Are Compact Fluorescent Lamps welcome in your home?

Fluorescent lamp technology is certainly not new and when linear lamps became available after the Second World War their advantages were rapidly recognised by both industry and commerce so that by the 1970s fluorescent lighting had become a standard method of interior lighting for most buildings.

It therefore seemed reasonable that Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) introduced in the 1980s would be equally well accepted in the home by domestic consumers. However home users were not immediately impressed by the long-term savings, and were deterred by the high initial costs. Indifferent or poor colour rendering, physical incompatibility, mercury hazards, unfulfilled marketing claims and slow warm up were perceived as disadvantages.

 The arguments for and against CFLs became polarised and European governments decided to tip the scales by “banning” domestic filament lamps. Retailers meanwhile adopted “loss leader” pricing of CFLs and the popular national press reacted with health scares from mercury and ultraviolet radiation. The consequence was consumer confusion. However the argument has shifted with rising energy costs having a significant impact on domestic budgets and technological progress has addressed to some extent the earlier quality issues.

 There is now the opportunity to make a more rational judgement. Most information has been biased one way or the other. However there is now an independent and thorough assessment of CFLs that factually examines many of the issues and is well worth reading:

“An examination into the use of CFLs in the domestic environment”. James Thomas Duff (2011) has been published in the new CIBSE SDAR Journal for September. 

 No single lamp type can solve all lighting problems. The choice should be determined by the particular activities and thus the lighting needs of the occupants, rather than the architecture or design of the dwelling. Many building services operate in part to preserve the fabric and environment whereas lighting is only required when the space is occupied. As soon as it is vacated the lighting can, and should be switched off. Lighting is for the people, and the home is where personal character prevails. The choice is yours but hopefully it can now be based on sound facts rather than scare-mongering or “prohibition”.

2 Responses to Are Compact Fluorescent Lamps welcome in your home?

  1. I keep changing incandescent bulbs in my home over to Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs). I have been slowly doing this for quite a few years now, and at this point, I have converted 68%. I’m now down to the point that I’m left with a few incandescent reflector floods that have been working for over 15 years and refuse to burn out (though I have already changed some of them), some smaller “night light” style bulbs that really won’t save much by changing them, and some small lamps that are used so little that these also are not worth replacing. This is especially true since they don’t make CFLs small enough for some applications. If they do have a SIMILAR replacement, these are usually too bright, and really don’t save me enough electricity to offset the cost of purchasing the bulbs… CFL lamps get more expensive per watt in smaller sizes.

  2. Thank you for your comments. You raise several important points often overlooked. Lamp life is quoted by lamp makers as an average based on standard operation conditions. Real usage can be very different. A domestic installation is most unlikely to contain a statistically significant sample of lamps, and so personal experience mey by much shorter, or as in your case much longer life.

    Lamp efficiency tends to decrease for lower power ratings but not the cost of the lamp. Thus there is an economic cut-off point where the reduced running costs fail to cover the increased lamp price.

    Finally energy consumption is a function of both power and time. We have become lazy and ignore lamps burning needlessly. A more responsible attitude to the simple on/off switch would achieve considerable energy saving at no additional cost.

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