Why I’ll never buy another compact fluorescent light bulb

Farewell compact fluorescent light bulbs. You served us well. Rest in peace. I remember 25 years ago I was working for a solar company and we sold some of the first compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs that were ever made. They had a big wide base that made them hard to fit in most fixtures. They flickered. They took a while to come on. And they cost $25 each. Still, they used 75% less power than a regular light bulb and since we were one of the only places to obtain these energy efficient bulbs, people called us regularly to have them shipped by mail to their residence. Even at $25 a pop, they paid for themselves.

My how things have changed! CFLs fill the shelves of Walmart and the grocery stores and they’re about a buck a piece. It’s getting hard to even find the old type of energy-hog bulbs. It’s great to see CFLs take over, and a lot less energy is being wasted as a result. But CFLs are not perfect. They contain mercury and are supposed to be disposed of properly but many of them end up in the landfill. Along with the lower price, the quality has suffered on some of the cheaper units and they don’t always last as long as predicted. They still have issues coming on to full brightness. They don’t work great in cold temperatures.

All along, many of us have been waiting for the next type of light bulb to emerge – LEDs. A few years ago they started to show up in stores but they were $20 a piece. More than I was willing to fork out, even to try a test.

Now, finally, LEDs have arrived. The price has come down enough for me and I’ve purchased a few and tested them out over long term and i’m 100% convinced. I’ll never buy another CFL light bulb. LEDs are twice as efficient as CFLs. That means they use half the energy to make the same amount of light, so they save even more energy and money. They last more than twice as long as CFLs, and the indicators are that they really do live up to their lifetime ratings. It’s hard to tell yet because the lifetime is 25,000 hours and you’d have to use a bulb for 22 years at 3 hours per day before that time comes up. They come on instantly, even in cold temperatures. The brightness and light quality is superb. Most of them work with dimmer switches. And, they contain no mercury. They beat CFLs in every category.

I shop at Costco and they now have a large selection of LED lights at only $5 each (with instant rebate). They even have a display case so you can see the quality of the light. Every time I go there I pick up a few and I’ve been replacing my CFLs as they burn out (often prematurely) and now my house has about half LEDs. I find they are far superior to CFLs for all the reasons I’ve listed. I encourage you to join me and try out an LED light bulb if you haven’t already. You may very well agree, and never buy another CFL again. Here in Vermont you can find LED lights for $5 or less in Home Depot, Costco, online and other many local hardware stores. There’s a state rebate, so your state hopefully has some discounts as well. Try one out and see what you think!

Gary Beckwith is driver of the Solar Bus and an advocate for renewable energy.  He can be reached at gary(at)solarbus.org.

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