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View Full Version : Do CFL bulbs really save money?



Brian Elfert
12-08-2012, 6:39 PM
Have any of you really saved any money with CFL bulbs?

They may save money on electricity, but CFLs are eating my pocketbook alive. I have purchased probably 15 100 watt equivalent CFLs from GE. I currently have three of them that are working. The rest have all died prematurely. The local hardware store was replacing them even a year or more after purchase, but I took two in today and they refused to exchange them because it was over 90 days. (Certainly within their right.)

I'm trying to figure out how this is saving me any money with trips to store to replace bulbs and all the bulbs I have purchased. GE will replace the two deaad bulbs I have under the 5 year warranty, but I have to ship the bulbs to them. The shipping could very well cost more than just spending $3.98 plus tax on two new bulbs. I would like to find an affordable LED light bulb that would last longer, but the ones I have tried all have issues yet.

Jason Roehl
12-08-2012, 6:43 PM
Frequent on/off cycling, installation bulb-down and enclosed installation will all shorten their lifespan. I've had a few duds over the years, but the current crop seem to be doing fine. I couldn't tell you what brand they are, though.

Matt Meiser
12-08-2012, 6:53 PM
Home Depots store brand is warrantied through the store and have a 7 year warranty or something like that. I had to argue with the girl at the desk and ultimately talk to the store manager who straightened her out.

CFL is a temporary technology anyway. LED is where it's at once the cost comes down.

David Weaver
12-08-2012, 7:02 PM
Mine have saved me money. the ones in the bathroom last less long(since they turn on or off over a dozen times a day), but they are 13 watt CFLs. The last two times I've gotten 13 watt CFLs, they have been for an average of less than 50 cents each. I use those in everything in the house except two fixtures.

paul cottingham
12-08-2012, 7:18 PM
I have about 15 in my house that have been running for 7.5 years or so. My power bill tells me they save me plenty of money. I am replacing them with LEDs when they die, tho.

Brian Elfert
12-08-2012, 7:19 PM
These CFL bulbs do not get frequent cycling, but they are mounted downward at about a 35 degree. The bulbs probably average two hours between power cycles. I even bought new light fixtures in hopes the bulbs would last longer. The bulbs last about 2 to 3 months longer than before. I suppose I can try the Home Depot brand, but constant trips to replace bulbs isn't saving me any money.

I have CFLs mounted upside down in my bathroom and they haven't burned out in more than two years. I also have CFLs at my garage entry door that get turned on and off constantly and they are at least four years old.

Myk Rian
12-08-2012, 7:23 PM
Have any of you really saved any money with CFL bulbs?
NO. And I mean a BIG NO.
After a while they get dim, and need replacing.
I'm buying incandescent from now on.

Myk Rian
12-08-2012, 7:26 PM
CFL is a temporary technology anyway. LED is where it's at once the cost comes down.
I understand China is tooling up for the rush.
:D

Mike Henderson
12-08-2012, 7:30 PM
I have CFLs throughout my house - a lot in ceiling cans - and they've lasted quite well. Also save a LOT of money in electricity (of course, CA has very expensive electricity).

Mike

Brian Elfert
12-08-2012, 7:37 PM
I have about 15 in my house that have been running for 7.5 years or so. My power bill tells me they save me plenty of money. I am replacing them with LEDs when they die, tho.

CFL bulbs will save money because they don't cost all much. Can today's LED bulbs really save money for the average user with the high costs? My brother is finishing his basement with 30 recessed cans. He is considering the $25 each for LED bulbs for the cans. It might work out for him because his wife is doing day care and the lights may be on as long as 10 hours a day during the week.

LED bulbs by my estimate would save at most 40% over CFL bulbs. I figure my three bulb fixture uses $8 of electricity a year with CFLs. LEDs might cut that to $5 a year, but I have to spend around $60 for the bulbs. The $30 savings in electricity alone over ten years wouldn't pay for the new bulbs, but CFLs would need replacement at least once. You might break even with today's LED bulbs.

Brian Elfert
12-08-2012, 7:40 PM
NO. And I mean a BIG NO.
After a while they get dim, and need replacing.
I'm buying incandescent from now on.

I haven't noticed any of my CFLs that have a numbers of years on them getting dim. Of course, the ones that are on the most often burn out before they ever have a chance to get old.

Steve Meliza
12-08-2012, 7:53 PM
I'm not sure they've paid for themselves yet, but they have been reliable and are on track to earn their keep. Most are the 14W kind that are 60W equivalent. We're about $0.12 per kWh here so each CFL saves me about $0.10 in electricity for every 20 hours of use. When the guys that applied finish to our floor left the lights on in every room I was relieved to realize that having to wait 24 hours to get in there and turn them off was only going to cost me about $1. Had all the lights been incandescent it would have been more like $2-3.

The longest running CFL's were some I got from Home Depot about 8 years ago and they were still going strong two years ago when I moved out of that house. The oldest CFL I have with me is 6 years old now and is in a lamp I use frequently, it is "n:Vision" brand also picked up at Home Depot. Around 2 years ago I replaced as many bulbs in the house as I could with CFL's that I got from Home Depot and they're all going strong too except for one that I put in a lamp that kept burning out incandescent bulbs, we got rid of it after it killed the CFL. Those bulbs I got 2 years ago are "EcoSmart" brand, but the manufacturer's contact information on the package was the same as for my tied and true "n:Vision" CFL. Incidentally, the CFL that the lamp killed was some off brand that my wife got that took forever to get to full brightness.

In all this time I've never had a CFL fail (other than that one) because I put them in places where they make sense and avoided places that they don't like Jason listed above. The shortest lived CFL's I've seen were some that someone else used in a very busy bathroom that were inverted and covered in a glass globe to make them look like an incandescent, they only lasted a month or two. I'm really glad they didn't phase out incandescent bulbs as they some times are the best bulb for an application, but I'm cheap so if it is a light that my wife tends to leave turned on all day then you can bet it is a CFL.

Shawn Pixley
12-08-2012, 8:46 PM
I haven't have one fail yet. Used in many different situations - switched, on constantly, and everything between. I suspect they have saved money, though I can't prove it.

Larry Frank
12-08-2012, 8:51 PM
I use them where I can. However, I can not use them in the garage because the temperatures get too low. In the colder temps they come on very dim and take forever to get somewhat bright. If it is really cold, then you can forget about them.

I also see that the low end of the operating range for LEDs can be around -10 F. What happens if it is colder than that in the garage. This will happen in a lot of the northern states in dead of winter.

I love saving on the power bill but also need something that will work when it is cold.

Matt Meiser
12-08-2012, 8:59 PM
The only places we had trouble with them failing was floodlights in track lighting in the kitchen (now gone) and in the post lamp out front which was a bad environment anyway so now I've got LEDs there which have been there for about 2 years. The one I took back to HD failed in only 2 weeks and its twin and replacement have been fine.

Jeff Nicol
12-08-2012, 9:57 PM
I bought and tried about 40 different ones in different sizes for a number of applications. Out of all of them that I have used, I think I have 4 or 5 of them left that still work and they are ones I use for my photo box with the so called "Daylight" color. They work fine and are the newest that I have bought, all the rest of them have failed and some in very dangerous ways. I had some in a track light, and 2 of them got so hot before the burnt out the plastic started melting on the bases of the lights! So I do not buy them or use them and buy the incandecsents and have a lot of them stocked up just in case! I have been looking at the LED lights and if we can build them here in the US the quality should be better and they should last a very long time. I build some of my own flashlights and the new LED's are brighter, but the light they give off is still nothing like an old incandecsent and that is where most of the issues are. Also the LED's are so very bright when looked at directly so I suppose finding the best way to diffuse them and keep the light bright is going to be the next steps of the future.

Bottle the sunlight and let us just pour some out when we need it!

Jeff

Jim Becker
12-08-2012, 10:11 PM
At this point, I can anecdotally say that CFLs have resulted in a meaningful decrease in energy usage in our home. Aside of a couple of fixtures that have special purposes, all of the bulbs inside and outside of our home are CFLs or low-voltage. My electric bills have been running noticeably lower for the past few years since changing them out. (not all at once, but relatively quickly as the incandescents failed) I have also only had to replace about three of them in several years.

LED offers further promise for energy savings once the cost decreases...which it certainly will, just as the cost of CFLs has also dropped noticeably.

Brian Elfert
12-08-2012, 10:54 PM
I have an outdoor light with one of the pin type CFLs in it. It comes on every night even when the temp has been -30F a few times. I'm sure that saves me electricity since the old light had a regular bulb in it that ran about 30 watts all night and switched to full 60 watts if motion was detected.

William Adams
12-08-2012, 11:39 PM
Depends on whether the closest electrical transformer is working properly or no.

The one nearest my house isn't, so CFLs won't last --- even replacing them on warranty it's too much hassle, so we broke down and started buying LEDs which are a significant energy savings w/ no failures yet.

Ken Fitzgerald
12-08-2012, 11:48 PM
Like a lot of things......the quality of what one buys isn't always equal. While I have a CFL spotlight that has lasted well, I have had other CFL bulbs that failed after only a couple hours to a couple days. I don't like them in cold weather applications because the ones I have tried in those conditions were extremely slow to come on in cold weather. In some safety conditions, having a light come on slowly invites one to take unnecessary risks.

Rick Potter
12-09-2012, 2:28 AM
I have a house full of them. The outside lights are on all night for six years or so, and only one of three had to be replaced about 3 years ago. Ceiling fan lights all have them and are used until midnite every night with no failures in six years, so I am happy with them. I have had a couple early failures, but only a few, and I literally have at least 80 around the house.

Costco had a deal on the 13W jobs, something like 5 for $1.98, and I have dozens of spares. I put them throughout my rental houses too, tenants appreciate the savings.

It's the LED night lites I have problems with. They seem to last about three months, then start to get more and more dim, till they are worthless.

Rick Potter

Matt Meiser
12-09-2012, 9:28 AM
We bought a gross (not really but it was a ridiculously huge pack) of LED night lights at Costco and they seem good after a few years.

I forgot, I also replaced a 175w Mercury Vapor dusk to dawn fixture on my shop with a non-CFL fluorescent. The first failed within a year and Lowes replaced it with one of a completely different design. The second has been going strong since. I remember calculating back when I installed it that the payback on that was in the months range.

Brian Elfert
12-09-2012, 9:46 AM
Perhaps it is the brand of CFL I am buying. All of my CFLs have been GE brand to date. The main reason for GE brand is because the hardware store sells them several times a year with a subsidy from the electric utility. The 26 watt version used to $1 with subsidy, but now they cost $2 with subsidy. (Regular price is a ridiculous $8 for one bulb!) I figured a name brand like GE would be better than one of the no-name brands.

Dan Hintz
12-09-2012, 11:58 AM
I also replaced a 175w Mercury Vapor dusk to dawn fixture on my shop with a non-CFL fluorescent.
I'm trying to figure out what a non-fluorescent CFL is... ;-)

Perhaps it is the brand of CFL I am buying. All of my CFLs have been GE brand to date. The main reason for GE brand is because the hardware store sells them several times a year with a subsidy from the electric utility. The 26 watt version used to $1 with subsidy, but now they cost $2 with subsidy. (Regular price is a ridiculous $8 for one bulb!) I figured a name brand like GE would be better than one of the no-name brands.
I stay as far away from GE anything, and their bulbs are no different. My wife purchased some in bulk one year (when I wasn't around to consult), and each of them quickly died a fast death. There's a reason you can get them so cheap.

Try Philips... you won't be disappointed.

Matt Meiser
12-09-2012, 12:05 PM
I'm trying to figure out what a non-fluorescent CFL is... ;-)

You read that backwards.

What I have is a fixture that has a ballast and uses a special fluorescent tube. I thought CFLs by definition had a built in ballast, but maybe that's not the case.

Larry Whitlow
12-09-2012, 12:31 PM
..........I literally have at least 80 around the house.




Rick Potter

I thought "wow" when you said you had 80. Then I did a count here and stopped when I got to 50. I never appreciated that we had that many bulibs in various fixtures, though many are seldom used.

Harry Hagan
12-09-2012, 12:55 PM
I routinely replaced bulbs (every few months) in outdoor lamp posts until substituting CFLs for incandescents. The CFLs have been coming on everyday from dusk till dawn for several years without a failure. CFLS have saved us money on electricity and bulbs.

I share Danís low opinion of GE bulbs. We tried a bulk pack of GE CFLs and half of them failed within hours or didnít even workónone of them lasted more than a few months.

ray hampton
12-09-2012, 1:41 PM
If the CFL bulbs are installed upside down in a globe, can someone measured the temperature of the bulb and its socket ? most of the lights assembled hang down when they are installed on the ceiling unless the ceiling are about 10 feet high

Brian Elfert
12-09-2012, 2:53 PM
The weird thing is the GE CFL bulbs that are not in the one fixture last for years. I've only replaced one GE CFL that wasn't in this one fixture.

I'll get some Philips CFL bulbs at Home Depot, but not today. We are seeing our first real snow of the year with 10 to 15 inches expected. I expect the commute tomorrow will be terrible as it is supposed to get really cold overnight.

ray hampton
12-09-2012, 5:16 PM
The weird thing is the GE CFL bulbs that are not in the one fixture last for years. I've only replaced one GE CFL that wasn't in this one fixture.

I'll get some Philips CFL bulbs at Home Depot, but not today. We are seeing our first real snow of the year with 10 to 15 inches expected. I expect the commute tomorrow will be terrible as it is supposed to get really cold overnight.

I had a similar problem with a ceiling fixture and the incandescent bulbs, I think that the fixture were being shaken by the furnace or fridge

Jason Roehl
12-09-2012, 6:01 PM
I had a similar problem with a ceiling fixture and the incandescent bulbs, I think that the fixture were being shaken by the furnace or fridge

You can get "rough service" incandescent light bulbs for such fixtures. A friend of mine had to do that in the pre-CFL era because the first floor ceiling/second floor had a little too much bounce to it, so light bulbs in the first floor ceiling just wouldn't last due to the vibrations from the kids running around upstairs (he probably had 5-6 kids then, up to a football side now).

Rick Potter
12-10-2012, 2:48 AM
Larry,

I also was surprised how fast they added up. 5 ceiling fans with 5 ea, two chandeliers with 8 ea, and I am up to 41 before I even start with porch lites, lamps, can lights etc. I think the 80 is a conservative estimate, and that is just CFL's, not counting regular flourescent fixtures in the shop, garage, etc.

Rick Potter

Curt Harms
12-10-2012, 7:28 AM
We have 2 3-globe ceiling fixtures that have had CFLs in them since CFLs readily available. We haven't replaced one yet but they weren't $2 each either, probably more like $6-8$ each. We also have 2 in outdoor fixtures. They come on no problem when cold but are noticeably dim until they've been on for a few minutes.

Frank Drew
12-10-2012, 9:45 AM
I've had no problems with the CFLs in my house and the minuscule efficiency rating of incandescents makes me glad to have moved away from those bulbs (90% of the energy used is lost as heat is what I recently read; is that true?)

Larry Whitlow
12-10-2012, 10:53 AM
Rick, when I saw how many I actually have it brought home the potential energy savings.

Andrew Pitonyak
12-10-2012, 11:58 AM
I have many types of florescent bulbs in my house. For the CFLs, I usually use high CRI bulbs from http://www.fullspectrumsolutions.com
Historically, these bulbs have worked poorly outside, but they have changed much over the years. For outdoor items, I use CFLs that I buy at SAMS club that have been dirt cheap, and they work at least in the Ohio Winters.

With my outdoor fixtures, the bulbs are usually left running all night, and they last a very long time (years). There was a CFL when I bought the house 8 or 9 years ago, and I have changed the bulb twice. I replaced the bulb spring of 2012, so I am probably only getting about 4 or 5 years on the bulbs. Now that I am thinking about it, I might have a full spectrum solutions bulb in there now...

In smaller closed light enclosures (like I have at the top of my stairs), the bulbs have trouble very quickly. I really should just replace that fixture and I think that the problem will go away.

In my ceiling fans, the CFLs work much better than my standard bulbs, because they seem to handle the fan vibration much better.

So, for non-enclosed fixtures, I have found my bulbs to last a very long time.

Dan Hintz
12-10-2012, 12:29 PM
(90% of the energy used is lost as heat is what I recently read; is that true?)

Correct... you're heating a filament with high current, it's just a nice side-effect that you heat it hot enough to give off some visible light.

Steve Griffin
12-10-2012, 11:37 PM
I've had no problems with the CFLs in my house and the minuscule efficiency rating of incandescents makes me glad to have moved away from those bulbs (90% of the energy used is lost as heat is what I recently read; is that true?)

Yes, and that's why I like incandescents for some situations, like our little apartment. Right now it's 19 degrees outside and not a single watt of heat my bulbs are creating is "wasted". If I turned off every light in the house, the electric heating system would have to work exactly that much harder.

In our new addition we have geothermal heat, so light bulb efficiency is more important. I started putting in CFL's and I hate everything about them-- the buzz, the delay, the lack of light, the lack of dimming, the cost and the environmental issues with disposal.

The new LED's are what I'm excited about. These work great and the price is coming down fast. The fixtures we still need will definitely be LED and I may try to retrofit some of the CFL junk already put in to accept LED's.

It's going to fun telling stories to my grandkids about the good old days back when people were actually allowed to make their own light bulb decisions....

Brian Elfert
12-11-2012, 1:00 PM
Yes, and that's why I like incandescents for some situations, like our little apartment. Right now it's 19 degrees outside and not a single watt of heat my bulbs are creating is "wasted". If I turned off every light in the house, the electric heating system would have to work exactly that much harder.

I have natural gas heat and it costs 1/2 to 1/3 as much as electric heat. Regular light bulbs add heat, but at a higher cost than running my furnace.


It's going to fun telling stories to my grandkids about the good old days back when people were actually allowed to make their own light bulb decisions....

You still get to make your own light bulb decisions. You can choose from CFL, Halogen replacements, and LED. Government has only mandated how much energy light bulbs can use. They have not mandated any particular technology. Somebody could bring to market an entirely new lighting technology tomorrow if they wanted to as long as it meets the energy standard.

Matt Meiser
12-11-2012, 3:06 PM
Yeah. We should be able to buy PCB bulbs that run on baby eagles if we want!

David Weaver
12-11-2012, 4:30 PM
This is hardly a real fight for freedom, though. The government has always issued standards on pollutants, technology, etc. This is one where they didn't issue an edict stating that you have to buy your bulbs from comrade, inc.

We are already fully aware that the reason incandescents last the amount they do is because of cronyism (they could last much longer without sacrificing many lumens, but basically a bulb cartel set them at 1000 hours).

The feeling of freedom that people have about using a bulb that's already the product of crony collusion is just that...a false feeling.

That said, if you want to get on ebay or amazon, I'm sure you'll be able to get a bulb ...a long life bulb without the crony 1000 hour target.... and be closer to free.

I personally will wait for LEDs. I wish they would've waited on the mandate until they had a better technology (like LED) that was less toxic to 3 year-olds.

We can get closer to the dream that Steve Vai spoofed in 1984 on the Flexable album - "Light Without Heat". That would be freeing to me. I don't mind paying for the light, I don't like to pay for the heat.

Steve Meliza
12-11-2012, 5:37 PM
This was about if CFLs save money, not about how to get a thread locked in 5 posts. I like this topic, please don't ruin it.

David Weaver
12-11-2012, 5:59 PM
I thought we were doing pretty good so far, but to the original question, they absolutely have saved me money. When I was single, I would've said that the best way to save money is to turn them off and buy the cheapest bulb you could find. Getting married blew that theory right out the window, and now I realize that the lights will be on no matter what.

I don't have cans or ceiling fans, though, and my only LED bulb so far is in the fridge.

Joe Mioux
12-11-2012, 7:01 PM
My experience with CFL's (the curly lamp type) has been a failure. They never last the advertised time. However, yesterday I learned something about my experience with these bulbs. The type I purchased are not recommended for recessed can lighting. I use these at my store. Yesterday, while purchasing a new battery at a specialty battery store, I noticed that they also sold light bulbs. The sales rep told me that the bulbs I purchased will not last in those cans.

He sold me a reflector cfl that would work better in a recessed ceiling can. The light i purchased does not put out the correct light, but at least I don't think I will be burning up the housing as I do with the previous cfl's. The previous cfl's housing burns up and is definitely a fire hazard, imo.....

I need better illumination on my sales floors and I think now that I know about the reflector style I will bump up the wattage to get the proper foot candles...

or i will likely switch over to LED's....

joe

Dan Hintz
12-11-2012, 8:09 PM
If you switch to LEDs in a sales environment, make sure you get a good CRI and wavelength spread if sales of your products depends upon how it looks on the sales floor (like clothing, food, etc. If it's tools, it doesn't matter).

Mike OMelia
12-12-2012, 10:09 AM
I'll tell you where I will look forward to LED. Outside lights. My exterior lights above the garage last maybe two months. So, when cost is right, and brightness is good, I'm in. I've had plenty of CFLs fail. Never heard it was more likley if not pointed up. Noted. I've got 10 year old recessed incandescent lights. Just noticed that. Huh.

Dan Hintz
12-12-2012, 10:33 AM
I've had plenty of CFLs fail. Never heard it was more likley if not pointed up.

The driver boards in the base just aren't designed to handle the heat that can build up when the bulb is inverted... the caps tend to go pretty quickly.

Mike D Harris
12-12-2012, 10:48 AM
I had the same experience with GE. 6 bulbs died in two years in my garage ceiling. I've had much better luck with store brands from Home Depot and Lowes.