen when I drop one? (and I will, and our home is all wood flooring – concrete in the basement…smash!).


We’ve switched where we have no dimming requirements.


I just don’t like their light…it doesn’t compare at all. Plus…they’re ugly.


Oh my! Julie is right. I never realized that if a bulb breaks it would cause mercury contamination. Here is the link to the EPA website and how they recommend you should clean up after one breaks:

I know I’ve broken one of these on my kitchen floor before and all I did was sweep it up and put it in the trash. Not to mention that my baby crawls all over that floor. Hmmmm. Something to think about.


On the subject of mercury in CFLs, definitely read up before you get too wound up about it. From Treehugger:

The light is bright at first, but it cools after a small while to resemble the older, softer light bulbs. We changed all ours and were amazed by how many light bulbs we have – we went back to Rona 3 times because we thought we had counted them all, but forgot that one at the top of the hall, and the basement, and the garage….

The amount of mercury in a bulb is minuscule – much smaller than an old thermometer. Remember it is mercury vapour that is dangerous, not touching it or having your feet touch a residue (there is no residue) you might think is left on a floor. And since CFL bulbs burn out much less we will not have a huge mercury problem when they do go… there is much much more mercury disposed in industrial applications. But I could be full of it – Sometimes I sound like a know-it-all teacher but am completely wrong so correct me if you think I have it backwards. I hope I don’t – I’m a chemist, and I don’t want to find a new job.

If your wiring is burning out the bulbs I worry a bit that your wiring may not only be unfit for CFL’s, but dangerous in general. But I watch too much Holmes on Homes for my good.


We’ve replaced our living room lamps with them. I wasn’t crazy about the light color at first, and I’m only marginally more used to it now. We’re replacing as others burn out, but I’m not sure I want to do so in our bedroom; I really prefer the warmer light of an incandescent bulb.


I can’t stand the delay for the CFLs to turn on, about half a second. Also, the cooler it is in the room, the longer it takes them to get to full brightness.


Has anyone had problems with CFLs outdoors? We have three over our porch but two have burned out in less than a year (with only slight use for about three to four hours a night). Our old outdoor bulbs lasted much longer.


I’ve been concerned about the mercury for quite awhile and can’t believe they are now “REQUIRING” us to quit incandescents and switch! I don’t like the dental office white light, the long delay in coming on and time to get fully bright, and I can’t afford the expensive things! Who in the government is going to pay for my new bulbs??? Tired of government telling me what I can and cannot use/own. I like the daylight or “chromalux” bulbs…..or like the GE Reveal bulbs, incandescent but more like natural sunlight, not too yellow and not cold like flourescent bulbs.
Husband doesn’t like their light either, so removed the ones inside we had and are only using them on outside light-sensor controlled porch light. The bright light is ok out there, and makes it easy to see lock when coming home at night, but hate it for inside. AND I have so many health issues already, I don’t need a potential mercury exposure too! LOL!


This type of thing is what I DO (I’m a sustainability specialist), so I actually know quite a bit about it…

The “color” of light that many people dislike is related to the color “temperature” the lamp (CFL = compact fluorescent LAMP even though we usually say “bulb”) burns at. If you prefer a “soft white” light, look for a CFL with a color temperature of around 2700K. A lamp burning at a higher temp (around 4100K) will give you a “cool white.”

Dimmable CFLs are now available and they are getting better everyday (though they are more expensive). Never put a regular CFL in a dimmable socket because it’ll burn out ultra-quick. (FYI — when you dim an incandescent, you don’t actually save any energy!)

With regard to mercury: although there is a small amount of mercury in a CFL, that amount is FAR offset by the amount of mercury that you’re avoiding emitting by using less energy (coal-fired power plants emit lots and lots of it). So even if you (accidentally, of course) threw the CFL in the trash, you’re still making less of a negative impact. Still, it’s best to dispose of your CFLs (10 years from now when they evenutally burn out) at a hazardous waste collection. Check out to find out how to recycle anything anywhere.


I should’ve mentioned that you can visit this site for a great summary of everything you need to know about CFLs:


Of 15 bulbs in the house, 5 are still incandescent. Two of them are in a pair of lamps that, for reasons unknown to me, won’t accept a CFL, even one the right size. (And I have a broken CFL to prove it!) Two are in wall sconces that need extra-small bulbs. And one is in a very difficult to access bathroom light fixture that I want to replace anyway.

I’ve been using cream-colored and primrose-yellow lampshades to warm up CFL’s uncanny light, successfully. There’s also a huge difference between two ghastly CFL bulbs acquired 18 months ago and the warmer ones I bought six months ago. I moved the icky ones to the guest room and the laundry room.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » five things we learned last week

[…] 2. Energy-efficient light bulbs are still a hot topic. Our post-off on energy-saving bulbs continues to bring in interesting and helpful comments from readers like sustainability expert Michelle, who writes: “If you prefer a ’soft white’ light, look for a CFL with a color temperature of around 2700K. A lamp burning at a higher temp (around 4100K) will give you a ‘cool white.’” And adds, “Dimmable CFLs are now available and they are getting better everyday (though they are more expensive).” Thanks for the info! Check out more insightful comments and links from Michelle and others here. […]


It’s not completely accurate to say that no energy is saved when dimming an incandescent bulb. It’s less than one would expect (due to inefficiencies in the bulb and dimmer, and loss of heat) but electricity is still saved.

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Around 50/50 now, growing over time. I love them, but my wife does not. My priorities for installing these were for lights which tend to be left on for long periods (outdoors, garage, basement) or are hard to get to (stairwell). Then if the kids leave them on the financial impact isn’t as severe. The one in my front porch fixture is the first one I installed and I think it’s about five years old now.

Be sure to get outdoor versions of the bulbs for outdoor fixtures; the lights handle the low temperatures better.

As far as color temperature, I have put ‘daylight’ (5500k) bulbs in the fixtures where the quality of the light matters more (bedroom and aquariums).

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