It’s interesting that every time I talk about the advantages of compact fluorescent bulbs, I see the same criticisms over and over. Thus, I though I’d spend a bit of time responding to each of them.
CFLs produce low quality light.
A common criticism is that CFLs produce “low quality” or “off color” light. While I recognize that this is largely a matter of personal preference, I also want to point out that light quality varies widely across brands/models. While I myself have run across a number of bulbs that produce crappy light, others are perfectly acceptable. Before dismissing them entirely, I would recommend investigating this for yourself. Here is a good place to start.
CFLs contain mercury.
While it’s true that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury, it’s also important to keep in mind that roughly half of all electricity in the US comes from coal. And guess what? Coal-fired power generation releases mercury into the atmosphere. In fact, it’s been estimated that CFLs, when mercury emissions due to power generation are accounted for, CFLs are actually “cleaner” than incandescent bulbs.
There’s also a lot of concern over what might happen if one breaks in your house, though it’s been argued that these sorts of concerns are overblown. Nonetheless, you should exercise care in disposing of CFLs.
CFLs don’t work for all of my needs.
While it’s true that many CFLs aren’t compatible with things like dimmer switches and fixtures with three-way switches, technology in this area is continually advancing, and bulbs are available that are appropriate for virtually all applications, including dimmable and three-way bulbs. The main places where CFLs lose a bit of luster is for cold-weather applications.
CFLs use more energy when powering up.
While this is technically true, the difference between CFLs and incandescent lights in miniscule. The additional energy draw is so brief that it amounts to the equivalent of a few additional seconds of bulb operation. From an energy usage perspective, it thus makes sense to turns off CFLs every time you leave the room. However, flipping a CFL on and off too frequently can reduce it’s lifespan. Thus, experts typically suggest turning off your CFLs whenever you’re leaving the room for five or more minutes.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t view CFLs as the perfect solution. In fact, I’m really looking forward to the day when LED lighting hits mainstream. But in the mean time, CFLs are the best solution out there when you consider both bulb cost and energy efficiency.