Compact fluorescent light bulbs, or CFLs, were supposed to save us money.
But a growing number of people are complaining that those energy savings are offset by the high cost of the bulbs, and the reality that they can fail long before they are supposed to.
Bought Into the Hype
Gene Zgoda, like many of us, bought into the CFL hype a few years ago.
He installed the energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs in his kitchen ceiling light and bathroom vanity light.
The bulbs, he had heard over and over again, save energy and last many years.
Except they didn't.
Zgoda said he couldn't believe it. Some of his new expensive bulbs were burning out after less that two years.
"They say they are going to last longer than old bulbs and pay for themselves. They are pretty expensive. I think I paid $13 for some of them," Zgoda said.
Dirty Little Secret
It's the dirty little secret of CFLs that cost between a dollar and $9 each these days.
They can last up to 15,000 hours, 10 times the lifespan of a standard incandescent bulb. But manufacturers admit the bulbs life is much shorter, if it is turned on and off constantly, like in a kitchen.
"If we left this on all the time," Zgoda said, "it would be great, they'd last a long time. And then we'd waste more electricity! So wheres the gain here?"
The U.S. Department of Energy now suggests not using CFLs if they are not going to be on at least 15 minutes, like in the bathroom.
So what can you do? Consider newer LED bulbs, which use as little energy as CFLs, but look like normal bulbs.
"LED is probably the way of the future. They technology is there, the price is coming down significantly," Roger Gabel of Home Depot said.
Home Depot has just lowered the price of its Cree line of LED's to just $9 each., half the price of what they were selling for six months ago.
These will last for years, even in Zgoda's kitchen or bath.
Bottom line: CFLs are great for living rooms and outsdoors, where you keep them on for several hours. But for a bathroom, consider LEDs or the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs so you don't waste your money.
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