The CFL's I Buy

CFL 4 pack

CFL 4 pack

*Update - 03/20/10 - When I originally put up the post the bulbs sold at Home Depot were N:Vision brand.  That has now changed to EcoSmart brand.  I believe this is the same light bulb (I've purchased both and they look identical).  My guess is that Home Depot just decided to change packaging and branding.

Original Post:

Hopefully you've heard by now that I'm a fan of CFLs.  I've heard many complaints about them, but I think some people are just basing their judgments on a bad experience they may have had with CFLs many moons ago.

The picture on the left shows the CFLs I purchase.  I get them at Home Depot where a 4 pack costs $5.88. That's $1.47 a bulb.  Not too bad if you ask me.  They are 60 Watt equivalents yet only consume 14 Watts!  If you want to see how the cost comparison works out over time, check my blog here on the cost comparison.

There are three different color varieties of the N:Vision brand of CFLs: soft white, bright white, and day light.  The closest to the standard "Thomas Edison" bulb is the soft white.  It has an image of a candle on the packaging, but I think it's a little misleading.  The "soft white" is actually a tad bit brighter than your 60 Watt incandescent!

I've tried the other colors, but unless you like really bright, white light, stick with the soft white.  The color on these bulbs is really hard to beat.  I have the "day light" color in our home gym (I thought it would motivate me more) but my wife is not a fan at all and neither am I. Fortunately she likes the "soft white" color.

Some people complain that CFLs flicker or have a warm up time, but in all honesty, I have not had that problem with the "soft white" color in the year I have had them installed (the "bright whites" in the gym do have a few second warm up time).  They work exactly like your normal light bulb.  Screw them in, and Wa La!  Other brands might be the same, but I haven't tried them.

Aside from saving energy, the only way they are different from your normal bulb is that if they have been on for a long time and you turn them off, you'll hear a small "pop" sound about 5 minutes after you hit the switch.  I'd say that's one minor flaw considering how much these bulbs will save your wallet and the air you breathe.

Now the only downside is the small amount of mercury they contain, but as I stated in my blog here, this amount is extremely miniscule, and if disposed of properly poses no harm to you and your family.  If you get most of your electricity from coal, you're doing greater harm by burning incandescents which emit more mercury into the air than the CFLs have in them!

Overall, if you are looking for a good quality 60 Watt light bulb equivalent, you won't go wrong with the n:vision "soft white" bulbs.  And no, they aren't paying me to say this, I'm just a fan (although if they would like to pay me I won't turn down cash!).

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Hi all, and please - I will not engage in any flame regarding opinion on CFL's vs. other when it comes to Power Factor - its implications to an energy bill are as many as there are utility suppliers. The energy waste of power factor, reactive power, apparent power and resistance is physics. It might help if we first agree what we are talking about. See this summary for an explanation of real power, apparent power, reactive power and power factor <a href="" rel="nofollow">measuring electricity</a> The article has a link to Wikipedia for those who want an even more detailed explanation. A low power factor means that energy is being supplied by the grid and then not used by the device - but the energy is NOT wasted. The energy is returned to the grid, physics - it has to go somewhere. There are much more complicated subjects on how the consumer vs. the industrial users are billed for the inefficiency of a low power factor. In addition to the resistance losses there are implications to how much power the energy company needs to supply. At peak loads they do not want it back at all. Unfortunately you have to deliver 100% always, even if the device the returns a large portion to the supply. But they are small losses, typically less than 1%, depending on the cable quality and distances involved. Every utility has a different rule, depending on the implications to them of a reduced power factor. I mention circuit for there are two types of power factor loss, that caused by elctrical inefficiency, and that caused by the back resistance of a motor. In a home we create both, the fridge creates a back current when to compressor runs, and it may be on the same circuit as a CFL - it is quite possible that the two cancel each other out (electricity is a wave) and there is an advantage to having a CFL with a low power factor ..... In California there is no charge to consumers for low power factor. The utilities do not even measure it. The consumer is only charged for the active power - what you used. This is because compared to industry, in the same sub-station, commercial power dwarfs the consumer issue. Commercial companies are penalized for a nett power factor of less than 85%, and incentivised for being higher than 75%. I stop here, for it is quite impossible to determine the billing implications to any of us for this effect, remember the actual loss is less than 1% - the rest is what we get charged in one of the power companies schemes. With that out the way, back to the energy saving. CFL's give off less heat than incandescent bulbs, for the same Lumens of light. This is why they use approximately 75% less electricity. If you are in a cold climate, you could argue that the incandescent bulbs are no less efficient for their extra energy will be less heat to create. I am not making this up, it was argued to me once. It is not a good argument though, for they are not good heaters compared to other gas burning heaters. This 75% saving is so much bigger than any other costs of mercury disposal, etc etc - that it makes sense to replace working incandescent bulbs immediately. The 8000 hour life of these bulbs gives them a life of up to 10x that of an incandescent. Total energy saving is thus 75% less electricity, up to 10x manufacturing savings of the additional regular bulbs, and energy requirements for 9 maintenance visits. Here is a graph of the old bulbs, plotted against our new bulbs, in our two bedroom apartment. I wrote this post, but was still amazed at what a 75% reduction in energy requirement actually looks like. Please lets make the savings, they cost a little more up front, but they are one of the ways to actually reduce the energy used to make light, by an increase in efficiency.
Alex 1. re power factor generally power station has to do around twice the energy output to deliver the same wattage, for typical unbalanced CFLs power factor around 0.55 (balanced ones cost a lot more and are rarer) see Also (CUT url these add h t t p : / / =) general explanation US Dept of Energy If you directly want to see comparative light bulb energy use and requirement of power stations, see Sylvania descriptions They compare a 15 W cfl and 60 w ordinary bulb energy used to power 15 w bulb = around half of 60w = not 1/4! And that is using 0.6 power factor (it is often .5-.55) They say -quite rightly - it doesnt show on your meter but you end up having to pay for it of course. 2. RE you say: " the energy is NOT wasted. The energy is returned to the grid, physics – it has to go somewhere." --yes it sets up Harmonic Distortion - and even more costs to fix it, the extra cost of doing up the typically untreated domestic grids to deal with the harmonic distortion etc set up by CFLs In fact that is why industry is penalized if they don't balance the load they present. California grid administrators might not be worried yet - but wait until ban kicks in, or greater CFL purchases take place beforehand. All that said, I don't like supporting ordinary light bulbs just by criticizing CFL savings It's too easy just to start talking about Halogens or LEDs or whatever. Really all lights have advantages- just buy what you want to use. Sure - there might be a little savings here or there. But that is only ONE reason to choose a light, given light quality, appearance, construction, response etc differences between different lights. As for bans, Any energy /emission problems can and should be dealt with directly, leaving consumers alone: If that's not judged enough, light bulb taxation is better than bans, as said in a previous comment, giving government income on reduced sales (which can go towards renewable energy projects etc) yet keeping consumer choice.
(had to split comments to get them published -probably a spam links block, understandable enough !) ..... continued re power factor etc.... <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> (with references) <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> also from long entry by an electrician at <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> "CFLs Do Not Save On Energy Consumption Power Factor An incandescent bulb has a power factor of 1. Most CFLs sold in Canada have a power factor of about 0.55. That means there are about 45% more energy losses in operating the CFL compared to an incandescent bulb. This does not show up on a power bill but the power company has to supply about 45% more power than what the bulb is rated for. Astonishingly, CFLs can take almost twice as much energy to operate than what is on the label and still be listed as an energy star product, something few consumers know. CFL cheerleaders seldom tell consumers that the power factor is not included in their energy consumption calculations."
(had to split comments to get them published) also re: "I would like to see some data on your power factor claims and how it causes the CFL to use twice the power it is marked with" See <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> also for other factors, more specifically also <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> also <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> also others....
I have a lot of info about CFLs etc on a website and so I get a lot of emails from China (unsolicited but good fun) trying to sell me new types they are developing, do you get them too? (maybe your email address isn't as easily seen as mine) The last one was one in which the customer can put parts into..a modular CFL light Appeals to the tinkerer in me. I would like to emphasize that I agree all lights are useful, just to answer some points all the same... re: "If you get most of your electricity from coal, you’re doing greater harm by burning incandescents which emit more mercury into the air than the CFLs have in them!" This is no longer true, recent activated carbon injection and photochemical techniques are rapidly spreading and bringing coal emissions down, emissions already lowered in recent years as a bi-product of "clean coal technology" More <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> In a nutshell: 1. We know where the ever decreasing coal power stations chimneys are and we can treat their emissions with ever increasing efficiency at lower costs. 2. Compare that with billions of scattered broken lights on dump sites, when we do not know where the broken lights are, and so we can't do anything about them.
In all honesty, I've had the N:Vision CFLs in my kitchen (which is on a motion sensor) for over a year now with absolutely ZERO problems. No early failures, no decrease in light output. You may want to go back and look at some of your "myths" :) I would like to see some data on your power factor claims and how it causes the CFL to use twice the power it is marked with. If you can show me the data, I'll post it on the site. You're right that CFLs dont work for every application (ex. dimmers) so to that I say don't use them in those applications. As far as debunking any myths, I don't think you really have. If you recycle them properly (i.e. home depot) then you should be fine. Look, with every product their are plusses and minuses. Sure, CFLs do have some drawbacks, but they use much less energy than incandescents. I value that saved energy more so than the drawbacks you have mentioned. Plus, they save me money on my energy bill (which I have gone over in another blog). You're against CFLs. What's your alternative. How are you going to save me money on my energy bill? As soon as LEDs get cheap enough, I'll use them. But what are you proposing for us now? I've done the math and I am not part of a global CFL campaign. I just know what I like :) Thanks for the comments though. I think this is a good debate.
Ack! This is such a great site. Therefore I find it extra distressing to see the usual CFL PR arguments repeated here too. Fine to state that you personally like CFLs, but please check the facts and do the math first before taking part in the global CFL campaign. CFL facts: * All CFLs lose output with age so you either need to buy a stronger one, e.g. 20W to replace a 60W incandescent, or replace them before they expire naturally, in order to get as much light as from the incandescent you had before. * Most have poor power factor, making them use about twice the power they are marked with - which you end up paying for indirectly by a higher kWh-price even if it doesn't show on your energy bill as watts used. * CFLs use more energy and pollute more in production, transportation and recycling than other lamps. * Even if some of the best have gotten softer and more incandescent-like recently, CFLs still have a mediocre colour rendering (CRI 80-83). * Sensitive to heat and cold (except those extra expensive special purpose lamps) and don't work well in downlights and closed luminaires. * Most can't be used with dimmers, sensors, timers or fans. When dimming those expensive few that can be dimmed you will only get an even more grey and dull light. * Flicker or start-up flicker should not be a problem with newer CFLs with electronic ballasts which light up gradually, but some time to reach full output is hard to get around since it takes a while to excite the elements that produce the light even though newer ones give more light sooner than they did just a couple of years ago. * Contain mercury. Yes, I've read the pro-CFL propaganda too so I know all the tricks used to make them seem safer and cleaner than they are. Very clever. (I've debunked them on your other page.) * Varying life span. While good ones may last a long time (though at reduced output) many cheap CFLs don't even last as long as standard bulbs. N:Vision CFLs are infamous for their early failures, so good luck with those! I hope you've saved the receipts and dated them. ;) Please let us know how it goes.
Thanks for your reply. Re: debunking, please see my site for referenced details. (Under April archives I've posted all the info into separate posts so they will be easy to find, e.g. Power Factor, Heat Replacement Effect etc. In many cases I've gotten confirmation of my claims straight from manufacturers, utilities and even from the European Union.) Re: mercury, you are of course correct that if recycled correctly, no mercury should be released (unless there is accidental breakage in handling). The problem is that many CFLs still get thrown away in household garbage, despite information and recycling campaigns. And recycling the small amounts of mercury in each lamp takes more energy. But hopefully more CFLs will get recycled now that many are working to inform the public. Re: the possibly limited longevity of the N:vision, this is admittedly anecdotal information (most found in dozens of article- &amp; blog comments like this), just like your claim to the contrary is. ;) If it works well for you my guess is that you're informed enough not to use it in the wrong luminaire or ambient temperature. If it appears to give more light in the beginning, this will diminish as it ages. Re: savings; yes, you may save some on your CFL, but you may also find your utility raising the fee when you've convinced more people to switch. ;) Re: alternatives... First of all, lighting uses less than 6% of a household's energy consumption in the U.S., and about 3% in Canada and North Europe. Saving some of that by just installing dimmers and sensors or simply turning the lights off when leaving the room, is easy. One can also not have an aquarium, coffee maker, toaster etc., let hair blow-dry, do DIY by hand, and turn down/off the heat as much as possible etc. (You probably have a longer and better list yourself.) If one wants to save specifically on lighting I recommend 12V halogen or mains voltage retrofit halogen energy savers for those who want a top quality warm-white light that's just like incandescent or slightly whiter, and warm- or cool-white LEDs for those who care more about quantity than quality and can afford the initial high price. And those who still LIKE CFLs are of course free to use those if they just take them back to be recycled afterwards.

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