Myth Busting: Compact Fluorescent Lights, CFLs

There is mercury in compact fluorescent lights, CFLs, which means they are dangerous to have in your house and difficult to dispose of once they are dead.

It is true there is some mercury in CFLs, an average of about 4mg according to the EPA, that is about one hundredth of that in an old-fashioned mercury thermometer. Special care should be taken when cleaning up a broken bulb and disposing of old ones. The environmental and financial advantages of switching to CFLs, however, are so great that the EPA, among other groups, highly recommends switching to them asap.


Clean-Up and Disposal of Broken and Old CFLs

For clean and disposal of broken CFLs, see the EPA's website on mercury handling and safety: EPA on mercury

To dispose of unbroken bulbs, Home Depot nationwide (1,973 stores) are now taking used CFLs and disposing of them safely.

Advantages of CFLs

  • Residential electricity usage accounts for about 30% of national electricity usage.

  • After refrigerators, AC and heating, lighting is the biggest use of electricity in houses.

  • 90% of the energy used by incandescent bulbs is emitted as heat, so not only are you using more energy to get the amount of light you need, but your air conditioning system is having to work extra hard to counteract all those little furnaces around your house.

  • CFLs use 75% less energy to provide the same amount of visible light as an equivalent incandescent bulb and will last 6-25 times as long.

Some of Your CFL Questions Answered

Should I wait until all of my incandescent bulbs burn out?

No. Even if you change out a new incandescent bulb for a CFL you will save money and energy. A CFL can save around $12 a year, so if you wait for your old ones to burn out you'll be paying for the privilege.

How much will they cost?

You can get a four pack of 14W (equivalent to 60W incandescent) CFLs bulbs at Home Depot for around $9. Each bulb will last 10 times as long as a 60 W incandescent and can save you $30 or more in electricity costs over the lifetime of the bulb.

What will I do with all the old incandescent bulbs?

If you hate to throw out working bulbs, you can keep them and just use them in places where you need bright light for a short period of time, such as your closet or the garden shed. But remember, even if you replace them now, you will save money.

Can I get CFLs to fit decorative lamps?

Yes, there is a variety of sizes and shapes available. If you don't see what you want on the shelf, ask for help.

What Watt?

CFLs use less energy than incandescent bulbs, so you won't need as high a wattage to get the same amount of light. For example, a 22 watt CFL will give the same amount of light as a 100 watt incandescent bulb. We have become used to defining bulbs by their energy up-take rather than their light output, but the CFL packaging will explain how to compare the two.