Friday, January 22, 2010

CFL Blues

I've been furnishing the office in my new house, and one thing I wanted to do was provide an adequate level of lighting (read: bright!), while not roasting the roof or using more electrons than necessary. Hence: compact fluorescent lights (CFLs).

A neat thing about CFLs is that you can get a light fixture that is officially rated as only taking, say, a 50W bulb; and stuff it with "100W" CFLs, since they only use about 23W of electricity.

More good news is that CFL prices are diving faster than an peregrine falcon. Home Depot has "100W" CFLs from Phillips for $1.74 each. Wow! A far cry from the days of puny "40W" CFLs costing $7.

Now comes the bad part. Be sure to read the fine print. No two manufacturers seem to have agreed on basic things like how much light a "100W" CFL emits, or what actual color a "soft white" CFL emits. Or whether it works at all.

I found CFLs labeled "100W" rated as emitting anywhere from 1400 to 1650 lumens. That's  nearly a 20% difference. All are comfortably higher than the light emission from some 100W incandescents I had hanging around the house, but egad.

And having bought two of the Philips ones (1600 lumens), I found one only lit up half of the length of tubing. So, I returned it. Figuring that was a fluke, while in the store I picked up a four-pack of the same. But when I tried using them, not one worked. They didn't turn on at all. I was blaming the lamp, since it was new, too -- how could all four be bad? -- but then plugged in an incandescent bulb, which worked.

What the heck?

Tried a different brand -- "GreenLite Mini" -- and it worked, too.

I think it may be a slightly different socket shape on the Philips bulbs. But why the singletons I bought worked, and the four-pack didn't, who knows.

Anyway, I'm hoping to get a bunch of the GreenLites now that I know they work. I also prefer their color -- they actually specify a color temperature: 2700K, which is rather on the yellow, "warm," side, but not as yellow as the Philips. Unfortunately, I only found the GreenLites at a specialty lighting store, but the price was still fine: About $5 for a four-pack.

I really wish someone would make a CFL that's wide rather than tall. Then that ugly tubing wouldn't stick out of fixtures so much.

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