CFL Lamps

CFL’s (twisty lamps), why we don’t recommend them




CFLs were the first energy efficient lights to enter the marketplace and many homes and facilities use them now for energy savings. The problem is, the quality of the lamps is still not consistent and the harmful by-products of the CFL’s are creating issues in our landfills. CFL’s produce light differently than incandescent bulbs. In an incandescent, electric current runs through a wire filament and heats the filament until it starts to glow. In a CFL, an electric current is driven through a tube containing argon and mercury vapor. This generates invisible ultraviolet light that excites a fluorescent coating (called phosphor) on the inside of the tube, which then emits visible light.

One complaint about CFL’s is in waiting for them to fully light up. This is because CFLs need a little more energy when they are first turned on to warm up the tube. A CFL’s ballast helps “kick start” the CFL and then regulates the current once the electricity starts flowing.

This entire process typically takes 30 seconds to 3 minutes to complete, which is why CFLs take longer than other lights to become fully lit. CFLs with decorative covers like globe or reflector shapes have a unique design challenge that results in the tradeoff of a slower warm up time, which is why these CFLs take longer than bare spirals to reach full brightness.

Older CFLs used large and heavy magnetic ballasts that caused a buzzing noise in some bulbs so dimming of CFL’s is not recommended. CFL’s are also very sensitive to temperature and cannot successfully be placed in areas where the lamp will remain cold. CFL’s contain hazardous materials so it is not recommended that they be placed in kitchen or above food preparation and work areas in case of breakage. The EPA recommends that in case of a CFL breakage, clear the room and open all doors and windows for at least two hours to allow airborne particles of mercury to settle for cleaning.


CFL’s must be properly disposed of at a facility that accepts hazardous waste and cannot be thrown in the trash when burnt out.