What Is a CFL?
Compact florescent lightbulbs are energy-efficient alternatives to standard incandescent lightbulbs. CFLs:
- Use 66 to 75 percent less energy than standard bulbs and last up to 8 times longer
- Use a different technology that generates 75 percent less heat, so they're safer to operate and might even reduce energy use for home cooling
- Save $50 or more in electricity costs over each bulb's lifetime
- Are available in different sizes and shapes to fit almost any indoor or outdoor fixture
Why Are CFLs Important?
By reducing daily energy consumption, CFLs offer many benefits. An immediate benefit is reduced energy bills. Over 60 percent of the electricity in Montgomery County comes from coal and fossil fuel-fired power plants. Reducing the amount of electricity we use reduces greenhouse gas emissions from such power plants. That, in turn, helps to improve our air quality and benefits our health.
If every household in Montgomery County replaced one frequently used incandescent lightbulb with a CFL, they would collectively save over $2 million a year and reduce as much carbon dioxide as removing 1,800 cars from the roads. A small action can make a big difference!
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CFLs cost more than standard lightbulbs, but they last longer and save money over their lifetime—3 to 6 years with average home use. It's a smart investment to purchase CFLs for use in homes, businesses, apartment buildings, churches, temples, or anywhere else!
Although many grocery, drug, and home improvement stores carry a selection of CFLs, DEP recommends checking online for unique sizes or special-use bulbs for dimmable or 3-way lights. A good place to start is ENERGY STAR Qualified CFLs: Advanced Search page. This online tool lets you search for CFLs based on light fixture, wattage, and other features.
Having trouble finding the right CFL? Check these online retailers for a larger selection:
Discounts on CFLs
Local electric utilities are offering their customers discounts on CFL purchases.
Pepco customers can visit a participating retailer and save $1.50 on one lightbulb or $3 on a multipack. Discounts are included in the price at the store.
BGE is offering customers $2.50 off select ENERGY STAR® qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at participating retailers.
Allegheny Power is offering a rebate of $1.50 for each single-pack, and $3 for each multi-pack CFL purchase. Visit the Allegheny Power website for a rebate coupon.
In addition, retailers often provide special incentives for energy-efficient products. To find rebates from retailers in your area on CFLs and other ENERGY STAR-qualified products, use ENERGY STAR's Rebate Finder Tool.
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Performance: How Do CFLs Compare with Regular Lighting?
To make sure you get the best value and performance from your CFL, review this CFL guidance.
Most people choose lightbulbs based on wattage (e.g., 60W, 75W, 100W). In contrast, CFLs are labeled by lumens, or the amount of light emitted, not watts. But most CFL packages also list the light output in incandescent wattage equivalencies. For example, if you're replacing a standard 60W lightbulb, look for the label "Replaces a 60W." Other terms used might be "Soft White 60" or "60 Watt Replacement."
The Best CFL for Your Application
CFLs come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes suitable for various fixtures. The federal government's ENERGY STAR Web site has comprehensive guidance on how to find the best CFL for your application.
These shortcuts will help you navigate ENERGY STAR's Web site:
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Safe Handling and Disposal
All fluorescent lights, including CFLs, contain a very small amount of mercury. The amount in fluorescent lighting is significantly lower than that in many other consumer products, such as watch batteries and switches in TVs, computers, and other electronics. If the glass tube of a CFL breaks, take extra care in cleaning it up.
Read the ENERGY STAR CFL fact sheet (PDF, 3pp, 71K) for more information regarding mercury in CFLs, including proper disposal options.
Where can I dispose of CFLs in Montgomery County?
The following locations offer CFL collection and recycling services:
- Montgomery County Recycling
Drop off CFLs for recycling at one of Montgomery County's Household Hazardous Waste Collection Sites.
- Chevy Chase and Rockville
Residents of Chevy Chase and Rockville can take advantage of curbside pickup by scheduling an appointment. Chevy Chase residents may call 301.654.7300, and Rockville residents may call 240.314.8568.
- Retail Shops
Some retailers offer CFL collection and recycling. Ask if this service is provided when you purchase CFLs.
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Questions and Answers
Do you have concerns about installing CFLs in a special application? Have you had a CFL fail in the past? Some lighting situations require special bulbs or considerations to get the best performance. Try searching through ENERGY STAR's comprehensive list of special CFL circumstances, questions and answers. Examples: Can CFLs be used with dimmer switches? Can CFLs be used in a 3-way lamp? Does extreme cold or humidity affect CFLs? My CFL burned out early...
Do you have a question or a comment about CFLs? Email DEP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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