Friday, July 18, 2008

Going Green: Product Review of the Week - CFL Bulbs

Our local stores have CFL bulbs with discounted prices and when we found the GE bulbs for less than $1 each we decided to go for it and change the bulbs in the whole house. We got a combination of 15W and 23W (same light intensity as the 60W and 100W incandescent bulbs respectively). At the $1 price the bulbs pay for themselves quite soon (considering the kids that leave the light on everywhere they go), so we decided that spending $40 on bulbs was worth it.

So we had 40 bulbs and 4 were 'dead on arrival' or immediately thereafter; so the other bulbs will probably last the 10,000 hours claimed. Let's say it's new technology and still unstable and few bulbs will fail because of that -- but still, GE can test the bulbs better and avoid the DOA ones. We sent the bar codes and a copy of the receipt to GE and in a few weeks they sent a coupon for each bar code sent and a letter that made no excuses of the poor quality but assured us that our 10% failure is an oddity.

The fluorescent light has come a long way: the light is warm and soft; the CFL base is not as large as to make the light impractical (but your mileage might vary). Surely they consume less -- I can't tell by how much because we installed them in late fall when our electric bill goes up anyway and we don't have enough data. One annoying thing is that there's a short lag between flicking the switch and the light coming on. We don't notice that as much after few months anymore, though.

We did try some no-name or new brands and the production and testing quality on those was even worse. Naming the brands won't help much, every week the local stores come up with a new brand. We did send claims on warranty to two different manufacturers. It's more than 3 months and (sob) the did not call back. Oh well.

Most CFLs won't work with dimmers, check the label. In my experience, the ones that are dimmable (like this for example) still make a buzzing sounds when not at maximum power -- quite annoying. And, to add insult to injury, they cost an arm and a leg. I stay away from them for now.

So if you want to try CFL bulbs, here's a few things that will make it cheaper and better:
  • dimmable light require expensive CFLs, wait until the technology gets better and cheaper on those.
  • check your utility website, they'll likely sponsor cost or have coupons for bulbs.
  • check the manufacturers web site or your Sunday newspaper for coupons.
  • buy recognized brands with repute and good warranty and keep receipts & bar codes for the bulbs that fail. Some will surely fail and only keeping producers honest will increase the quality, so claim the warranty on the busted ones. (I wonder if I'll find those bar codes 3 years from now if one bulb fails before the 5 years warranty :))
  • take your existing bulbs to recycle (and keep a few as spares if you wish)
  • take dead CFL bulbs to recycle as well, the chemicals in them are nastier than in the incandescent bulbs.

1 comment:

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