Energy Efficient Lighting

Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Three great reasons to use Compact Fluorescent (CF) Light Bulbs:

  1. They use 60% to 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs
  2. They last 5 to 7 years or more
  3. They come in many color temperatures and sizes to fit any light fixture

Buying Guide

Watts needed by each bulb to produce the same amount of light

IncandescentCompact FluorescentLumens
40 watts14 watts>450
60 watts15 watts>800
75 watts20 watts>1,100
100 watts26-29 watts>1,600
150 watts38-42 watts>2,600


The price for most CF bulbs is $4 to $7; specialty bulbs run $15 to $20. Although more expensive than incandescent bulbs, they last 6 to 10 times longer. Try to use CF bulbs in fixtures you use the most. Consider replacing bulbs in the overhead kitchen light, living room lamps, bathroom vanity lights and outdoor porch or post lamps.

Specialty Fixtures

Check the CF bulb packaging to see if it is manufactured to work with a dimmer switch or for outside use before you buy it for one of those applications. CF bulbs do not work with touch lamps and electronic timers. If the timer is a mechanical on/off type, CF bulbs should work. Save the receipt and packaging for a CF bulb until you know that it works in your fixture.

How do they work?

CF bulbs are more efficient compared to incandescent bulbs because they don’t produce heat. Incandescent bulbs work by heating a filament inside the bulb which shines bright white, using 90% of their energy to produce heat. CF bulbs work by energizing a gas that produces an invisible ultraviolet light. This light illuminates the phosphor white coating inside the bulb. In new CF bulbs it takes less than a second for the electricity to ignite the gas inside the bulb and produce light.

Are Compact Fluorescent bulbs safe?

CF bulbs require a small amount of mercury to help them start. The volume of mercury used in one bulb would only fill the size of the period at the end of this sentence, so it is not harmful to use CF bulbs in your home.

Compact Fluorescent bulb disposal

The City of Columbia’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility collects all types of fluorescent bulbs. Located at 1313 Lakeview, one block west of the City power plant, the facility is open on the first and third Saturdays of the month, from April through November, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cleaning up a broken Compact Fluorescent bulb

  • Have everyone evacuate the room.
  • Ventilate the room. Shut off the heating and cooling system and open a window for 15 minutes.
  • Pick up the fragments by using cardboard or a stiff piece of paper to scoop them into a glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Use tape to pick up the remaining fragments.
  • Wipe the area clean with a damp paper towel and then place the towel in the disposal jar or bag.
  • Double seal the jar or plastic bag.
  • Wash your hands
  • Take the broken bulb container to the Household Hazardous Waste Facility.