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Compact Fluorescent Lighting
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Increasing costs of energy have rekindled interest in fluorescent lighting especially the compact fluorescent lamps that were developed in the early 1980?s and today are among the cutting edge products in energy efficient lighting. Although fluorescent lighting has been a staple in commercial establishments since its introduction in 1938, it has found limited popularity in the home because of its cold white color. New products, however, hope to improve on that ambiance.

?Now-a-days, fluorescent lighting can be cool or warm, depending on the color temperature you choose when buying the product,? said Meletio Electrical Supply Company general manager, Henry Scott. ?You actually have some color choices from a daylight color type bulb to a cool white to a taupe warm white. Those are color temperatures.?

?If you have a lot of earth tone colors, natural products, leathers, wood floors, I think a lot of times, your warm colors look much nicer,? Scott said. ?But if you have more cooler colors, blue-grays-chrome-black-contemporary kind of colors, then the (cool) colors work best.?

?Be careful when you mix a halogen and fluorescent together that the colors actually match because halogen is a nice white bright color,? Scott said. ?If you put warm lamps with that, you?ve got a bright color here and a warm color there. Pretty soon, the room doesn?t flow right.? Such a phenomenon often happens in the kitchen with the combination of under counter cabinet cool fluorescent lighting and warm incandescent ceiling lighting. ?You at least want to have the same or close to the same color temperature throughout the space, whether you use fluorescent or not.?

Fluorescent lamps offer two major advantages over the main competitor?the tungsten incandescent light bulb?longer lamp life and greater energy efficiency. Compact fluorescent lamps offer all the features in long fluorescent tubes plus the advantage of being folded and configured into designs of many different shapes, sizes and wattages. New products include the three-way control, d?cor globes, and the newest?a Philips 2700K PL-TF introduced in May 2001 with dimmable, warm color temperature lamps.

?Every generation of light bulb technology is becoming more energy efficient and putting out more light?higher lumens,? Scott said. Also easier is replacing the incandescent light with compact fluorescence?as easy as screwing in a new light bulb.

?A compact fluorescent really can go in a lamp (table or floor model) and give good quality lighting and save energy and produce less heat,? said Scott. ?Lamps are easy to do, and I would recommend just about everyone do lamps.?

?But, if you have an existing home and you have recessed lighting, it?s much more difficult to convert that to fluorescent,? Scott said. ?There are some products out there that are a retrofit product. But, sometimes they?re larger; sometimes, they don?t fit the can properly. A lot of times retrofit products do not do as well as they?re supposed to do.? For instance, sometimes you take out a 100-watt light bulb in a recessed can, and you screw in a fluorescent of some sort, your light lumens go out the door.

?If the recessed can that you have does not have a good built in reflector, then the light just stays up in the can and doesn?t come into the space,? Scott said. ?The newer fluorescent cans are engineered around the fluorescent bulb to push all the light out of the fixture. But when you go in and take out a light bulb and put in a compact fluorescent, a lot of times, the light?s just trapped up there. And it just does no good.? Ideally, the best conversion in down lighting is to replace the whole fixture?a very expensive proposition. ?I?m not saying that you cannot find a fluorescent bulb that will do a decent job as far as conversion. But, sometimes, it?s difficult to get the ideal results.?

In new construction fluorescent lighting installation is easier.

?We can go in and start off with a recessed fixture that?s designed for a specific ballast with good light output,? Scott said. However, Scott does not recommends fluorescent lighting throughout the whole house because fluorescence still doesn?t produce the ambience of other light sources nor does it offer the same level of control. ?Compact fluorescent lighting in recessed cans is used for general lighting?not for spot lighting or accent lighting. If you want accent lighting, then you go back to your incandescent. You can match colors.?

Coming from an era of cheap electricity, where in the 1920?s, electricity began dropping in cost and, at the same time, bulbs became more powerful, people grew accustomed to bright homes. But, in the 1960?s, the cost of equipment generating electricity started to increase. Policy makers began looking to increase energy efficiency. The Energy Policy Act of 1992 eliminated high-energy lamps. Today, California is mandating fluorescent lighting in all kitchens and baths. Residential lighting, however, accounts for only about 6% of energy consumption, according to So, even the most efficient lighting won?t make a dramatic difference in utility bills; thus, calculating total savings in the residential setting is more involved.

?Besides the obvious electrical savings, you also have air conditioner savings because the bulb is not creating as much heat,? Scott said. ?A 25-watt compact fluorescent bulb creates 25 watts of heat, like a little heater. A 100-watt light bulb creates 100 watts of heat. Your air conditioner has to overcome those little heat sources. If you have 10 100-watt bulbs burning, that?s like having a bathroom heater running. So, the less wattage you?re using the cooler your home is going to be. That?s one advantage.? When comparing products, note that compact fluorescent lighting provides roughly one-fourth the wattage of incandescent lighting, for instance, a 13-watt compact fluorescent lamp is equivalent to a 60-watt incandescent bulb, and a 27-watt compact fluorescent light is comparable to a 100-watt incandescent light bulb.

?The second advantage is the longevity,? Scott said. ?Standard incandescent bulb is like a 750 hour light bulb. A compact fluorescent light bulb is a 10,000 hour light bulb.? Even with initial costs of compact fluorescent bulbs at roughly $7 to $15, compared to the incandescent at 50 cents to $1, homeowners should expect to recap the costs in energy savings and less frequent bulb replacement.

?There?s nothing wrong with the light bulb, except that it uses energy and there?s a little heat,? Scott said. ?But it?s inexpensive. The color is very nice and natural. Actually a standard 100-watt light bulb produces a color-rendering index of close to 100, which is just what sunlight does. Things look really true to color under an incandescent bulb.? But the compact fluorescent lamp, currently in the 80-percentile color-rendering index range, is getting closer.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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