What are CFLs — Can They Save Electricity and Save You Money?

CFLs are those new, small fluorescent light bulbs that screw into most regular light fixtures. You can use them to replace regular (incandescent) bulbs to save money and electricity. As the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power gets over 60% of its electricity from fossil fuels, especially coal, any time you replace a regular incandescent bulb with a CFL, it’s one small step towards reducing fossil fuel use in L.A.

CFLs come in all different shapes, but basically they’re a fluorescent tube bent this way or that or twisted into a spiral. “CFL” stands for “Compact Fluorescent Lamp.” They’re more compact than the long fluorescent tubes of our childhoods. They’re lamps, which is electrician-speak for “light bulb.” Here’s why they’re green — they save 75% of the energy that traditional incandescents use.

Here’s why they save you money — they cost more than a regular incandescent, but last a lot longer — 13 times longer. So even though each CFL costs more per bulb (about $4 for a CFL), it will also save you about $4 in bulbs as you won’t have to replace it so often.

Your electric bill will show more significant savings. Lighting costs about $20 out of $100 monthly electric bill. Because CFLs use one-quarter of the electricity of a regular incandescent, if you replace all the bulbs in your house with CFLs, you’ll save about $15 each month on a $100 electric bill.

CFLs are green, but not blue. Many people don’t enjoy the eerie bluish light of the old-fashioned long fluorescent tubes. CFLs can create all different colors of light, including warm tones. A recent study by the magazine Popular Mechanics found that even when people didn’t know which type of bulb was involved, they preferred the light of the CFL over the light from incandescent bulbs. CFLs also don’t buzz as the long tubes did.

CFLs have one downside — they each contain a small amount of mercury, which is a toxin. If a bulb breaks, you’ll need to take care to clean every bit up and to not touch the pieces. You’ll need to recycle spent bulbs or dispose of them as you would paint or other hazardous waste. However, they’re so long lasting that this will come up on the order of years, rather than months.

OK so you have a basic understanding of CFLs, now what can you do that’s simple to save money and electricity? The next time you go to the store, pick up a four-pack of CFLs. Choose four incandescent lights in your home or business that you use often and replace the incandescent bulbs with your new CFLs. You’ll start saving on your electric bill and will decrease the burning of fossil fuels to power Los Angeles.

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