Are energy-efficient bulbs making people crazy?
February 11th, 2011
05:07 PM ET

Are energy-efficient bulbs making people crazy?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Are energy-efficient bulbs making people crazy?

Nope. This is one of those Internet rumors that has a germ of basis in fact. Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) do contain mercury, which can cause neurological damage, especially if you eat it. But you're not eating these light bulbs (I hope)!

As long as the bulb is intact, you're not exposed to mercury so there's no danger. Of course, you do need to be very careful if you break a CFL—air out the room, and don't touch the pieces of the bulb or any of the contents with your bare hands (just like with an old-school mercury thermometer). And when you change a CFL bulb, be sure to recycle it according to regulations in your area—you don't want to expose your trash collector to any mercury from broken bulbs.

Overall, CFLs actually reduce mercury emissions in the environment because they use less energy. Coal-burning power plants emit mercury, so less energy used means less mercury exposure over time.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Inmyopinion

    I don't like them, they burn quicker and I have use more of them to get good light in a room. I would rather go back to USA made bulbs. It's ridiculous that I have to air out the room if I break a mercury bulb and can't touch the pieces. So I die of mercury contamination and planet earth continuous to live on for 100's of years. How dumb is this. I do compliment those that created this scam and became very wealthy, rich people, most likely laughing at all of us dumb heads on their way to the bank.

    February 11, 2011 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Derek

      How is he profoundly stupid? Just because you don`t agree with him? He has a point; Incadescents were made in the USA, CFL`s are mostly made in China.

      CFL`s also DO NOT last that long. I average around 6 months vs 1-2 years for Incandescents. I am going to wait for LEDs. CFLs are a joke

      February 12, 2011 at 00:18 | Report abuse |
    • dave

      I'm in a hotel room with CFLs right now. Its so dim I have to get a flashlight out to find things in the closet. There is a time delay when I flip the switch so I end up walking into a dark room and kicking a piece of furniture.

      I was suckered into buying a bunch of these overpriced losers when GE got called to task for lying about the lumens. I have a box full of them in the back of my closet.

      February 12, 2011 at 01:15 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Dave I will buy those off you, shoot me an email kingmadelawncare at gmail dot com.

      February 12, 2011 at 04:23 | Report abuse |
    • A. Smith

      These are certainly not good for the autistic kids, who are very sensitive to this form of vibrating light. These damn new lights give me headaches, too.

      February 13, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse |
    • KC

      I agree. I replaced the 60-watt incandescent in my kitchen with a 100-watt-equivalent CFL and the room seems darker. Don't say "because the CFL needs time to warm up" - one night I left the light on all night, and after 8 hours of warming up, it was still not as bright as I remember the 60-watt being. Fortunately, I only bought a few CFLs, and I am saving them for the ones that are a PITA to change (like the one in the laundry room that requires standing on tiptoe on the dryer); I'm stocking up on incandescents for the bulbs I can change easily.

      February 13, 2011 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
    • frank


      February 13, 2011 at 19:40 | Report abuse |
    • lkelly

      I've had a very different experience with these bulbs, I switched 4 years ago in one of my lamps and they're still going strong, I have now switched completely and I haven't had any problems with brightness, maybe there's a brand difference, or maybe you bought the wrong wattage for your light fixture. Also they vary by brand where they are made and you can find bulbs made in the US. I don't remember which company I have but I specifically chose the brand because it was made here. I can check when I get home and post later

      February 14, 2011 at 11:17 | Report abuse |
    • ian swift

      i leave my lights on at least 12 hours a day. i haven't changed my cfls since 2005. these people saying CFLs last 6 months are obviously in cahoots with incandescent-only companies (if any even exist).

      February 15, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse |
    • Kazi Ahmed

      "So I die of mercury contamination and planet earth continuous to live on for 100's of years. How dumb is this."
      A human being and planet Earth are not equal. Understand the folly in your statement. Planet Earth has been around for billions of years, not millions or thousands or hundreds.

      February 15, 2011 at 15:58 | Report abuse |
    • GRofPA


      February 18, 2011 at 14:25 | Report abuse |
    • pimpatopolous

      Hell yeah. My $500 Samsung just bought it after 1 year because of the cheap-@ss capacitors they used. The only reason they fixed it after a bunch of calls is because I pointed them to a sight where 100+ other people had the same problem. Some guy even had a page dedicated to showing how to replace the capacitors yourself.

      My CFL's are the same as mentioned above. They fail at about twice the rate of the incandescent in the sockets next to them (some sockets need to come on immediately so I still use incandescents in those). The outer spot bulb casing of one of the Philips BR40's just fell off one day and just missed my kid shattering on the floor (the bulb inside is still working).

      February 23, 2011 at 00:46 | Report abuse |
  2. cellisis

    get LED bulbs instead! although they are more expensive, they would 15-10 years and basically never need to be replaced again.

    February 11, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jessica

      That is just what they said about the CFL bulbs but I go through them so much faster than regular bulbs. Why the heck are LED bulbs so expensive. LED's are like 3 cents a pop and the typical LED bulb has 50 to 100 of them so where is the ginourmous cost coming from? greed?

      February 11, 2011 at 19:02 | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      They will only last long if each LED has it's own resistor. If not, then many of them are wired in series or parallel with one resistor. When one LED fails, the current goes up for the remaining LED's. Lose one more and the current goes up further until they all fail in a cascade fashion.

      February 12, 2011 at 01:50 | Report abuse |
    • chupacabra

      Actually, the CFL bulbs give me a massive headache. I had been a good environmentalist, and replaced most of the lights in my house with CFL. The ones for reading by, and near where I cook, where the first to go. I noticed, eye strain, headaches, fatigue when I wasn't tired. Then I was on my laptop with the webcam on. I was wondering, what is that strobe going in the background. It was the BULB! No wonder I was getting headaches and the cats would always run away when I turned them on. I replaced them and my eyes have thanked me. CFLs can make you crazy if you are sensitive to light strobes. Also, if there is mercury in it, why the HECK use it? I'd switch to LEDs.

      February 17, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • carl engdahl

      LED lights needs a ballast power supply just like CFL lights. I have dissected many fail CFL and only have had one light fail because the CFL glass failed. It’s always the capacitors that fail in the ballast power supply inside the light. This will be true for LED lights ballast power supply also.
      Wonder if the capacitors in any of the rest of our electronics fail?

      February 21, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
  3. cellisis

    LED bulbs last 15-20 years, and you don't ever need replacing them.

    February 11, 2011 at 17:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • unretired05

      They haven't even been around 15-20 yrs or probably even long enough for a simulation.

      February 12, 2011 at 02:31 | Report abuse |
  4. Dave

    The mercury scare for CFLs is way over blown by a lot of folks who think a broken bulb turns you house into a Super Fund site. The biggest gripes that I have with CFLs, besides not always fitting in a fixture, are that you have to buy special ones if you want to use a dimmer and even then they do not dim very well; that you need to buy special outdoor/cold start bulbs for outdoor fixtures and even then if it gets really cold they really do not like to come on; and that you are not supposed to use CFLs in enclosed fixtures or fixtures which are partially enclosed with downward facing recepticles. Additionally, CFLs can cause interference with WiFi, cell phones, cordless phones, wireless headphones and speakers, etc.

    February 11, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Zork

    I thought LED bulbs would be great, too. Until I walked by a display at my local home store. Just looking at them feels like instant brain damage. I got headaches and sometimes nausea from driving around the neighborhood when Christmas lights were up. I know a lot of other folks with the same problem. Yuck!

    February 11, 2011 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Frank

    If "CFLs can cause interference with WiFi, cell phones, cordless phones, wireless headphones and speakers, etc", what in heaven's name is it doing to our brains?.

    February 11, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eric

      Probably nothing since your brain isn't electronic. Duh.

      February 13, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Actually, the brain sends and receives electronic messages to other nerves throughout your brain and body. Besides, the interference could be caused by various different effects, small amounts of microwave and radio waves, for example. Though the human brain isn't nearly as sensitive to this as your electronics, over time it could have a small effect. I doubt it's worse than the cell phones and other wireless sources surrounding us daily, and they seem to be alright.

      February 13, 2011 at 20:24 | Report abuse |
    • An RF Engineer

      Absolutely nothing. The electric motor in your fridge produces far more radio energy than CFLs do.

      February 18, 2011 at 19:56 | Report abuse |
  7. RockStarr

    The fastest way to induce my migraine headaches are to sit by my energy efficient reading lamp. Its not so bad if the bulb is tipped towards the wall, but otherwise the throbbing begins and within an hr i'm throwing up. Kudos for all things old fashioned

    February 11, 2011 at 18:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Blondegeisha

      I hate these bulbs. I can't see to read by them they are so dim. I can see the use for them in public buildings,hotel etc,but I still need the old fashioned light bulbs to see when I read.

      February 12, 2011 at 07:31 | Report abuse |
  8. MuddyBuddy

    Thankfully the old energy hog bulbs will be going away soon, which will cause better and better alternatives, especially for the niche markets. I just wish they made more 100 watt CFL's, that is all it would take to make me happy. CFL's last far longer on average, though some fail quickly.

    February 11, 2011 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. jake

    They do cause migraines. We spend hundreds switching out all our lightbulbs when they first came out and my pregnant wife had to go to the hospital for a massive migraine attack. No CFLs for us. My wife will have migraines around any CFLs, my in-laws had to promise to get rid of their CFL bulbs before my wife will visit.

    February 11, 2011 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • elizabeth

      manbearpig chose his name well – at least the pig part...
      Yes, CFLs give some sensitive people migraines. It's because they flicker. Many people get headaches at work or in large dept stores because of this. I have found if I use an incandescent table lamp closer to my work station than the florescent lighting, it seems to help block it. There is not a single cfl in my house, and as long as I can buy "real" bulbs there won't be.

      February 12, 2011 at 06:33 | Report abuse |
  10. Kat

    I do not understand why the free market can't sort out the CFL/incandescent/LED bulb situatuon. Why ban the bulb that many of us want to use? I have energy-saving bulbs in some areas, but where I need bright light, I need incandescent bulbs. LEDs give off a very umpleasant light. There are many things that waste much more energy than incandescent bulbs.

    February 11, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Derek

      Because there is a group of people that think so strongly about getting rid of Incadescents that they force the rest of us to adopt their viewpoint. How about we ban AC and Microwaves. They consume MUCH MORE POWER.

      February 12, 2011 at 00:20 | Report abuse |
    • Scott in NH

      Derek, the reason people want to ban them is to save humanity. To put it simply, we have runaway global warming (proven fact not subject to any debate), and the consequences of the global warming could very well be significantly less food in the world

      February 13, 2011 at 02:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Yeah....my thoughts exactly.

      Why do we HAVE to switch?

      AND......they say in all the "safety" article about the CFL bulbs, "don't use them in kid's rooms, playrooms, or "tippy" lamps where they'd be likely to get broken".

      So when the old fashioned bulbs are outlawed.....WHAT do we do in the rooms where lights get broken more???

      HELLOOOOOOOOO AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      I fell for these dumb bulbs for a while, till I broke one.
      I took them ALL out of my house, and switched back to good old fashioned bulbs. Ahhhhh.
      If it ain't broke, don't fix it!!!!

      Guess I better start stocking up!!

      February 15, 2011 at 13:46 | Report abuse |
  11. lee lee

    These bulbs are such a bad idea!!
    Lets face it, people are not disposing these bulbs properly. People are way too lazy and are just throwing them in the trash and saying "not my problem" its out of my house and that's all they care about. Watch, in the near future we are going to hear more about big mercury problems in land fills and our water.

    February 11, 2011 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jason

    I don't like the light from CFLs. Can't ever get the color temperature correct, and with some CFLs it's like watching a strobe light although I think that is more of an individual thing. LEDs are probably the better long term bet. If you're willing to spend a little bit more than the average LED, you can now find them bright enough and in the warmer part of the color temperature spectrum. But LEDs don't dim well just like CFLs don't dim well. They need a better strategy like turning off individual LEDs in the light. Nothing dims like an incandescent.

    February 11, 2011 at 19:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. William D Howell Sr.

    Actually we are missing the bigger point. Unlike incandescents, CFLs aren't always on but rather have a flicker rate that is similar to poorly synced movies. It has been shown to cause headaches and in some cases seizures.

    The part that Dr. Grupta is not mentioning is that the CFL proponents have not been able to create a mandatory recycling for CFLs so at least fifty percent of all CFLs end up in landfills where they are usually broken and leaking mercury. A single CFL contains enough Mercury to require a mandatory HAZMAT evacutaion of at least one thousand feet but more likely a quarter mile.

    The only real solution is LED technology that is completely green and at least ten time more reliable than CFLs.

    February 11, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • goalie127r

      Not sure where you came up with the HAZMAT stats, but they seem semi-silly and completely unbelievable. As noted in the link below, much more mercury goes into the atmosphere as a result of increase electrical usage of conventional bulbs than if you wantonly smashed your CFL's when done.

      February 11, 2011 at 20:29 | Report abuse |
    • An RF Engineer

      "A single CFL contains enough Mercury to require a mandatory HAZMAT evacutaion of at least one thousand feet but more likely a quarter mile."

      No. This is a complete myth.

      February 18, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse |
  14. Frank

    So many of us have been trained to turn off lights when we leave the room but CFLs are supposed to be left on for a minimum of15 mins. Otherwise, the lifespan of them is greatly reduced. How is that supposed to save energy? I end up leaving all the lights on 'cause I don't know how soon I'll be back.

    February 11, 2011 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      They draw far fewer amps than incandescents.

      February 11, 2011 at 22:19 | Report abuse |
    • FRE

      CFLs are not suited for situations where they will be frequently turned on and off and in places where they are on for short intervals, such as in closets. It is best to incandescent bulbs in those places. In fact, it would be silly to use CFLs in closets where they are on for only a very few minutes every day.

      Not all CFLs are of the same quality. The problem is that it is difficult for the buyer to determine the quality.

      My house is lit almost exclusively by fluorescent lights, most of them being the traditional long tubes. The tubes are hidden, i.e., I have indirect lighting except for the CFLs. You need a good CRI (color rendition index); for quality lighting, the CRI should be greater than 90, but you may have to order them over the Internet since high quality is often unavailable in local stores. Do some research work by doing a google search on "color rendition index."

      Few people would have a problem with high quality CFLs or traditional fluorescent tubes.

      February 13, 2011 at 01:36 | Report abuse |
  15. Bob

    you do need to be very careful if you break a CFL—air out the room, and don't touch the pieces of the bulb or any of the contents with your bare hands (just like with an old-school mercury thermometer). And when you change a CFL bulb, be sure to recycle it according to regulations in your area—you don't want to expose your trash collector to any mercury from broken bulbs.

    Safe as can be... yeah people are going to "recycle" these things-right in the trash can. Can't wait until we are selling millions and disposing of millions each year. Might result in a little mercury in the ground.

    In 17 years I replace about 8 regular bulbs in my house (at about 50 cents each)–no hazardous material just tungsten and glass. I replaced all bulbs 9 months ago with CFL and have already had to replace 2 ($1.5-$2 each) because they burned out.

    February 11, 2011 at 19:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fed61

      In enclosed ceiling fixtures with 2 bulbs I tried using one incandescent and one CFL. I burn out two CFL's before the incandescent blows out and have twice experienced a loud hissing sound and awful acrid smell and residue when CFL's burn out. We are now stocking up on enough incandescent bulbs to last 20 years or more.

      February 11, 2011 at 20:22 | Report abuse |
  16. MPL

    But the CFL's are a great dessert after your KFC Double Down. Which will bring your demise sooner?

    February 11, 2011 at 20:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. wwwgator

    CFL's do strobe, are hazardous, and thanks to the morons in DC, required as of 2012. Stock up now on your incandecents.
    My wife and I had experienced migraines when I tried these 10 years ago. I am an Master Electrician so I know what I'm talking about when I say they dont dim properly, over heat in recessed can lights , many times tripping the internal thermal overload in the fixtures, as well as smoking the lamp itself. Yes they have gotten better over the years, but you will NEVER find these in my house !
    Since when has government deicided for me as to what type of lamp I can/ cant have in my home?

    February 11, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dave

      As I recall, the moron in DC was George W and I agree.

      February 12, 2011 at 01:07 | Report abuse |
    • sharon

      I totally agree, gator. I am all for saving the environment but I refuse to use CFLs. They give me a headache, make my eyes twitch and burn, are hideous, cast a gloomy, ugly light and make people look like they are dead. No one looks attractive under that ugly light. I will stockpile my incandescents if I have to or get LEDs but I will never use CFLs. In fact, I when I go on vacation I bring lightbulbs with me in case the hotel room is using the hideous CFLs so I can switch them out and actually enjoy my stay.

      February 16, 2011 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
  18. TPF

    It's all a scam, remember how we weren't supposed to eat eggs, now they are good for you. Just like the ethanol scam that is going on today. Ethanol ruins engines and shortens their life span. Back in the early eighties when Citgo was putting ethanol in their gas they had a huge lawsuit against them because it was proven that ethanol did major damage to engines and they were forced to reimburse any consumer that had receipts for work done on their vehicles by using the gas with ethanol. Not one thing has changed, except the government is lying to us once again. It's actually cost more to make ethanol and the mileage is not near as good as an run without ethanol added to the gasoline. Engineers and scientists have the facts to back this up, so why is the government lying to the consumer once again? This light bulb deal is just another scam and it too will have to come to a halt once the consumers start suing the companies that are putting in their product and the government for forcing them to do it. Once the lawyers get on this you want even know what ethanol is anymore.

    February 11, 2011 at 21:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Scott in NH

      Scientists thought ethanol was a scam on day 1. I remember reading articles about that 30 years ago. It wasn't science that pushed for ethanol, it was ADM lobbyists going from K street to the Congress with bushels of actual cash. The best way to prevent that is to pay Congress enough that they can afford to maintain a house in two districts and take some airplane flights. Sure, plenty of them will still take the cash, but at least they won't be in a position where they have not other choice.

      February 13, 2011 at 02:19 | Report abuse |
    • Iowa

      It will be interesting to see the lawsuits that come out of broken CFLs and mercury exposure. Of course, if they are made in China, it would be just like the contaminated drywall, good luck with suing China! And I'm sure that our thoughtful politicians had the "can't sue the government" in mind as protection for themselves.

      I had never read to avoid having them in table lamps that might tip or in children's rooms, but it makes sense. Especially if you have to call a Hazmat team to clear your house. I realize they would probably say, just air out the room but what happens if you can't open windows in the room and one is broken?

      February 16, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
  19. charles s

    Almost every kitchen in the US has florescence lights in them. You know the long thin tubes. All these complaints about CFLs and none about the kitchen lights? They are the same things. Almost every store in the US uses florescence lights and yet I never hear about anyone saying that the cannot go shopping because of them. I bought a CFL for my basement, it produces the equivalent of a 200 watt bulb with 43 watts. The difference in lighting in my basement is really amazing. Instead of a dim 60w bulb now I have the equivalent of 200w of light. I replaced 2 60w bulbs with 2 CFLs that produce 200 watts of light. It much better.

    Maybe some people are really bothered by CFLs but I have never met anyone who has been bothered by them. I worked in an office for over 30 years and all they had was florescence lights.

    February 11, 2011 at 22:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Shawn L


      I'm one of those who has problems with fluorescent lighting. We had a house full of them and had to remove every one due to severe eyestrain, headaches, "mental fog", etc. Many of them showed severe scorching on the plastic casings, particularly the reflector bulbs that were supposed to be rated for recessed lighting use.

      I do not know where all of these kitchens are that you speak of. In my experience, I have rarely seen tube fluorescent bulbs in residential kitchens. As for all of the fluorescent bulbs in commercial buildings, those are the worst for me. I could not possibly work under them.

      Just because you do not "know" anyone who has problems with the lights, how can you reasonably infer that there are not people out there with real–and serious–problems with them? Anyone with light sensitivity may have problems with fluorescent bulbs. That includes those with migraines, sensory issues (including with autism, giftedness, etc), and even many people with light-blue eye coloring.

      February 11, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
    • BeenThere, DoneThat

      I, too, have always gotten throbbing headaches and terrible eyestrain from fluorescent lights, as well as hearing humming even when the ballasts were replaced. My ex loved them and said HE wasn't having those problems, so we had them in the kitchen & bathrooms. Now, I am having the same problems with CFL bulbs, and I'm STILL being told I'm imagining it. Is this something only women experience for some reason?
      PS – I have brown eyes, but I have had vision problems since childhood.

      February 12, 2011 at 00:52 | Report abuse |
    • FRE

      Modern high quality CFLs do not flicker or hum. Poor quality CFLs and older ones may flicker or hum.

      Fluorescent tube fixtures with electronic ballasts do not flicker or hum, and they light up instantly just like incandescent lights. Fixtures with magnetic ballasts may flicker and hum.

      If you want high quality CFLs or tubes, get ones with a CRI (color rendition index) greater than 90 and the color temperature you want. To understand color rendition index, do a google search on it.

      If you get high quality CFLs or high quality fluorescent tubes with fixtures having electronic ballasts, probably you will be very happy with them.

      February 13, 2011 at 01:46 | Report abuse |
  20. jaom651946

    Just like every good thing in this world? For every Plus there is a Negative! For every Good there is a Bad!! As with these bulbs there is that ingredient that is not All good? Yes they last a long time but no-- that does not make them less dangerous!!!????

    February 11, 2011 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. getaclue

    Since noone has made the connection yet, let me clue you in. You know the large overhead lights that are used in almost every office building and store that you have been in? Those are all LFL's Large Fluorescent Lights. NO difference in the materials used in the CFL, with the exception of more of the mecury and other chemicals used in CFL's Same hazards. Take a w.a.g. at how many of these have ended up being buried in landfiles for the last 50 yrs. One of the biggest environmental problems that nobody knows about. The CFL's are the least of the problem. Next time you walk into and office or go shopping, look up, and think about it.

    February 11, 2011 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hello

      Because of those lovely LFL's, I can't go into certain stores. Costco? Forget it. Unless I wear my sunglasses, I get a migraine. Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy – migraine, migraine, migraine. Without fail.

      February 23, 2011 at 17:54 | Report abuse |
  22. getaclue

    Charles... you did make the connection. Glad to see there is someone out with the lights on (pun intended) and is at home..

    February 11, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. dave

    Almost everyone is exposed to these lights. And almost everyone seems to be crazy. That proves it.

    February 12, 2011 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Mike Bender

    I thought I was doing the good thing by purchasing the energy efficient CFL bulbs.
    They started burning out only a few months after I bought them. They were supposed to last much longer than the old incandescent........... LIES.
    The plant in America that used to make the old bulbs shut down and all the workers had to look for new jobs. How is that progress? If the plant had been able to switch over that might have been okay.

    So now we have the EPA pressing for legislation that puts Americans out of work. Can you see what is wrong with that? The production went to China because they don't have an EPA. No haz mat laws. All that has been done was to move the pollution to China along with jobs. I am willing to bet the mercury pollution in China will be rampant. When I learned how unreliable the CFL bulbs were, I went right out and bought about 100 old style bulbs. Those should last me till I croak. I save energy by having dimmer switches on all my lights. I turn off all those little transformers with a power strip. They leech electricity even when you are not charging your phone, Ipad, Xbox, etc. I couldn't use the dimmer on the CFL bulbs. Couldn't use them outside on the night light with the eye that turns on after dark. Thankfully I have a friend who works in a factory where they have a proper way to dispose of all fluorescent bulbs. A big box with spinning chains that break the bulbs and a huge hepa filter that catches the mercury. They have to hire a haz mat licensed hauler to take away the filters.
    BYE BYE CFL darken my doorway no more.

    February 12, 2011 at 01:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FRE

      Dimmers on incandescent lights save very little energy. When the bulbs are dimmed, they are much less efficient. Thus, a 100 watt bulb dimmed so that it is as bright as a 40 watt bulb will use far more power than an undimmed 40 watt bulb. I'd like to quantify the difference, but I don't have the instruments to do so.

      February 13, 2011 at 01:51 | Report abuse |
    • Scott in NH

      My cell phone charger uses 500mw when I leave it plugged in, my electric dryer uses 5,000 watts (10,000 times as much electricity), meaning that drying clothes for 1 hour uses more power than leaving my cell charger plugged in an entire year.

      February 13, 2011 at 02:33 | Report abuse |
  25. neebster

    CFL's emit dirty energy,..and can seriously affect the health of people that already have health issues,..this is a scientific fact,...http://www.dirtyelectricity.ca/cfl_lights.htm,...you are much better off with regular bulbs or LED's.

    February 12, 2011 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Phil

    I will stick with incandescent bulbs until I die...and that's about another 40 years. They provide more light and their color temperature is very warm. LED's are monochromatic. Until they come up with a more natural 'warm white' that provides the luminosity that filament based lights produce, I have no plan to switch.

    February 12, 2011 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • unretired05

      You will have to get a 40 yr supply then. The standard bulb will soon be banned and disappear completely. The new bulb is made in China so the mercury can be handled without any pollution concerns. When they go bad you can complain to the Chinese then they will have something top laugh at all the way to the bank.

      February 12, 2011 at 02:40 | Report abuse |
  27. wowlfie

    My biggest problem with CFL's is that the industry is not thinking of the deaf. We need lights that flash when someone phones, rings the doorbell, the baby cries, etc and CFL's can't be used with flashers and dimmers (unless you buy prohibitively expensive ones that are too dim to be viewed and worthless as a flasher as not bright enough). LED's will work with dimmers if, again, you buy the more expensive ones setup that way but they are again, too dim to be used as flashers (most are only about 200 lumens and that's ridiculous when a standard 100 watt incandescent puts out 1000 lumens). LED's are a joke and they won't last nearly as long as experts say because the electronics in them burn out long before the LED's do. Same thing with CFL's. Many CFL's I buy burn out the first week I get them. I'm stocking up on incandescents and America can go to hell!

    February 12, 2011 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. unretired05

    The "making you crazy " comes not from the mercury but for the high speed flicker of the florescent bulbs.

    February 12, 2011 at 02:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Tomas

    I really like the savings with the CFL's, I Changed out all 12 Flood lights when the Flood light style came out, along with 6 front and back door. When my electric bill came i was amazed i saved $150. Inside i changed the lamps that are on a timmer plugs but left the regular bulbs in those because as someone else said the CFL's dont dim well. But we dont have to buy anything we don't like.
    As far as whats in ther CFL isnt anything new. Am i the only one that remember the long tubes exploding at schools?

    February 12, 2011 at 03:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Tom Vita

    Yes they make me crazy, the bulbs light is just irritating by the way they warm up and give a dim glow. the light is all wrong and just raises my blood pressure. YES THESE BULBS MAKE ME FREAKING CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 12, 2011 at 06:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. elgeevz

    Several years ago, I invested a good deal of money in a remote-control system that uses a system of battery-operated switches to dim lights as well as to turn them on and off. It has proved to be enormously helpful to a feeble old man like myself. From my bed, I can not only dim my bedroom lights, but also operate fixtures all over the house. However, as I understand it, the new bulbs cannot be dimmed. What shall I do?

    February 12, 2011 at 07:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Clap on

      I love The Clapper too.

      February 13, 2011 at 13:34 | Report abuse |
  32. lighthouse

    All lights have advantages and disadvantages, none should be banned
    just for using more energy.

    Even if there were energy savings:
    Citizens pay for the electricity they use,
    there is no energy shortage justifying usage limitation on citizens,
    and if there was a shortage of finite coal/oil/gas, their price rise
    limits their use anyway – without legislation.
    Emissions? Light bulbs don't give out CO2 gas -power plants might.
    If there is an energy supply/emissions problem – deal with the problem!

    Ceolas.net has extensive research on why the light bulb regulation
    arguments are wrong,
    including that the supposed energy savings are not there anyway,
    with US Dept of Energy references
    Under 1% overall energy savings from efficiency regulations on
    incandescent lights.

    February 12, 2011 at 07:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. fReD

    As an environmental Engineer I have to point out the Ironic, CFLs contain Mercuric Chloride which is a water soluable ion of Mercury. What this means is that when the average american has a burned out bulb and tosses it into the trash, it will get broken and end up in a land fill, where the mercusy enters our water table and therefor our food chain. Yes, one bulb uses less energy but it also produces less light, prompting most people to put in more lights which negates the energy savings we were after to begin with. And we are poisoning the environment at a far higher rate than a coal burning power plant, the average output of mercury from a plant is less than 1000 bulbs and we are requiring every house to use them with sales already exceeding 10 million bulbs annually. THINK ABOUT IT, this is another illogical science deal like big Al is pushing!

    February 12, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • woww

      Wow. just wow. How can you be an environmental engineer if you have a simple mind like like that? CFL are not supposed to be thrown in trash. I guess by your definition, the average american are stupid. If people are smarter, and learn to handle CFL, then don't you think we are saving the environment by using less energy?
      There are a bunch of variety of CFL bulbs, if you need a brighter bulb, then get the higher 'lumen rating'. I only use 2 in my living room, and it is as bright as daylight. Also, I hardly see a broken bulb since the last 3 years I installed them, perhaps YMMV?
      Don't blame technology, blame the people that can't adjust with new technology.

      February 13, 2011 at 01:16 | Report abuse |
    • wavejump

      its true. most people just throw cfl's in the trash when they are finished with them. also if they are broken they cant be recycled, the mercury has already escaped. i work maintenance and accidently break dozens of these lights every year. they are much easier to break than an incandescent.

      February 25, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse |
  34. Jennifer, MD



    February 13, 2011 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Blaze

    What the heck are you guys doing to your CFL's to burn them out so fast? You do know that you have to pay attention to the wattage, right? A 100 watt CFL is not the same as a 100 watt standard light bulb. Also NEVER touch the bulb with bare hands, this will cause them to burn out. Take care of them and CFLs will last forever. I've got some that are 5-10 years old and still going strong with over 10,000 hours of them. How people can claim they don't last as long as normal bulbs is beyond me – use them properly and they will out last any normal bulb.

    February 13, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. borg_88

    CFL's will not do anything to your brain–the radiation that might interfere with other devices is non-ionizing and will not affect brain cells.unless you consume a couple of dozen of cfl'S.

    If you MUST eat light bulbs, however, frosted incandescents are preferred–smooth taste but less aftertaste! :-0

    February 14, 2011 at 00:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. I'm very confused

    I can tell you I never touched the CFL bulbs and I put them in my whole house about a year ago. I have had 5 burn out in just about a year. Why? I never heard of a 15 minute rule before reading that on here, so it is possible that some of them were turned on and off in less than 15 minutes, but that seems like a joke. I think the real reason the government is trying to get rid of the old bulbs is because they are way too easy to turn into a crackpipe.

    February 14, 2011 at 05:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. I'm very confused

    ONE QUESTION: If my CFL bulb breaks can I then throw it in the garbage or does it still need to be recycled?

    February 14, 2011 at 05:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris

      It needs to be recycled. If you throw a crushed bulb in the trash your exposing everyone that comes into contact with the trash to the by-products of the bulb. A lot of the bulb are broken or crushed at some point in the recycle process.

      February 15, 2011 at 22:29 | Report abuse |
    • Iowa

      Not only does it need to be recycled, it has to go to a special hazardous materials landfill. Can't just give your local recycling center a bag with them in it.

      February 16, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
  39. Greg

    CFL should be eliminated and we should all go to LED right away. There are SO many advantages. Prices keep dropping and if we all start buying them i bet they will drop even more. I just got my first one and love it. They do have a very narrow light spectrum but that can be overcome by manufacturing them with several bulb of differnt spectrums to get the exact light color we desire. For lighing up you front door a narrow spectrum white led works great but inside you would want something with a warmer light.

    February 14, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. tom

    I wonder why there is no mention of halogen bulbs in this forum. They seem to work like incadescent bulbs but are legal under the new rules. They even look like the old fashioned bulbs. And they are very bright and last longer.

    February 14, 2011 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • FRE

      Halogen bulbs are incandescent bulbs; actually, they are a special type of incandescent bulb. The halogen gas sealed in the bulb causes tungsten evaporated from the filament to be redeposited on the filament thereby extending its life. That makes it possible to operate the filament at a higher temperature to increase its efficiency without excessively reducing its life. You'll notice that the color of a halogen bulb is somewhat different too; it's less yellow and closer to white.

      February 23, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
  41. royboy

    We have been using CFL's for the past two years – residential – without problems. We prefer warm white – 2800 to 3000 K – no headaches. We have seen enough reduction in our electric bill to justify the initial cost of the bulbs. The only downside is a lack of convenient bulb disposal/recycling options in our area.

    February 14, 2011 at 22:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Trish

    I've never seen a LFL or CFL that A) didn't flicker, B) didn't give me a migraine and C) didn't present a danger of inducing seizures with me.
    Just because some people can't see the flicker, doesn't mean it isn't there. When I'm forced to go entirely with CFLs, I'm switching to candlelight. At least the flicker will be slower.

    February 14, 2011 at 23:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. James

    There are distinct differences in the operation of all 3 bulb types, both in terms of electrical operation and illumination.
    Incandescent bulbs produce light across a broad range of "colors", including the range that is invisible to our eyes, yet we perceive as heat. In reality, these bulbs are heaters that just happen to produce some useable illumination, and we've spent over a century trying to increase the ratio of light to heat. However, they produce what is considered the "gold standard" of light quality even today. This is because they operate in a fashion similar to the sun, not in terms of color, but rather the smooth transition between colors. Even though the electricity powering them is oscillating, the bulb's filament responds too slowly to the alternating current to produce a flicker.

    CFLs produce invisible ultraviolet light on the inside, which hits a "paint" (phosphors) on the inside of the glass "bulb" which converts the invisible light to a visible light. The compounds that make up that paint determine the color of the visible "white light". While the process requires much less heat than traditional bulbs, they have yet to produce a phosphor "paint" that produces a smooth spectrum of colors as pleasing as incandescent bulbs. They tend to have a "greenish" tint which photographers try to minimize with purple filters, and the human eye and brain are sensitive enough to detect that there is something unnatural about the composition of the light. This is not an insurmountable challenge, but rather a limitation of current chemistry. In theory, CFLs also flicker, though at a rate much faster than the old fluorescent tubes, which has an audible component as well as a visual component, though there is much debate over how much humans can detect the flicker. Again, this is more of a manufacturing limitation than anything else.
    The yardstick for measuring these differences is a number from 0 to 100 called "color quality". The higher the number, the more pleasing the light, with the sun being, effectively, 100. Cheap CFLs can be down in the low 80s, with expensive ones being above 90, though there is some marketing in any manufacturer's rating.
    LEDs exist in many different flavors, and it will be years before there is an accepted, economical standard. Some produce invisible UV light like the CFLs, and depend on chemicals in the "bulb" to convert the light into visible light. Some produce a "white" light that is really toward the blue end of things. Those ones are more efficient, but produce an unpleasant light. Think of a cheap LED flashlight as compared to a nice quartz-halogen flashlight.. The higher the quality of light, the less efficient the LED bulb is.
    The reason that LED bulbs are so expensive is partially due to economics (early adopters are always willing to pay more, and companies also try to pay off their manufacturing investment up front an early) and partially due to the supporting electronics. Individual LEDs are cheap and cool, but their brightness is sensitive to their temperature. To compensate for this, the manufacturers have added electronics to regulate the brightness as the temperature changes. These electronics add cost, lower the overall efficiency and produce heat. Most of the new LED units weigh a ton, because they have giant aluminum fins on them to help regulate the temperature (including the heat produced by the supporting electronics) This adds manufacturing cost and shipping costs. There are web-sites where you can buy cheap LED replacements bulbs for your house, but they'll have a crummy blue tint and the brightness will be all over the place.

    February 15, 2011 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. James

    Why are the new LED bulbs so expensive? Here's the short answer if you don't feel like reading my full rambling above:
    The reason that LED bulbs are so expensive is partially due to economics (early adopters are always willing to pay more, and companies also try to pay off their manufacturing investment up front an early) and partially due to the supporting electronics. Individual LEDs are cheap and cool, but their brightness is sensitive to their temperature. To compensate for this, the manufacturers have added electronics to regulate the brightness as the temperature changes. These electronics add cost, lower the overall efficiency and produce heat. Most of the new LED units weigh a ton, because they have giant aluminum fins on them to help regulate the temperature (including the heat produced by the supporting electronics) This adds manufacturing cost and shipping costs. There are web-sites where you can buy cheap LED replacements bulbs for your house, but they'll have a crummy blue tint and the brightness will be all over the place.

    February 15, 2011 at 01:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Bea

    There ARE people who are EXTREMELY sensitive to the flickering of CFL bulbs and like dripping water, or the chirp of one cricket, can make you "crazy"

    February 15, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Chris

    Not much to add here as there is a lot of sound advise, I have found that leaving CFL's on allows them to perform better over time plus they seem to last longer. The constant off and on seems to shorten the life and brightness.

    February 15, 2011 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Tom

    We switched all the bulbs in our house a couple years back. Ours CFL's are constantly burning out, whether it's in a bathroom, dining room or bedroom – we are probably getting about 6-12 months out of the bulbs. We do save about $30/month on our power bill, but that's more than made up by the cost of the bulbs.

    February 16, 2011 at 01:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Geniveeve

    Summary from my experience, curly bulbs are a disaster: slow turn-on, way more physically fragile than "real" bulbs, are full of weaponized mercury dust, cannot be dimmed effectively (if at all), are weirdly "death-mask" white in color, last about the same lifetime as real bulbs (certainly no longer), AND (not seen a mention of this in the posts so far): after a month or so, won't work with lamp-timers! I spent almost $100 on replacing my lamp timers (several times on one curly lamp) because the lights wouldn't turn on more than 50% of the time. I couldn't figure out why, till I tried actually bypassing the timer, and putting the plug in the socket by hand. If I did it slowly, the lamp wouldn't light at all; if fast, about 80% of the time. All about getting the discharge started maybe? Curly bulbs going in the trash (no recyling store nearby, nor any open outside my work hours), and I'm buying a carton of real bulbs every week to stock up against the rulings of our totalitarian regime.

    February 16, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sad

      So you bought toxic mercury bulbs, but now you can't be bothered to clean up your mess properly. Typical American – if it's inconvenient to do the right thing, it's not your problem.

      March 12, 2011 at 02:49 | Report abuse |
  49. LeaveUsAllAlone

    Most of the comments here are pretty good. I've learned a lot about CFLs this morning. However, I have noticed that most posters here who love these things sound completely insensitive to the needs of others. That is the biggest crime here. I have dealt with Tics from childhood, and, yes, at school I absolutely hated the fluorescent lighting, and in the law offices and banks and colleges where I have worked; and the mall and the book store, etc., etc., etc. Even the newest just give me 'the willies' we used to called it. I really, really, hate them. Also, I am chemical-sensitive and these chemicals drawn into my system cause asthma attacks. I have cleaned my home as best I can in this world. I don't want to be legislated as to putting harmful items back into my home, without much choice. Oh, and we recently moved into a new home (rental, so no choice) with a CFL strip of track lighting – brand new – and the third time I turned on the '750-hr-guaranteed' light, one of the bulbs snapped loudly, hissed and went off. We can't even find an equivalent replacement here, and NOTHING on the light (we don't have packaging since this was installed by the builder) said to recycle or that it was dangerous to throw away. I would have done so if I hadn't read otherwise here. We don't have recycling of that level in this city – it's a pitiful truth that many, many places do not. The bulbs are bright enough, and come on quickly, but they still effect my concentration and anxiety level when I am under them very long. Not as bad as the old flickering ones that I COULD ACTUALLY SEE – don't tell me the human eye cannot pick that up!!! – but it's still there.
    What I would like to find is more information on Halogens. I guess if the government, in its great and powerful wisdom, wants to ban another item I find necessary in my life (ephedra ban was the last bad decision they made that really led to a horrible deterioration of my lifestyle and health), Halogen is the way I'll go, but I don't know much about them. Guess I'll be doing a LOT of research in the next few months. I CAN NOT fill my house with CFLs – neither can those with seizure disorders, migraines, autism, etc., as has already been said above. This is just a horrible decision. As the Bible says: 'Man is dominating man to his injury.' I'm quite sure the Bible will be banned before too long – it's too good for us.........

    February 17, 2011 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. alias

    I've been using cfls for years and overall I love them. I did have a problem with the hum that they emit if I sat reading close to the lamp and while It is true that if you buy the cheap natural 60/14 watt bulbs you will find it a bit dark, but if you spend the extra for the 75/28watt or even 100 watt equivalents there is a big difference.

    You should get the SUNLIGHT bulbs which provide WHITE light instead of the NATURAL YELLOW bulbs you will be very surprised at how good they are. Working on my computer with digital images I find it infinitely better to get truer color tones from the white over yellow. In the living room I have the whites in the overhead light and low yellows in the lamps for when I want to watch tv.

    If you spend the extra money and buy the brand names and find the right bulb for the spot and you will see the difference. Plus HomeDepot has replaced the rare instance of a bad bulb with no trouble.

    February 18, 2011 at 21:08 | Report abuse | Reply
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