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CFL Frequently Asked Questions

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We have assembled some of the most common questions and answers about CFL lighting. Please feel free to browse, and if there are any questions we have not answered, please contact us directly with your questions. We are always pleased to help.
How much do CFLs cost compared to incandescent bulbs?
CFLs are available in bulk for as low as $4.00 per bulb and can cost as much as $20.00 per bulb for ones that are designed for special applications, such as dimmer switches. In comparison, incandescent bulbs typically range from $1.50-$4.00. Although the initial cost of CFLs is higher, they are less costly in the long term and much more energy efficient than using regular incandescent bulbs. (back to top)
How much money will I save by installing CFLs?
Lighting accounts for approximately 5-10 per cent of a home's energy use. CFLs are an excellent way to save money on your energy bill. If you heat your home with a geothermal heat pump, natural gas or electric heating system you will benefit from the installation of CFLs. By installing six CFLs in your home, the savings on your energy bill will range from $4.75 to $22.00 per year. (back to top)
Will CFLs work in all my fixtures?
CFLs are as versatile as a regular bulb. They can be used in ceiling fans, lamps, outdoor fixtures and more. CFLs are more efficient when used in fixtures where lights remain on for a longer period of time, rather than in fixtures, which are turned on and off repeatedly. Some fixtures may require specific bulbs. Consult the list below.
  • Mini Spirals: Great for general household use such as table lamps and ceiling fixtures.
  • A-Line Bulb: A CFL that has a similar shape to an incandescent light bulb.
  • Dimmer Bulbs: For use in light fixtures with a dimmer option.
  • 3-Way Bulb: For use in three way lamps, provides three levels of light.
  • Vanity Bulbs: Great for the bathroom but should not be directly exposed to water.
Note: Always follow manufacturer's instructions regarding proper installation of CFLs. (back to top)
How do I know which wattage to choose?
CFLs are available in a variety of wattages. Equivalencies will be marked on the package. CFLs provide just as much light as old fashioned incandescent bulbs. It is important to compare the light output on the packages. For example, to maintain a 60-watt light level (output of 800 lumens), look for an ENERGY STAR qualified CFL that provides 800 lumens or more.
CFL General Wattage
CFL minimum light
output (lumens)
100 23-321 600
150 38-502 600
Will replacing my incandescent light bulbs with CFLs increase the load on my heating system in the winter?
Traditional incandescent light bulbs generate heat that contributes to heating your home in the winter. In comparison, CFLs generate lower amounts of heat, thus their installation increases the demands on your heating system. The offsetting benefit to installing CFLs is that they will reduce the load on your air conditioning system in the summer. (back to top)
Will replacing my incandescent light bulbs with CFLs decrease the load on my air conditioning system in the summer?
CFLs generate less heat than incandescent light bulbs thereby reducing the load on your cooling system in the summer. If you do not have an air conditioning system in your home, then installing CFLs will benefit you in terms of increased comfort on those hot summer evenings. (back to top)
What are lumens?
The amount of light coming from any source is measured in lumens. The more lumens, the brighter the light. A standard 60-watt incandescent light bulb produces approximately 800 lumens. (back to top)
Can CFLs be used in outdoor fixtures?
When using a CFL outdoors, it should be placed in an enclosed fixture. Enclosed fixtures will ensure that CFLs are not exposed to elements such as rain, snow and hail. Most CFLs are designed to operate in temperatures as low as -18 degrees C. In Manitoba, temperatures can drop below this minimum start temperature which may result in a reduced product lifespan or a light not turning on. (back to top)
Can a CFL be placed upside down (base up)?
Unless specifically marked on the plastic base or packaging, a CFL can be placed base up, base down or sideways. (back to top)
Can a CFL be used in an enclosed fixture?
When using a CFL outdoors it should be placed in an enclosed fixture unless otherwise stated on the packaging. When using a CFL indoors, some can be installed in an enclosed fixture while others will have markings on the plastic base specifying that it is not to be used in enclosed fixtures. Some manufacturers do not recommend using them in totally enclosed recessed fixture. Please be sure to read the manufacturer's instructions on the packaging. (back to top)
Can I use CFLs with timers?
CFLs can be used with mechanical timers only. Digital timers may cause interference with electronic ballast. (back to top)
Can CFLs be used in motion or light sensor fixtures?
Fixtures with a photocell (motion sensor or light sensor) may cause interference and lead to problems with bulb performance. Frequent switching on and off will decrease the life of the bulb (less than 30 minutes per start). (back to top)
Can I use CFLs in a dimmer switch?
There are specific CFLs designed for dimmer switches. Check the packaging to make sure you are buying the correct bulb for your needs. (back to top)
Can I use CFLs in a tri-light fixture?
There are specific CFLs designed for tri-light fixtures. Check the packaging to make sure you are buying the correct bulb for your needs. (back to top)
Do CFLs contain mercury?
A CFL's fluorescent tubes contain a small amount of mercury to help produce light - much less than many standard household items:
ItemMercury content
Genesis Fusion1 milligram - lowest on the planet
Typical compact fluorescent bulb5 milligrams
watch battery25 milligrams
dental amalgams500 milligrams
home thermometer500 milligrams to 2 grams
float switches in sump pumps2 grams
tilt thermostat3 grams
electrical tilt switches and relays3.5 grams
Does the mercury contained in CFLs make incandescent bulbs better for the environment?
No. Although CFLs contain small amount of mercury, they are far more energy efficient compared to incandescent bulbs. This means CFLs reduce greenhouse gas emissions and because CFLs last up to 8 times longer, fewer bulbs and far less packaging ends up in landfills. (back to top)
How should I properly dispose of my CFLs?
The fluorescent tubes of a CFL contain a small amount of mercury to help produce light. Just like paint, batteries, thermostats and other household items, CFLs should be disposed of safely. The Home Depot now offers a recycling program (opens new window), or check with your municipal waste management program for the preferred methods of disposal in your area. (back to top)
What should I do if a CFL breaks in my home?
Please review the following links for detailed instructions:
Are CFLs safe?
Learn more about what to look for when choosing a CFL for your home, how they work and what to do when they expire on the Natural Resources Canada website (opens new window). (back to top)
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