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FAQ


Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with an electronic timer or photocell (AKA electric eye)?

2. Can I usa a compact fluorescent light bulb in an enclosed light fixture?

3. Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with a dimmer switch?

4. Can I use a CFL in applications where I will be turning the lights on/off frequently?

5. Can I use a CFL in applications involving vibration such as a ceiling fan or garage door opener?

6. What should I do if I break a CFL bulb?

7. Why does the color of CFLs seem different at start-up?

8. Do light bulbs (such as fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs) give off hazardous amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light?

9. How does a compact fluorescent light bulb work?

10. What compact fluorescent light bulb do I buy to replace a 60-, 75-, 100- or 150-watt regular bulb?

11. How much heat (or infrared radiation) is emitted by regular, halogen, and compact fluorescent light bulbs?

12. What is Energy Star® and why are many compact fluorescent light bulbs Energy Star labeled?


Answers

1. Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with an electronic timer or photocell (AKA electric eye)?

Be sure to check the lamp package, which will indicate if the lamp is not intended for use with electronic timers or photocells. Some electronic timers and photocells contain parts that are incompatible with compact fluorescent light bulbs; using these bulbs in incompatible products will result in a shorter light bulb life. To find out if an electronic timer or photocell is compatible with compact fluorescent bulbs, check with the manufacturer of the timer or photocell.

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2. Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb in an enclosed light fixture?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs may generally be used in enclosed fixtures as long as the enclosed fixture is not recessed. Totally enclosed recessed fixtures (for example, a ceiling can light with a cover over the bulb) create temperatures that are too high to allow the use of a compact fluorescent bulb. Many CFLs can be used outdoors in an enclosed fixture. Check the lamp or package to make sure it is approved for outdoor use, and verify the lowest operating temperature for the area where the product is being used. If the lamp or package does not state it can be used outdoors, then it is not approved for outdoor use, even in an enclosed fixture.

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3. Can I use a compact fluorescent light bulb with a dimmer switch?

To use a compact fluorescent bulb on a dimmer switch, you must buy a bulb that's specifically made to work with dimmers (check the package). GE makes a dimming compact fluorescent light bulb (called the GE Longlife Plus Soft White Energy Saving Bulb) that is specially designed for use with dimming switches. We don't recommend using regular compact fluorescent bulbs with dimming switches, since this can shorten bulb life. (Using a regular compact fluorescent bulb with a dimmer will also nullify the bulb's warranty.)

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4. Can I use a CFL in applications where I will be turning the lights on/off frequently?

Compact fluorescent light bulbs work best if they are left on for over 15 minutes each time they are turned on. These types of lamps can take up to 3 minutes to warm-up. Warm-up will probably not be noticeable from a user stand point, but the lamp needs to warm-up in order to reach the point of most efficient operation. Frequently switching them on and off will shorten the life of the product. If the life of the lamp is shortened significantly, you will not reap the financial benefits (includes energy & life of lamp), that are common to CFL lamps.

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5. Can I use a CFL in applications involving vibration such as a ceiling fan or garage door opener?

Currently it is not recommended to use CFLs in vibrating environments. Vibration can cause the electronics in the CFL to fail.

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6. What should I do if I break a CFL bulb?

Fluorescent lamps contain mercury. Mercury at atmospheric pressure is a silver colored liquid that tends to form balls. Mercury is a hazardous substance. When one lamp is broken, the best thing to do is to wear chemical resistant glove to clean it up. The gloves can be vinyl, rubber, PVC, or neoprene. The gloves you buy in the supermarket for household cleaning are sufficient. The gloves protect your skin from absorbing mercury and from getting cut by the glass. The remains of one lamp can be disposed as normal waste since the amount of mercury is small. However, for future reference, when large quantities of lamps are being disposed you must follow your state and the federal regulation for disposing of mercury-containing lamps.

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7. Why does the color of CFLs seem different at start-up?

The variation in lamp color at start-up of the lamp is a result of phosphor activation. Phosphor is the coating on the inside of the bulb that glows when bulb has an electrical charge to give the lamp a "white" light effect. Different phosphor combinations produce different colors and may have slightly different response times. These differences are why the lamp sometimes looks pink or purple when you start it.

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8. Do light bulbs (such as fluorescent and compact fluorescent bulbs) give off hazardous amounts of ultraviolet (UV) light?

Regular fluorescent light bulbs used in your home and office do not produce a hazardous amount of ultraviolet light (UV). Most light sources, including fluorescent bulbs, emit a small amount of UV, but the UV produced by fluorescent light bulbs is far less than the amount produced by natural daylight. (Ultraviolet light rays are the light wavelengths that can cause sunburn and skin damage.) Your safety is important to us. That's why, for all of our light bulbs designed for general public use, we strive to minimize the amount of UV light emitted. If you're looking for a low-UV bulb for an especially sensitive area, try our Saf-T-Gard® bulbs. They block most ultraviolet light emissions, and they're also shatter-resistant.

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9. How does a compact fluorescent light bulb work?

Fluorescent light bulbs (including compact fluorescents) are more energy-efficient than regular bulbs because of the different method they use to produce light. Regular bulbs (also known as incandescent bulbs) create light by heating a filament inside the bulb; the heat makes the filament white-hot, producing the light that you see. A lot of the energy used to create the heat that lights an incandescent bulb is wasted. A fluorescent bulb, on the other hand, contains a gas that produces invisible ultraviolet light (UV) when the gas is excited by electricity. The UV light hits the white coating inside the fluorescent bulb and the coating changes it into light you can see. Because fluorescent bulbs don't use heat to create light, they are far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.

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10. What compact fluorescent light bulb do I buy to replace a 60-, 75-, 100- or 150-watt regular bulb?

While a regular (incandescent) light bulb uses heat to produce light, a fluorescent bulb creates light using an entirely different method that is far more energy-efficient - in fact, 4-6 times more efficient. This means that you can buy a 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb that produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt regular incandescent bulb. Plus fluorescent light bulbs last up to 13 times longer and use 2/3 to 3/4 less electricity than incandescent bulbs with similar lumen ratings.

Here are the watts needed by regular incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescent bulbs to produce the same amount of light.

  • 20 watts incandescent = 5 watts compact fluorescent
  • 28 watts incandescent = 7 watts compact fluorescent
  • 36 watts incandescent = 9 watts compact fluorescent
  • 40 watts incandescent = 10 watts compact fluorescent
  • 52 watts incandescent = 13 watts compact fluorescent
  • 60 watts incandescent = 15 watts compact fluorescent
  • 75 watts incandescent = 20 watts compact fluorescent
  • 100 watts incandescent = 26-29 watts compact fluorescent
  • 150 watts incandescent = 38-42 watts compact fluorescent
  • 250-300 watts incandescent = 55 watts compact fluorescent

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11. How much heat (or infrared radiation) is emitted by regular, halogen, and compact fluorescent light bulbs?

Because incandescent and halogen bulbs create light through heat, about 90% of the energy they emit is in the form of heat (also called infrared radiation). To reduce the heat emitted by regular incandescent and halogen light bulbs, use a lower watt bulb (like 60 watts instead of 100). Fluorescent light bulbs use an entirely different method to create light. Both compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes contain a gas that, when excited by electricity, hits a coating inside the fluorescent bulb and emits light. (This makes them far more energy-efficient than regular incandescent bulbs.) The fluorescent bulbs used in your home emit only around 30% of their energy in heat, making them far cooler.

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12. What is Energy Star® and why are many compact fluorescent light bulbs Energy Star labeled?

ENERGY STAR® is a voluntary partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, product manufacturers, local utilities, and retailers. Partners help promote energy efficient products by labeling them with the ENERGY STAR logo and educating consumers about the unique benefits of energy efficient products. ENERGY STAR-labeled products use less energy than other products, save you money on utility bills, and help protect the environment.

Many compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) are ENERGY STAR labeled because they are energy-efficient alternatives to standard incandescent lamps. CFLs use approximately 75% less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and can last many times longer. The super efficient performance of CFLs can save consumers at least $25 in energy costs over the life of each CFL that replaces an incandescent bulb.*

*Based on a minimum life of 6,000 hours at $0.10 kWh.