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CFLs can be dramatic when they burn out


By Beth Lewis

This article was published April 22, 2011 at 12:00 a.m.


CFLs use about 75 percent less energy, plus each bulb can last up to 10,000 hours if used correctly.

Super energy efficient CFLs, they use about 75 percent less energy than regular incandescent bulbs, and each bulb can last up to 10,000 hours if used correctly. But, CFLs also burn out differently, and this process can be startlingly to some people.

Expect the light to dim as it nears its end. When it does burn out, expect a dramatic pop and a distinct odor. The CFL bulb might even produce smoke while the base of the bulb turns black. None of these things should cause concern. In fact, popping and smoke means that the bulb’s end-of-life mechanism worked correctly.

For safety’s sake, do check the CFL packaging before buying. Does it have the mark of an independent safety testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories? That label means that the bulbs have been tested repeatedly for safety hazards.


■ Don’t toss the burned out CFL into the trash. Take old bulbs to a local department store or retailer that accepts bulbs for recycling. All Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouses in the area have recycling centers for CFLs near the entrances of their stores.

■ Don’t use a CFL in a fully enclosed, recessed fixture, as the heat will cause the CFL to work improperly. However, CFLs will generally work if the fixture is not completely recessed. Check the packaging to see if the CFL can be used in an inverted position.

■ Don’t use a CFL where you turn the lights on and off a lot or leave them burning for just a few minutes at a time (like in the closet). Turning the light on and off more than 20 times a day may negate the long lifespan of the bulb. CFLs are best for applications where the light will stay on for 15 minutes or longer.

■ Don’t expose a CFL to the outdoor elements without a protective cover. Check the packaging for the range of operating temperatures.

■ Don’t use a CFL in a fixture with a lot of vibration, such as a ceiling fan or a garage door opener. Vibrations can cause a CFL to fail.

■ Don’t use a regular CFL with a dimmer switch, this will cause the bulb to burn out quicker. Choose a CFL made specifically for use with dimmers.

■ Don’t expect a regular CFL to produce three levels of brightness on a three-way switch. While a CFL will work properly on the middle switch, a regular CFL will not produce light like an incandescent bulb in a three-way switch. Some manufacturers produce three-way CFLs.


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Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 total comments

LevitiCuss says... August 5, 2011 at 4:25 p.m.

Standard fluorescent bulbs should be handled the same way as CFLs. They have more mercury in them than CFLs, too. Something the CFL haters don't seem to know or want you to know.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... October 11, 2011 at 12:49 p.m.

Still a pain to dispose of no matter.

( | suggest removal ) says... October 17, 2011 at 12:36 p.m.

There sure are a lot of Dos and Don'ts with CFLs. In those instances where it is recommended I don't use a CFL, come January 1 what should I use. Maybe a coal oil lamp. All I have ever wanted is the freedom to choose when and where to use CFL bulbs. Come Jan 1 I will not have that freedom. I don't like it when my freedom is taken away.

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