New CFL's, Better Bulbs

September 17, 2009 6:56:37 PM PDT
Switching to CFL lights can save money and energy. But the spiral design doesn't work everywhere. CFL's now come in different designs. Randy Aubrecht really wanted to install CFLs throughout his home when it was being built, but he needed dimmable bulbs for certain fixtures.

"We wanted to put them in the kitchen, but they didn't have them so we couldn't do that, dining room, living room," said Aubrecht.

Flash forward to today's CFLs. Dimmable ones are now available. So are CFLs you can use in three-way lamps. And there are new designs for chandeliers and candelabras. Consumer Reports tested 43 CFLs to find which work best for different fixtures.

Consumer Reports Jim Nanni said, "You should look for an Energy-Star-qualified CFL, because ones we tested that were not Energy-Star-qualified didn't do so well."

Take this IKEA porch bulb that does not carry the energy star. Five of the ten bulbs Consumer Reports tested burned out before three thousand hours - which most CFLs easily meet.

"CFLs aren't ideal for every fixture. They're not good for staircases or other locations where you need instant light because they don't reach full brightness right away," Nanni.

While the incandescent light on the right reaches full brightness immediately, the CFL on the left was ridiculously slow getting there. It took a full three minutes to brighten! And when it comes to dimmable CFLs, Consumer Reports doesn't have great news for homeowners like Randy. The dimmable CFLs tested just go out, versus actually "dimming" like a regular bulb.

For table and floor lamps as well as sconces, Consumer Reports recommends the ECOSMART Spiral CFLs from Home Depot. For track lights as well as recessed ceiling lights, testers recommend Home Depot's ECOSMART indoor reflectors.

Consumer Reports says be aware CFLs contain a small amount of mercury so they need to be recycled, not thrown in the trash. Some stores, like Home Depot and IKEA, have a recycling program.

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